Most People Do Not Eat Adequately for their Stress Levels
I think this is a brilliant concept for you to grasp. For all the years I’ve been doing this now and the hundreds of clients and consults I’ve conducted I’m yet to hear anyone say to me….
“Stu, I’m about to have a really stressful week at work – I’d better makes sure that I eat adequately to compensate.”
Most people want to speak to me because they want to lose weight (which is fine) but your stress levels are killing YOU softly in my opinion…. “Killing me softly with his song… killing me soofftllyyyy… with his sonnnnggg…
…. Sorry I digress
It’s quite complex to fully understand what Stress is and effect it has on your body but TRUST me – it’s deadly for your health and your body composition (body fat levels).
We need to manage our stress before it manages us!
We all get stressed out – daily! And for most of us when we ARE feeling stressed out - eating well and structuring our meals is an after thought!
In fact Id say most of the time you are lucky to eat anything at all when you’re really under the pump!
You know how it goes - you forget to eat, binge on coffee and any other stimulants that might assist you to reach another gear - sugar – sugar and sugar arragahhhhh!!
This is (Stress) such a key area and I really really need you to grasp this.
I’ll try and make it as clear to understand as I can so bare with me as we do a bit of a deep dive on stress, what it does to your body and how we can manage it with your food…
What is Stress?
When we refer to stress we are really referring to the stress hormone Cortisol.
This chain reaction (of sorts) internally is responsible for our “Fight or Flight” response to stressful situations and danger.
In a more ‘Primal’ sense this hormone could save your life if you were faced with imminent danger and physical threat.
It’s released in conjunction with adrenalin, makes you highly alert, physically stronger and generally more robust and ready to go.
Which all sounds awesome – "give me more of that" I’m sure you’re saying!
Well… the major problemo with cortisol is that we no longer use it by design ie: to hunt for our food, run quickly from danger and save ourselves when we need to act quickly.
Cortisol is NOT something that’s designed to be overused as it has a very draining and debilitating effect on the body.
Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands when our brain signals to our body that we require immediate usable energy and mental alertness to deal with the imminent stress at hand.
It might seem slightly primitive to refer to ‘fight or flight’ in its literal form – in terms of being chased by a larger animal who wants to eat you or faced with a physical confrontation but that’s the very context in which this chain-reaction of sorts originated.
You see YOUR BODY cannot distinguish between running from a hungry carnivore and running late for work… your facial expressions are probably even the same ;)
Stress… is stress. From your bodies perspective it’s all the same hormonal (cortisol) response.
So back to what Cortisol does – well it shuts everything down that you won’t be needing in times of extreme danger.
So the following shuts down:
Insulin Binding/Glucose Partitioning
This temporary shut down of our ‘vital’ functions is only supposed to be short-lived enough to deal with the danger at hand.
As you are now starting to see – constantly stimulating cortisol or maintaining elevated cortisol throughout your busy working day means that you are (inadvertently) shutting your system down periodically whenever this fight or flight response is engaged.
Remember about Insulin Resistance and how if you are insulin resistant - insulin cannot bind to your cell wall and shuttle glucose into your cells?
Well when Cortisol is triggered it actually replicates a scenario almost identical to someone who is insulin resistant.
Cortisol stimulates gluconeogenesis – which is the production of new glucose from the liver. It does this regardless of whether you’ve just inhaled a box of krispy kremes at lunchtime or not.
So post kripsy kreme binge not only will you have massive amounts of glucose in your blood from what you just ate but your liver has now joined the party and starts pumping our glucose into your blood.
That’s a sure fire way to get fat.
Again we go back to the ‘Primal Point’ on this hormonal response – your body uses Cortisol as a way of keeping you alive if you are physically in danger.
That’s why it activates gluconeogenesis (liver to secrete glucose) because it assumes you’ll be needing fast acting energy to burn so that you can run, jump, climb etc as fast you possibly can!
In terms of your immune system – this is also not something that you should ideally like to be shutting down for any extended periods of time.
Cortisol will partially shut down the immune system when levels are high. This makes your body more susceptible to invading pathogens (aka diseases)
This is why (at a high macro level) “Stress” is closely linked with disease and sickness. The higher your baseline stress levels are the more compromised your immune system is. Hence leaving the door open to a multitude of nasties that no one wants!
All-in-all Cortisol serves a critical purpose – it’s a vital part of what makes us such successful organisms roaming this planet.
However the double-edged sword is clearly apparent that we are drawing on Cortisol and all its powers too often in our daily grind – we are unintentionally abusing it and paying the physical price as a result.
So how do you manage your cortisol levels?
Is it as simple as ‘stressing less’, do we all need to quit our jobs (and our families) move to Tibet and become Monks or is there a way we can manage our stress in a (very) stressful world?
The Stress Solution:
Obviously the solution would be to stop stress at the source… but let’s be honest we live in stressful times… there’s no way we can shield ourselves from all levels of stress.
Meditation would be a huge one… I practice meditation myself and have done for about 5 years… it’s a massive game changer but this blog is already creeping into quadruple digit word count so I wont go into that right now… if you want to know more about meditation reply to this email and I’ll provide you with what I use etc :)
You can definitely help mange and combat the effects of stress with what you put in your mouth - I would try these 3 things:
Anti inflammatory diet:
This calms the system down which is our aim. Lots of high quality protein, leafy greens primarily and LOTS of essential fats. I generally recommend people have a handful of nuts with each meal. Makes a huge difference – it has a really calming effect on the body and helps with any inflammation you might already have. Other fats to use an abundance of are coconut oil, avocado, raw olive oil.
Food is not calories it’s nutrients! Get this imbedded somewhere in your frontal lobe.
Stress literally leaches nutrient from your food like a high powered vacuum! That means in times of added stress you need to super-compensate and you might have to look at supplementation.
I’d recommend in times of stress 3 supplements:
4g/4000mg Vitamin C in the morning.
30-40mg Zinc Chelate (Picolinate is the best absorbable form) first part of the day with food.
4-5g Taurine after your evening meal
400-500mg of a high quality Magnesium Supplement.
If I had to pick one I would pick magnesium… you will definitely be deficient in it – nearly everyone is so we need to load up on Mag. Particularly when we are stressed. It is key player in calming your nervous system down. That’s why you should have it at night – if you get a really good quality one you’ll sleep like a log! :)
If you want to know the supps and brands I use you can email me on email@example.com and I’ll shoot you through the best ones to get.
Stressful times tend to throw structure out the window… but it’s in these times that we need structure the most!!
I know it’s hard but trust me if you plan your meals and eat the right things at the right times you be able to manage more work, concentrate harder and just be an all round elite performer… #elite
Speaking of elite performance – if you’ve got a stressful week coming up next week why not do what all elite performers do when they hit capacity – they start to OUTSOURCE what they can no longer manage!
Why not take the stress off next week with some Stress-Free delicious meals as well as no Shopping, Cooking... or Thinking