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What is Cortisol?

Basically, it is a steroid hormone that is released by your body's adrenal glands. It has several functions that include glucose metabolism, regulation of blood pressure, immune function and inflammatory response. image Termed the "fight or flight" hormone, one of its tasks is to give you energy during times of stress by creating blood sugar from internal stores . It does this in several manners including metabolizing fat stores in the liver and accelerating the breakdown of proteins. It is naturally high in your body in the morning after you have slept. As far as your body knows you have fasted and need food. Its also high after you exercise which is good because your body will burn off all the blood sugar the cortisol has helped create. So what happens if your body is consistently perceiving stress? It constantly releases cortisol. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol have very detrimental effects to your health. These can include impaired cognitive function, decreased bone density, decrease in muscle tissue and lowered immunity. It is also closely related to abdominal fat .The fat cells in your tummy have four times as many receptors for cortisol than other parts of your body. Abdominal fat is more closely tied to heart attack and strokes than fat deposited elsewhere in the body. These elevated levels of cortisol can also contribute to adrenal failure or "Addison's Disease" wherein your adrenal glands no longer function properly. Another way it shows up is accelerated aging. So let's get a little more specific. What are some of the things we do that will unnaturally elevate our cortisol levels? Well, turns out exercising too much is a culprit. Often we think we need to keep working out to keep getting stronger. Problem is we only get stronger when we rest. I can see when some people are training too much. They have big bags under their eyes, low energy, and poor performance. Going too long without food is another reason for your body to perceive stress. Make sure you eat roughly every 3 hours to keep your blood sugar levels regulated. Akin to this are aggressive swings in your blood sugar levels (ie. eating highly processed and sugary foods). This can cause the insulin dump reaction to drop your blood sugar too low and hence your body will perceive this as stress and want you to eat even after the cortisol has liberated energy stores in the body. What happens to all those extra calories? Stored as adipose tissue (fat) in the stomach. I've seen some people work out hard and often and eat very healthy without making substantial gains in their health and fitness. Getting that stress under control would probably greatly help them achieve their health goals. We could all use a little less stress in our lives. Be committed to do what it takes to reduce your stress levels. DO IT!!! I know. Its a lot to take in. This is just scratching the surface. I am often amazed at how much information is at our fingertips. This internet thing is pretty cool. Friday's Workout: Warm Up: Agility Ladder Workout: Box Jump/Push Up Ladder 1rst Minute - 1 Box Jump (24"/20"), 1 Push Up 2nd Minute - 2 Box Jump, 2 Push Up And so on and so on… How far can you go? Score it like AMRAP. Every rep counts. Foot all the way on the box for the jumps. Chest must touch the deck for the push ups. Enjoy!! Shep