Written by: Thomas Willoughby
Before we even go into this topic, there is something we need to understand.
Stress isn’t the single catalyst for fat gain.
Our reaction to stress and how it impacts on our body is the main culprit.
Think of it through this situation: you have a stressful day at work, and you pig out because you’re miserable. Therefore, you gain fat from the food you eat.
Nutrition can play a massive role in dealing with stress and overcoming how it negatively impacts on our bodies.
So, why does stress lead to bad eating habits and inevitable fat gain?
Stress raises our cortisol levels.
In very simple terms, cortisol is produced when our bodies require an extra boost for immediate action. It’s our natural ‘fight or flight’ instinct.
I’m sure we have all had the feeling of stress rise from our feet to our heads when we are getting irritated, or an immediate drop of the stomach when we realise we have forgotten something. Not to mention the constant worries of money, mortgages, schedules and work. Stressful situations are inevitable in the world we live in and such situations make it almost impossible to ‘switch off’.
During particularly stressful periods of life a majority of the population reach for faster, starchier and carbohydrate heavy foods, often with the intention to ‘burn’ it off later. Or even worse still, we skip meals, due to the increase of hormones that stress promotes.
The first steps to managing stress levels come down to controlling your food cravings and fixing (or in some cases, maintaining) a healthy diet of lean protein, healthy fats and vegetables.
As previously said, stress is inevitable. So, when you next find yourself in a stressful situation. Try and implement the following steps:
- Aim to eat small meals every three hours: This will keep your blood sugar levels stable which is crucial for stress control. Low blood sugar levels will cause your body to raise cortisol levels, often causing people to over eat. Having small meals throughout the day promotes a healthier lifestyle, rather than jumping back and forth from famine and feasting.
- Drink adequate amounts of water: Dehydration leads to the body’s Ph levels to change. This change causes a fluctuation in the body’s testosterone output and dramatically increases the body’s production of cortisol. The most important thing to remember here is that if you’re feeling thirsty – you’re already dehydrated! Aim to drink between 2-3 litres per day.
- Omega Supplementation: Essential fatty acids have incredible benefits for stress reduction. If consuming them on a regular basis, even if you are suffering the same stressful situations, the actual stress hormone being released will be less.
- Supplementation with Magnesium: Magnesium calms the nervous system and reduces the overall effects of stress on our bodies.
We unfortunately can’t always control the stressful encounters that daily life brings us. But there are ways to help our bodies cope – and sometimes even beat – stress. Maintaining a healthy diet and using correct supplementation can have a positive impact on our ability to respond to less than ideal situations and get on with our lives.