Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Balance Your Physiology for Stress Prevention and Stress Management

Balancing your physiology and building a solid and strong foundation is paramount for preventing stress (cortisol) from building up in the in first place. And what's great is, it helps reduce the stress response in the other following stages as well (perception/response and acute stress management). It will also help elevate your metabolism and burn fat. Understanding the basic cortisol cycle will help you gain control over this best (stress).

For more background information, you may want to read another article entitled Stress Reduction and Stress Relief: Prevention- Get back into control

If I told you the best thing you can do to prevent and reduce your stress is to eat breakfast would you laugh at me and think I'm crazy? Well, that's exactly what I would strongly recommend. Here's why this is so vital to you and your stress reduction. Your cortisol levels are highest first thing in the morning peaking at about 7-8am. They fall by noon time with another peak after work and then falling to a very low point at bed time. You don't want to be in the fight or flight response at bed time. This natural circadian rhythm makes sense and it matches our lifestyles. Did Mother Nature know best?

But why you ask. Why are cortisol levels highest in the morning? For at least two major reasons. One. Too get you up out of bed and ready to take on the day. Two. Working together with the hormone glucagon cortisol raises blood sugar levels to power up your muscles and your brain! Remember you have been fasting overnight and blood sugar levels will be low. The brain demands the body do this and keep blood sugar levels stabilized.

Cortisol and fat accumulation

A little piece of data you need to know to lose fat. Cortisol breaks down muscle to release amino acids (the building blocks of muscle) which are then used to make glucose, which is energy for the brain! Think about this, where do you burn fat? In your muscles right. If you catabolise the very tissue that burns fat you will lose your ability to burn fat and you metabolism will drop making it more difficult to burn fat. Oh yes, you will be more tired with low energy. Cortisol also promotes belly fat accumulation!

Further, cortisol contributes to elevated insulin with is the blood sugar balancing hormone. Elevated insulin has two effects on fat. One it promotes fat storage. Two it inhibits fat mobilization and utilization by muscles. Elevated insulin makes you store fat which you can't burn! YUCK!

So why is breakfast so important? It provides the food that will be broken down into glucose to fuel and feed the brain and your working muscles. Ah you say! That makes sense. Now using your good reasoning skills can you deduct why it would be great to have protein with your breakfast? To prevent the breakdown of my muscle tissue which is where I burn fat you say! Exactly! Having breakfast with protein is incredibly important to fire up your metabolism and assist in fat burning. You whole metabolism works better and you feel better with less stress!

But what happens if you're too busy and you choose not to make time or plan for breakfast? How does your body maintain blood sugar levels and feed your working muscles? Ready for this? It releases more cortisol! Yes that's right. Your body will release even more of the stress hormone! Let's take this a step further. What happens if you throw some "gas" on this fire and have a caffeine beverage (caffeine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant)? You would be setting yourself up for a perfect physiological disaster. Irritability, the shakes, anxiety, hyper excitability, muscle loss and fat accumulation! OUCH! This does not optimize your physiology and in fact increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol contributing to a "stressed and wired" state. Ever wonder why there is so much road rage in the morning? This may be a significant contributor.

Try eating like this and see what happens. I've dealt with over a thousand clinics and the feedback is consistent. It is almost a miracle what happens. It makes sense once you understand the physiology. This changes your life! And this is one simple thing you can do.

Breakfast and long term weight loss

And how important is eating breakfast to your health? The American Heart Association reported that "... if you skip breakfast, you increase your risk to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. If you have breakfast you may reduce you risk by 37-55%." HUGE gains in health by a simple lifestyle change that you have total control over. Two things which are consistently associated with a longer, healthier life include eating breakfast and exercise. Set yourself up to win and do this one simple thing!

One more point on fat accumulation, weight loss and breakfast. Breakfast sets the physiological tone of the body and directs other food choices for the next two meals by altering hormones and brain chemicals that influence your food choices. What this means to you is, if you skip breakfast or have a poor one, you will make poor food choices and eat poorly for your next two meals! The following study solidifies this point.

    One large study of 3000 people who lost on average 70 lbs (32KG) and most importantly, who kept it off for 6 years. Of the almost 3000 people, 78% ate breakfast regularly! Only 4% reported never eating breakfast. Both groups consumed the same number of calories and the same type of foods. A conclusion deduced was that it's not just the type of calories consumed but also the time of day you eat that influences weight loss and maintenance of weight loss. It bears repeating, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Mastering this one core strategy helps prevent and buffer stress and sets you up to win.

Build you breakfast. If you have breakfast and provide amino acids in the form of proteins combined with low glycemic index carbohydrates, you can greatly reduce cortisol levels and stabilize blood sugar levels. This is a key empowering step. In addition if you add some good fats (olive oil, fish oils) they will help to keep the glycemic index low, make the meal taste better, stabilize your blood sugar and help keep you fuller longer. You now have a winning combination and an incredibly important first step to make every day great. Drive this point home with some excitement and energy!

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