Tagged as: fat loss

Cortisol and Stress

The ‘fight-or-flight’ stress response was designed to help us to flee immediate danger. Stress is not something we can reach out and touch. It’s our emotional response to a given situation. Things that some find stressful, others may not. We are all conditioned to respond to situations differently. The good news is that you created this conditioning, so you can also change it!

Under stressful conditions, cortisol is released, providing the body with glucose by tapping into stores via the liver. This energy can help an individual fight or flee a stressor and, in the short term, it’s not harmful. However, elevated cortisol over the long term consistently produces excess glucose, leading to an increase in blood sugar and insulin levels.

Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight ‘emergency’ situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear. Necessary if faced with imminent danger in the short term, but highly detrimental if exposed to this level of cortisol in the long term.

YES, STRESS CAN MAKE YOU FAT!

How to lower cortisol levels

Exercise: particularly high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the most effective ways of reducing stress and systemic cortisol levels. Ironically, it’s usually the first thing we drop from our schedule when we’re stressed. MAKE time to be physically active, EVERYDAY.

Nutrition and blood sugar stability: The most significant ‘side effect’ of improving blood sugar stability is a feeling of calm. This newfound calmness is definitely attributable to the physiological changes in your body. It’s reinforced by a feeling of self-confidence in finally gaining an understanding of your body, instead of fighting a losing battle against it.

 Mindfulness: As they say, life is what happens when you put your phone down!

In our fast-paced world, it’s important to practise being ‘present’ and continuing to remind yourself to do so.

Great expectations: In general terms, the greater the distance between your expectations and reality, the greater the perceived stress! Whether it’s family, a friend, a colleague or your workplace in general, if you continue to have an unrealistic expectation of others, you will continually feel disappointed and frustrated. Stressed! Change your expectations and your frustration will be greatly reduced. You may even feel pleasantly surprised when your expectations are exceeded!

Putting things into perspective: When you are confronted with stressful situations, it can be helpful to put things into perspective. Think about the worst-case scenario if the situation escalates to the extreme. Often, you will find that the potential consequences would not be as negative as you may have initially thought and often, it’s unlikely to escalate to this level anyway. If you’re unable to do this ‘in the heat of the moment’, use this as a reflective tool when the emotion has subsided. It may help you in similar situations in the future.

Make the habit of keeping a ‘stress diary’ your new daily activity. If you experience a stressful episode, write down the source of stress, your reaction to it and, at the end of the day, reflect on a possible alternative reaction the next time something similar occurs. Becoming aware of your behavioral patterns and putting things into perspective will often reduce your stress levels.

FIBRE & EATING BREAKFAST: 2 things to help you shed unwanted body fat & 2 things commonly missed!

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WHERE DO I GET FIBRE FROM?

Whole, unprocessed carbohydrates, such as vegetables, fruit, oats, nuts, seeds, etc.

WHY DO I NEED IT?

  • Fibre aids overall digestive health
  • Fibre promotes heart health & may lower cholesterol, blood pressure & blood sugar
  • Fibre ferments in your gut and produces prebiotics, which feeds & promotes good bacteria
  • Fibre makes you feel full and reduces cravings and overall calorie intake
  • Fibre and healthy gut flora promote fat loss!!!

 HOW CAN I GET ENOUGH?

Consume at least 8-12 grams of fibre in each of the three main meals of the day. Men require >30 grams per day, women require >25 grams.

The solution begins at breakfast. Starting your day with the right meal is the only way you will reach this goal. The breakfast outlined below is easy to prepare, 10-12g of fibre, antioxidants, calcium, protein, and it’s YUM!

CLASSIC BREKKY BOWL

2 dessertspoons of ‘The Muesli’

150g Natural yoghurt (or milk)

1 heaped dessertspn Peak Nutritionals WPI powder

Handful of fresh or frozen berries or cherries

Cinnamon to taste

Mix the first three ingredients together and add the berries/cinnamon. This can be made the night before for a bircher-style dish.

Tip: if you like it a little sweeter, try the Vanilla WPI rather than the Natural, or add a passionfruit to the mix.

The Muesli & Peak Nutritionals WPI are available at BURN LAB via Mr Ray’s Espresso or online.

For quantities appropriate for your body, please ask your trainer to print out your personalised Aston Rx menu planner…

 

When weight training goes wrong…

Document2Have you ever wondered why it is that some people exercise their butt off, yet never seem to change shape? Unfortunate genetics, right? Wrong!

The bottom line is: everyone has the same skeletal structure, ingeniously manoeuvered by an intricate network of muscles. Lying over this is a layer of stored energy, or body fat. The extent to which you choose to develop your muscle tissue (or allow it to deteriorate) and the degree of excess body fat you allow to accumulate is completely up to you. Saddlebag thighs and love handles cannot be blamed on poor old mum, grandma or a distant uncle on your father’s side! Of course, we all have certain genetic traits that may make fat loss or muscle gain a little easier for some, or more difficult for others, but generally, great bodies are not born, they are made … as are those which are out of shape!

Information overload…

These days you can’t swing a cat in a gym without hitting an ‘expert’! Unfortunately, there are more widespread, contradictory opinions amongst the experts than there are diet books, so whom should we choose to believe? How much of what we do is a necessary part of getting into shape, and how much is urban myth? Most diet and exercise veterans are still trying to piece it together, so I can certainly sympathise with the disillusioned novice enthusiast.

So where are we going wrong?

To make significant changes to our shape and general condition, we must change our body composition by adding lean muscle tissue and losing stored body fat. Contrary to popular belief, developing muscle does not necessarily mean increasing muscle size, but rather increasing the density of the fibres within that muscle, improving tone and shape.

Despite the growing number of exercise enthusiasts, I’ve always found that those individuals actually making significant gains are so rare that it is disturbing. The sheer frustration of witnessing this phenomenon over the past 20 years continues to inspire me to write books and work 1:1 with private clients.

If you feel like you’ve been working hard, yet your body shape is not changes as you’d like it to, or it is changing shape in a less than desirable way, perhaps you’ll find the answer in the list of common exercise faux pas below:

Overdeveloped upper traps: This common phenomenon results in sloping shoulders, a thick neck, poor posture and likely, headaches. Your trapezius muscle (or traps) is a diamond shaped muscle spanning from the base of your scull to the middle of your back. The upper traps often become dominant if you have poor scapula (shoulder blade) stability, poor technique, you are training too heavy for your capability, choosing the wrong exercises or, all of the above. This muscle ‘shrugs’ your shoulders up towards your ears. Once your upper traps become dominant, it’s very difficult to reverse and can ruin your symmetry and posture. It’s a particularly unattractive muscle for women to overdevelop. The most common exercises which can cause this issue: shrugs, (incorrect) deadlifts, (incorrect) deltoid raises, (incorrect) lat pulldowns or rows.

Thick waist: Whilst excess stored body fat is the most common cause of a thickening waistline, overdevelopment of obliques and erector spinae (lower back) muscles can also contribute and are particularly noticeable in lean individuals with unsuitable training regimes/technique. Compound movements, such as heavy deadlifts and weighted oblique work are common culprits. To make your waist look smaller and improve your symmetry, development of your lats (lattisimus dorsi) will have a positive impact on your overall proportion. Again, correct technique is rare, but crucial.

Poor posture: It’s common to focus your training on the muscles that are most visible (front) and neglect your ‘posterior chain’ of muscles. We also spend much of our day reaching forward (driving, sitting at a desk, reading, etc.), so strengthening the posterior chain of muscles and stretching/releasing anterior muscles (chest, shoulders) plays a crucial role in developing and maintaining good posture and avoiding injuries.

Underdeveloped glutes: Poor squatting and lunging technique, often exacerbated by inflexible hamstrings and tight hip flexors, will often result in poor recruitment of your glute muscles and potential lower back and knee injuries. Your glutes are powerful muscles and, when trained correctly, reduce injury risk and improve overall aesthetics.

Poor overall symmetry: Some of the most commonly neglected muscle groups are lats, rear shoulders, lower traps, hamstrings and calves, all of which contribute significantly to a symmetrically proportioned body.

Out-training a poor diet: For those of you who feel you need to be ‘smashed’ by your trainer in order to feel you either get ‘value’ from your session or you feel the need to work off your poor eating habits, think again. Engaging in smart, mindful, focused and planned training will see you gain more results, faster and with far less risk of injury and simply pushing your body with poor technique through inappropriate exercises, all in the name of ‘sweat’! I call this the new phenomena of the ‘Instagram workout’. It’s gathering momentum amongst some, both in the form of 1:1 training and group class cult followings. Experience tells me that many of these regimes will end in tears – both in poorly developed physiques and inevitable injuries – not dissimilar to the ‘aerobic’ movement of the ‘80’s!

All of the above can be overcome and/or corrected by a reputable, experienced trainer.

Bottom line? Train smart .. avoid injuries … get results!