Glock column: How to control the belly fat hormone
Bite it with Britt
Cortisol, also known as the “belly fat hormone,” typically gets a bad rap.
Controlling it helps you regulate other key hormones like testosterone and estrogen. Cortisol’s job is to protect us. It’s produced by the adrenal glands whenever our bodies experience too much mental or physical stress, also known as the “fight or flight” response.
If you’re constantly stressed out or exercise too much, the adrenal glands can release excessive amounts of cortisol, which can lead to more belly fat, fatigue, insomnia and other problems. However, if you learn how to control cortisol you can prevent this from happening.
The natural cycle of your cortisol levels should be high in the morning until it tapers off throughout the day when it’s time for bed. Maintaining this cycle will lead to higher energy levels, healthier hormone balance, more efficient fat loss and better sleep patterns.
Three ways to control your belly fat hormone
1. Sleep: Going from eight hours of sleep to six hours of sleep has been shown to cause a huge disruption in your cortisol cycle in less than two weeks. Cortisol works in tandem with melatonin, your sleep hormone. If your cortisol drops in the evening, like it’s supposed to, melatonin can take over helping you fall into a deep sleep. Conversely, if cortisol levels are elevated while you sleep, your body can’t recover or rebuild and you’ll wake up feeling fatigued. Make sure you get at least seven hours of sleep every night by avoiding electronics and stressful activities an hour or two before bed.
2. Whole foods and anti-inflammatory diet: Poorly managed blood sugar levels and high levels of inflammation can contribute to high cortisol levels and other hormonal imbalances. Following an anti-inflammatory diet low in processed foods and high in antioxidants, fiber and essential nutrients is key to balancing hormones, controlling your cravings and getting you on the right track. These same strategies can also help with adrenal support, allowing you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, boosting energy during the day and helping you sleep better at night.
Some of the most significant dietary contributors to inflammation and high cortisol levels include:
• High sugar diet (with many packaged foods, refined grain products, sugary drinks and snacks)
• consuming high amounts of refined fats and trans-fats
• drinking too much caffeine and alcohol
• insufficient intake of micro-nutrients and antioxidants
• not consuming enough fiber (which makes it difficult to balance blood sugar)
• not consuming enough healthy fats and protein (which can lead to hunger, weight gain and high blood sugar)
Following a whole food diet that is low in sugar will decrease inflammation and help to lower your cortisol levels.
3. Strategic exercise bursts: People with high cortisol levels should not overexercise, or exercise too long. This places even more stress on their hormonal system. Beginners often make this mistake — too much, too soon. What they need are shorter, but frequent workouts that will not overtax their immune systems. Staying active throughout the day helps to regulate cortisol and also not force you to rely on the workout to be the only calorie burner for the day.
Brittney Glock is an integrative fitness nutrition specialist and personal trainer at Midland Fitness. Her expertise in women’s fitness and nutrition is based on years of living a healthy lifestyle as a working mother of three. Call Britt at 945-4440.