We’ve All Heard That “Abs Are Made In The Kitchen” …
But another major factor affecting your progress in the gym is controlling and managing your body’s hormones! We’ve touched on the importance of sleep in previous posts, namely its affect on your natural hormone cycle. This time we’re going into more detail on hormones, in particular cortisol, and why you should pay attention to it.
Several hormones play a massive role in bodybuilding and strength training, let’s take a quick summary:
Testosterone: Produced by the adrenal cortex, either in the testes in males or the ovaries in women. Testosterone is a potent steroid hormone with different effects in males and females. In males its an anabolic hormone that can assist in muscle synthesis. While it has a bigger role in male health, its maintenance in the body is also essential to women’s health.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH): Produced by the pituitary gland, HGH is another anabolic hormone responsible for the repair and growth of tissues. HGH levels peak at around 3 am during sleep – it’s the reasons sleep is essential for tissue repair!
Cortisol: Cortisol is made by your adrenal glands, and is commonly known as your stress hormone. While cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day, and primarily spike in the morning, its levels are also increased by physical or emotional stress. Cortisol is a key metabolic hormone that also has an important role in controlling inflammation, but its catabolic, and high levels can result in the breakdown of muscle tissue or nutrients (carbs, fats, amino acids) to generate glucose and increase blood sugar levels.
Insulin: An essential metabolic hormone required to create metabolic enzymes that assist in the storage of nutrients in the blood. Regular exercise can improve your body’s ability to remove blood sugar, and can assist in fat loss.
Glucagon: The hormone with the opposite effect to insulin. Glucagon is used to break down glycogen and fat stores in the body to increase blood sugar levels.
Melatonin: Produced by the pineal gland, this hormone is what helps us achieve a healthy sleep pattern, with the levels of this hormone being promoted in dark environments, encouraging the wind-down of the body for sleep. Our melatonin levels fluctuate throughout our lives, potentially disrupting our sleep quality.
These little guys help keep your body ticking, and if you want to properly repair and recover from your workouts, you need to make sure you’re bod is functioning at its peak.
We’ll focus on reducing cortisol, as that’s the biggest problem for most athletes or non-athletes in todays modern stressed world!
Why Stressing Out Is Killing You & Your Gym Results
The damages of stress and anxiety are widespread, and if you’re not careful it’ll not just ruin your gym progress, it’ll send you to an early grave. Some of the main problems of stress include:
- It messes your gut up: Ignoring the obvious chronic problems such as stomach ulcers and diarrhoea, constant high levels of stress disrupts nutrient absorption, reduces oxygenation and can slow your blood flow around your body – as much as much as four times! This means your diet can be perfect – but if you’re stressed, you’re not going to get the same benefit.
- It damages your immune system: Stress can dampen your immune system, and reduce its ability to regulate and deal with inflammation. We’re not talking about DOMS here, unregulated inflammation can mess with your cardiovascular system, and even lead to immune system disorders like IBS / IBD (Irritable Bowel Syndrome / Disease).
- Its ageing you faster: I’m not going to bore you with the science, but stress makes your cells age faster. This is visibly shown by wrinkles, drier skin, as well as increased chance of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. You definitely don’t want this as an ageing body synthesises muscle tissue slower, and stress has been shown to age people up to 10 additional years.
- It’s making it harder for you to get lean: Higher cortisol levels have been suggested to play a role in weight gain & obesity, with research showing a positive correlation between cortisol and BMI. We’ve all eaten junk food when stressed – this increase in cravings and appetite due to high cortisol levels can increase the risk of you deviating from your diet and snacking on junk food or cheat meals. Losing fat is an intricate process, and these slip-ups can interrupt your cutting cycle.
So How Does CBD Help?
The body’s endocannabinoid system features receptors for Cannabidiol (CBD) found in virtually every part of the human body. The endocannabinoid system is entwined with the other regulatory systems your body such as the Hypothyroid-Pituitary-Gonadotropin axis (HPG), with receptors being located in the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus, the thyroid and the testes/ovaries. Its your bodies homeostasis and it can help bring your hormones back to their natural balance.
General fitness & quality of life benefits: CBD has been shown in a study to reduce cortisol production in the body and lower overall levels. What does this mean? Well it means that it can firstly help you chill out a little easier. Secondly, it’s going to lower your blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Thirdly, It’s going to stop your body reversing all the hard work you put into the gym and help reduce muscle loss.
Enhanced or TRT? CBD can help: The catabolic effect of cortisol are amplified in people using TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy) or PED’s (Performance Enhancing Drugs). These drugs can block cortisol binding to receptors in the body, thereby increasing the speed of recovery and reducing muscle-loss. However, this causes the levels of cortisol and cortisol receptors in the body to increase in response, and this increased effect of cortisol is increased even further during off cycle periods! This increase can result in larger overall levels of muscle loss in off-cycles, potentially reversing months of hard work, as well as an amplified case of all the effects of stress described above. Whether it’s medical bills or effort invested into training, it’s probably worth looking at introducing CBD into your routine throughout the year to help reduce and control these increased cortisol levels.
Getting lean could be easier with CBD: CBD has been shown in recent research to promote the production of proteins in the body responsible for fat cell browning. You may be asking what is brown fat and why should I care? Brown fat is a different form of fat storage in the body that doctors used to believe only babies had. Brown fat stores energy in smaller spaces than the more common white fat cells. These cells are iron-rich and packed plenty with mitochondria, giving the cells their brown colour. The major difference between brown fat and white fat is that brown fat also burns calories when it is burned. If CBD promotes the browning of fat cells, it’s suggested it can help you burn fat more efficiently, and scientists claim CBD could be a promising anti-obesity therapeutic.
Whether you’re a professional athlete and you’re wanting to maximise the results you get from training, or if you’re just concerned about the effects of juggling a hectic life alongside the gym, we believe here at Nordic Botanics that CBD could help reduce the effects of high cortisol levels on your body. We can’t make your life less stressful – that’s just life! What we can do it help reduce the impact it has on your life and your training.
- Donoho, C.J., Weigensberg, M.J., Emken, B.A., Hsu, J.-W. and Spruijt-Metz, D. (2011) Stress and abdominal fat: preliminary evidence of moderation by the cortisol awakening response in Hispanic peripubertal girls. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 19(5) 946–52.
- Parray, H.A. and Yun, J.W. (2016) Cannabidiol promotes browning in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 416(1–2) 131–139.
- Zuardi, A.W., Guimarães, F.S. and Moreira, A.C. (1993) Effect of cannabidiol on plasma prolactin, growth hormone and cortisol in human volunteers. Brazilian journal of medical and biological research = Revista brasileira de pesquisas medicas e biologicas, 26(2) 213–7.