There’s no such thing as a stress-free life. A life devoid of stress is a life devoid of excitement and tension and all those other qualities, both negative and positive, that make us feel so alive. If you’ve never experienced stress, you’ve never pushed yourself out of your comfort zone. A little stress can actually be healthy. The trouble is, most of us aren’t suffering from an absence of stress – rather, it’s the complete opposite.
Tiredness, moodiness, weight gain and muscle loss can all be indicative of high stress levels. When you’re stressed, your entire body suffers. Your metabolism slows down, your energy decreases and you lose your ability to focus. Stress affects your workouts too, making it harder to achieve the sort of gains that once came so easily. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can keep stress under control by choosing a smart combination of diet and exercise.
The toll stress takes on body and mind
Everyone feels stressed from time to time, but chronic stress is a completely different story. It can affect every system in your body, increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and the storage of visceral fat around the stomach. It is estimated that 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. It’s a problem that can affect your sleep, productivity, health and decision-making skills.
At the other end of the spectrum, low levels of stress can be beneficial. For instance, stress keeps you alert when you’re driving or walking through a dangerous neighborhood. However, prolonged stress can wreak havoc on your health, with elevated stress levels responsible for high blood pressure, muscle pain and aches, insomnia, behavioural problems, poor concentration and severe anxiety. According to researchers, stress is a contributing factor to the growing obesity epidemic.
Is stress wrecking your workouts?
Stress can adversely affect your athletic performance in more than one way. When you’re worried or stressed, your body enters the fight-or-flight mode, releasing cortisol and adrenalin. Cortisol, the stress hormone, causes an increase in heart rate and body temperature. When your cortisol levels stay high over an extended period of time, you may experience low energy, fatigue, muscle loss, weight gain and reduced athletic performance.
Too much stress can decrease metabolic rate and cause your body to store fat for fuel, adding inches to your waistline. The lack of motivation associated with stress is a major problem too, especially among athletes. Stress can kill your motivation and trigger mood swings. High cortisol levels have also been linked to slow workout recovery because stress affects your body’s ability to build and repair tissues.
How to stop stress from hampering your progress
Don’t let stress diminish your gains and impact on your health and happiness. From getting more sleep to performing yoga or meditation, there are numerous ways in which you can alleviate stress and calm your mind. If stress has taken its toll on your training, the solution isn’t to give up; it’s to switch it up. Instead of going through the same old routine in the gym, give your body and mind a fresh challenge. Something as simple as a 15-minute HIIT workout can unleash a rush of endorphins and adrenaline that will ensure stress doesn’t get a look in. When it comes to exercise, variety is the spice of life and the key to consistent gains.
Another factor which plays a huge role in mitigating stress is diet. Poor food choices can lead you susceptible to energy slumps and cortisol spikes, which are a sure-fire recipe for stress. Getting more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your diet will elevate your mood and keep you on an even keel. Complement healthy food with healthy shakes – Health Whey protein shakes to be precise – and your mental and physical well being will further improve. Why? Because research has shown protein to be a proven stress remover due to the amino acids it contains which help to make neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Protein is a proven stress-buster that’s good for the brain and also good for your gains.
Keep stress in check and you’ll blossom in every area of your life, from the workplace to the gym.