Stress- Part 2 (cortisol)
Cortisol, the so-called stress hormone is a bit of a double-edged sword, particularly with regards to it’s relationship with fat.
Produced in your adrenal glands, cortisol is primarily a catabolic agent. Although the word catabolism is normally associated with muscle loss, it simply refers to the breakdown of substance for energy. This can certainly relate to muscle, as prolonged elevation of cortisol has been definitely shown to lead to proteolysis, or muscle breakdown; however, short periods of elevation have been shown to lead to lipolysis, or breakdown of fatty tissue.
There is also evidence that links cortisol to the storage of abdominal fat. In other words, if you have high cortisol, you’re likely to store most of your fat on your belly. All of this makes cortisol an interesting hormone when you consider that producing it can break down fat and help get you lean, or it can cause you to store fat in the worst area.
What makes cortisol even more complicated is that you want it to rise during activity. It is directly linked to your fight-or-flight mode, which means when cortisol raises, you can use that stress to improve your performance. This is a great thing for your training, as you want more intensity. But if cortisol remains elevated for too long, it causes a raise in blood sugar, which makes you crave all sorts of unhealthy foods, Whats more, it can make you insulin resistant.
Reference: Engineering the Alpha, Man 2.0, Romaniello Bornstein.