Regardless of if you are new to strength training, or you have been at it for awhile, you could be wondering how you can better improve your gains.

Our bodies are built to exist in equilibrium. That means, they do their best to be efficient with a balance between building new tissue and removing old tissue.

Unfortunately, that means some processes in our bodies work against our goals for gaining muscle mass.

One of those processes involves a chemical named cortisol.

What Is Cortisol and What Causes High Levels of It?

Cortisol is a naturally-occurring hormone that acts as the body’s alarm system. It’s one of three stress hormones that go into high-gear when you’re in a fight-or-flight situation. When you’re stressed, cortisol:

  • Redirects fats, carbs and other nutrients so they can be used to flee
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Increases blood-sugar so your brain can function with increased awareness
  • Boosts energy

In stressful situations, your body doesn’t need to grow muscles — it needs fuel to use them! That’s why stress leads to high cortisol levels.

In some cases, it will also work to actively break down muscle in an effort to convert it into blood glucose for fuel.

How Does Cortisol Affect My Strength Training Routine?

While testosterone helps build muscle, cortisol helps the body burn it up. In a workout routine, that’s the opposite of what you want.

Working out too hard puts your body in emergency mode. After about an hour of high-intensity training, your body produces more cortisol and less testosterone so your routine becomes counter-productive. That’s why rest and a solid workout routine are so important.

If you push yourself too hard all the time, you’ll not only restrict muscle growth — you’ll feel pretty bad overall. High cortisol levels can lead to chronic fatigue, sore muscles, anxiety, unhealthy weight gain and restless sleep. While you still may see some gains, your body will hate you for it.  

How Can I Control Cortisol Levels?

Everyday stress and super-intense workouts without breaks raise cortisol levels. To control cortisol production:

  • Eat a healthier diet that includes yogurt, soluble fiber and less junk food.
  • Develop a sleep routine.
  • Use workout routines that account for stretching and recovery.
  • Do something to relax. Read, walk outside, meditate or anything else that makes you feel more centered.

Like every other aspect of a healthy workout routine, controlling cortisol levels is all about balance. Different people produce cortisol at different levels and at different times. To maximize your muscle-building potential, log weight gains and losses, routines and all dietary supplement intake.

More importantly, take a breather between sets and reps. It’s not lost time. You’re actually doing your body a favor by allowing cortisol levels to balance out.

Let CONDITIONerd Help You Maximize Your Workout Routine

Though we have a lot of pre-made workout routines and workout information on our blog, we can build you plans that can help avoid the cortisol creep and meet your fitness goals. Each plan can be tailored to you, but if you want to find out more, contact us today.

Let Us help You Out

At CONDITIONerd we are here to help you achieve better physical and mental health through exercise. Check out the plans we offer to our customers and see if you could benefit from working with our team. And if you have questions, you can always contact a CONDITIONerd team member

Personal trainers, like those found here, can help guide you on your pathway towards reaching your fitness goals, whether that is getting bigger, stronger, faster, more lean, or just generally feeling better.

We can get you setup with a periodized workout plan, supplement information, and advice on nutrition to help you reach your goals.

The only thing you need is some motivation and a willingness to change some old habits.

Get into contact with us to find out what membership is right for you. In a CONDITIONerd program, you’ll be surrounded by others who can help you to get where you want to be.

Generally, our clients start to see some pretty awesome changes in 2-3 months time, some sooner.

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