If you spend your nights in caves and constantly run the risk of encountering a saber-toothed tiger, high cortisol levels are definitely beneficial. Fortunately, we have left those times behind us. However, our body cares very little and so with every warning of the brain, cortisol continues to be diligently released. You can find out how the hormone inhibits your muscle building and how you can slow down the release of cortisol in our blog post.
Cortisol (also hydrocortisone) is often referred to as a stress hormone. It belongs to the group of glucocorticosteroids, is produced in the adrenal cortex and from there released into the blood. The secretion of cortisol is controlled by two other hormones. The corticotropin-releasing hormone ( CRH ) from the hypothalamus and the adrenocorticotropic hormone ( ACTH ) from the pituitary gland. The cortisol values can be determined from the blood, saliva or urine. They are highest in the morning (4 to 22 µg / dl plasma / serum). Towards the evening they drop and around midnight they reach their lowest point (0-5 µg / dl plasma / serum).
How does cortisol work in our body?
In the past, cortisol was essential for survival and prepared us for a fight or flight in dangerous situations. The hormone has a stimulating effect . It increases the heartbeat, blood pressure and respiratory rate and increases awareness in the central nervous system. At the same time, it provides a fast energy supply by increasing the blood sugar level and promoting protein breakdown. What originally ensured survival in extreme situations is now for many Permanent condition. We are constantly under tension and pressure. Our body does not differentiate between psychological and physical stress. Regardless of whether it’s a traffic jam on the highway, an argument with a loved one or an intense workout, the cortisol levels rise. The exercise and rest to break this down is mostly missing.
Cortisol has an activating effect and makes us more productive in the short term, but damages our health in the long term . The consequences of the constant release of cortisol are: a. High blood pressure, poor concentration, osteoporosis and obesity. The immune system and reproduction are also neglected. This leads z. B. delayed wound healing, suppressed inflammation and decreased testosterone production. At the same time, the hormone also promotes fat storage in the stomach and stimulates the intake of fatty and sweet foods.
Why does cortisol inhibit muscle building?
Cortisol works catabolic (degrading). If you are in fight-or-flight mode, you need all the reserves you can get. Not only the fat and carbohydrate deposits are attacked, but also the protein supplies – our muscles. The hormone promotes gluconeogenesis – the formation of glucose from proteins – and thus muscle breakdown. It also inhibits testosterone production . The sex hormone is the ultimate muscle building booster.
How you can lower your cortisol level
It would be ideal if you simply avoid stress and hectic pace could. Unfortunately, this is not that easy to implement in everyday life. In addition to the typical stressful situations, other factors also lead to an increased release of the stress hormone. We have therefore summarized a few tips here on how you can counteract this.
Treat yourself to enough sleep and relaxation
Sufficient rest and enough sleep are essential for us to stay healthy and productive. About eight hours of sleep a night is ideal. The problem with our constant stress today: The cortisol values are still increased in the evening, so that the quality of sleep can be significantly disturbed. How restful our night’s sleep is does not depend solely on the duration. Regular breaks are just as important – especially in the evening. For example, a massage can reduce cortisol levels by 31%. Meditation and Yoga are also particularly effective. Just 20-30 minutes a day not only help you to relax, but also to deal more calmly with stressful situations.
Exercise regularly and do sports
exercise promotes the reduction of stress and lowers the cortisol level. However, going to the gym every day and exercising is not a good idea. This represents a renewed stressful situation for the body. The workout should therefore not be too intense and long . Sufficient regeneration phases and at least one rest day per week are mandatory. It is also important that the body is adequately supplied with nutrients after the workout. One study shows that consuming carbohydrates, or carbohydrates and EAAs (essential amino acids), decreases cortisol levels. The combined intake of carbohydrates and EAAs (as they can also be found in our V-Loader ) pushed muscle building the most.
Studies show that caffeine increases cortisol levels. Energy drinks and coffee should therefore only be consumed in moderation. Better: get enough sleep! So you don’t need a wake-up call anymore. If you don’t want to miss out on a hot drink in the morning, you can use green tea. Although this also contains caffeine, the amino acid L-theanine it contains ensures that the cortisol level remains low.
Supplement vitamin D
A study from 2016 showed that daily vitamin D supplementation can lower cortisol levels and improve exercise performance. In the darker months of the year in particular, it is therefore particularly important to prevent a vitamin D deficiency by taking supplements (e.g. our vitamin D3 + K2 ). From mid-October to mid-March, the sun’s radiation is no longer intense enough to cover the need via the skin’s own synthesis.