Is There a Connection Between the Stress Hormone Cortisol and Belly Fat?

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The Connection Between The Stress Hormone Cortisol And Belly Fat

Did you know that there’s a connection between the stress hormone, cortisol, and belly fat?

Belly fat is the fat hanging over your waistline above a pair of jeans that are too tight. It just isn’t attractive but more importantly it can shorten your lifespan, as visceral fat is the most dangerous type of fat that wraps itself around your internal organs.

Belly fat is much more of a problem than simply how you look.

Excess belly fat has been associated with stress, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. 

When you are suffering from stress, your adrenal glands release epinephrine, cortisol, and norepinephrine, which are the “fight or flight” hormones that cause your body to raise its blood pressure, increase your heart rate, increase blood glucose levels, and cause belly fat. When you are under stress, these hormones go into action.

Norepinephrine influences the body to stop making insulin so that you can have a large amount of quickly acting glucose available. Epinephrine will cause relaxation of the muscles in your intestines and stomach, and can decrease blood flow to your organs.

After the stressor has gone away, your body’s cortisol will tell the body to quit making these hormones and to go back to regularly digesting your food.

Normally, your cortisol levels go up and down during the day, but when you are stressed, the cortisol levels increase and remain there.

When your cortisol levels are elevated, the body resists losing weight. Your body believes that you are suffering from hard times and that you may starve. For this reason, your body holds onto the fat you eat or already have in your body.

Cortisol takes fat from the healthier areas of your body, such as your hips and butt, and moves it to your stomach, which has more receptors for cortisol. The cortisol acts on your body to create belly fat.

This process turns fat that was once peripheral fat and turns it into unhealthy visceral fat, which is the kind of fat that goes around your organs. It increases the insulin levels that, in turn, increase inflammation.

This belly fat then increases the cortisol level because it has a higher concentration of an enzyme that turns inactive cortisol into active cortisol. The more belly fat you have on your body, the more the active cortisol increases. This is another vicious cycle created by belly fat.

Here are some ways you can decrease belly fat:

  • Try to eat more protein. Your body spends a great deal of energy trying to digest protein. This means that if you eat snacks and meals containing protein, you give your metabolism a boost. In addition, protein is digested slowly, which helps you feel fuller for a longer period of time. You are less likely to overeat. In addition, protein is crucial for maintaining healthy muscle tissue, which is your body’s calorie and fat-burning machine. If you eat plenty of protein in your diet, your metabolism will keep going strong. Some good protein options include lentils, peas, beans, tofu, egg whites, fish, lean beef, white turkey, or white chicken.
  • Strength training. Your muscles continue to burn calories even while you are resting. The more you tone your muscles, the more calories you have to burn. For each pound of muscle you put on, you will burn at least 35-50 calories per day. If you are attempting to lose weight, you need to stay focused on your workouts, or on strengthening exercises, like using resistance bands, barbells, free weights, squats, abdominal crunches, and pushups.
  • Eat the entire day. You should never skip meals, believing that the calories you are saving will help you lose weight. The truth is that if you deprive the body of needed calories and necessary nutrients, it will conserve energy and store fat by decreasing your metabolism. This is why crash dieting that restricts your food intake doesn’t work over the long haul. Try to stick with regular mealtimes, and eat snacks and meals that combine fiber and lean protein, often found in many vegetables and fruits. Your best option is to eat a small meal every 3 hours. 
  • Reduce stress. Learn to relax your body with various stress management techniques, such as yoga, meditation, journaling, and breathing exercises.
  • Drink green tea. When you drink green tea, you are consuming catechins, which are substances known to increase your metabolism. In a recent research study, people who drank 2-4 cups of green tea on the days they were more active burned more calories than those who didn’t drink green tea. Research also indicates that the catechins found in green tea will help you break down fat.
  • Remain hydrated. Dehydration can result in hunger, leading you to eat more food when all you really need is to drink some water. Drinking water before meals and during meals fills your stomach and maximizes a feeling of fullness, leaving you satisfied without eating too much. Research has shown that when you drink cold water, you may increase your metabolism.

About Robin R.
I’m an AFPA certified personal trainer & nutrition consultant, NASM certified corrective exercise specialist, NASM certified youth exercise specialist, online fitness trainer and freelance writer specializing in health and fitness. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health. I specialize in weight loss, functional strength training, total body toning, aerobic conditioning, plyometric training, nutrition planning, and home-based boot camp style workouts for women. My goal is to make every personal training session fun and effective for my clients. My services include online fitness training and professional content writing services at an affordable price for your business website or blog. I specialize in search engine optimization (SEO), article & blog writing.

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