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Motivational Monday's (3/11/19) STRESS

Hey there everyone! Another Monday, another chance to crush it! 

Today we are going to get into a topic that is near and dear to my heart. A subject matter that I personally face constantly, and am very sure that all of you are facing, either now or at some points in your life and that is STRESS. As we all know there are two major sides to stress, the physical (which is what we put our bodies through in the gym to build muscle and get stronger) and the mental (which is what our minds put US through outside of the gym). Today we are going to dive into the mental side of stress and specifically, how it affects our bodies when it comes to desired muscle gain, weight loss and over-all physique goals, whether that be purely aesthetic, athletic or BOTH!

Think about it. You just had an argument with your significant other. You’re stressed out every time you drive in rush hour traffic. Maybe you’ve got a lot going on at work, or you don’t get along with your boss. And then there’s money problems, relationships, a death in the family, or some other unexpected circumstances that throws your day-to-day or even your life for a loop.

Any of that sound familiar? Everybody experiences stress from time to time. And you might think stress has nothing to do with building muscle, losing weight, and making gains. But it does. If your diet and training have been consistently on point. And you are not making progress, losing weight, or building muscle like you think you should, it makes sense to look at every aspect of your internal/external stressors. 

What if you’re following your program perfectly, and it feels like you’re not making any progress? Or worse, you’re losing ground on the gains you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Number one. I know, it is incredibly frustrating. Nobody wants to put in days, weeks, or even months of hard work in the gym, follow the meal plan and end up getting nowhere. But more importantly, if diet and exercise aren’t the problem, how can you tell what’s getting in the way? You have to look beyond those two variables, and zero in on other lifestyle factors that may be getting in the way. And for a lot of people, that roadblock to making gains is chronic stress AND more importantly, not knowing how to handle it or what to do about it. 

Just to give each of you a little insight (or refresher, because I KNOW I have talked to most of you about at least one of these) into the science behind how your body reacts to stress I have put together the below internal reactions of stress for reference: 
  • Cortisol levels spike and stay elevated. Higher levels of this stress hormone negatively impact blood sugar levels, digestion, metabolism, fat storage, and the immune system.
  • Energy levels drop as insulin production is interrupted and blood sugar levels change rapidly. So you start skipping workouts, or don’t give your best effort when you hit the gym.
  • Hunger and cravings increase, especially for simple carbohydrates because of hormonal changes in the body. The result: You give in to the chocolate cake craving, and instead of having a slice, you gobble the whole thing. 
  • Catabolism may begin to occur, breaking down muscle to use as energy, while the body increases fat stores. And you slowly see your muscle gains slipping away.
  • Gastrointestinal problems develop that can negatively impact absorption of nutrients and digestion. And it gets harder to eat clean and bounce back after a workout, if your body isn’t getting the fuel it needs.
  • Thyroid gland slows production of two key hormones needed for metabolism. It’s one reason you might hustle in the gym, stick to your diet, and still not tip the scale in the right direction.
  • Inflammation throughout the body increases, limiting muscle repair and growth and increasing the risk for other health problems. 
  • Sleep patterns are compromised, adding to feelings of tiredness and fatigue. And pretty soon, you’re too tired to workout.
Did you just say, holy shit? One if not all of those are me or have been me before? Yep, and those are just a few of the eye opening ways that ill managed chronic stress can take over. Even when you think you are 100% compliant with your diet and training. Good news? When there is a problem, there is always, always, ALWAYS a solution! And you guys know.... I freakin LOVE solutions.
Just like the above these are only a few ways I like to manage and HANDLE the way stress affects my life. If you’re stressed out, you can’t ignore it if you want to build muscle, lose fat, or transform your body. You have to do something about it to reduce those cortisol levels that can and will stall your progress. OK here it goes! 
  • You may need to cutback on your beloved training days OR keep your workouts short, come in to the gym with a purpose. Aim for under an hour. Keep the intensity level high. And do NOT neglect a proper cool down, you warm up well? Well guess what, cooling down is just as important. Mentally and physically. 
  • Cut back on the cardio!! If you’re doing too much cardiovascular activity, when your body is trying to process other things. Guess what? Cortisol levels go up.
  • Do not skip your meals!! I know, stressed, not enough time to eat or you have a loss of appetite? Make it happen anyways. In the end you will feel better after feeding your body appropriately. 
  • Take a freakin chill pill. Actually, there really isn’t such a thing. But you can MAKE time to relax. Go for a walk. Meditate. Get a massage. Play a sport outside with your friends or family. Read a good book or watch a funny show. Do something you enjoy that helps you relax, feel happy, and most importantly stress less.
  • Get your SLEEEEPPPPPPP!!! You all know this but I am going to preach, preach preach here. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it messes up hormone levels linked to hunger, metabolism, appetite, and sets you up for failure, no matter how hard you’re working in the gym or eating right. Set a bed time, create a routine, and get some sleep to get back on track.
  • Here is another. Take a break from your addiction to caffeine. You might find it hard for the first few days, but stick with it for at least week or two. Caffeine can cause spikes in cortisol levels if missed used or abused. Once you’re feeling better and back to making gains, gradually reintroduce caffeine. I know, we all love our coffee, but do not worry, I am not suggesting you get rid of it, just try to "limit" the use and get rid of it as a "crutch" entirely. 

Lastly, and this could be highly controversial but I do not care. I PERSONALLY feel that stress does not NEED to be a crippling death sentence. If we learn how to get a handle on it, instead of letting it handle us (chocking us out and stealing all of our hard earned gains) it can actually be empowering. Yes EMPOWERING! We all have stress, now lets learn how to successfully cope and manage it in a beneficial manner. So that during particularly stressful times in our lives, we have all necessary tools on our tool belt we can use to weather any storm that comes our way! As always, I love a good conversation, or comment, let me know, I am here! 

I love you guys! Kill the day, choke stress before it chokes you and give someone a hug today! <3 You wont regret it. 



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