What is stress?
Stress is a change in our physiological state in response to what our bodies deem to be a dangerous situation.
In today’s society, we are suffering from too much stress which has a big impact on one our nervous system branches, sending signals throughout the body of ‘danger’.
We have two distinct branches of the autonomic nervous system:
• Parasympathetic State: This is when we are calm, at rest, and digesting and assimilating the nutrients from our food. This is where we recover and grow, and as you might have guessed, is the preferred state of being when it comes to fat loss.
• Sympathetic State: This is our fight or flight response, which is when we are in a state of stress. Not all stress is bad. The problem is when we are in heightened states of stress for too long. Stress is crucial for our bodies to disrupt homeostasis, which is what allows us to adapt, grow muscle,
So, what could be causing you stress? Examples include:
• Poor quality sleep
• Low amounts of sleep (anything less than 6 hours)
• Financial troubles
• Poor body image
• Relationship issues
• Work Environment
• Moving Houses
• Unhealthy/poor quality food
• Lack of water
• Alcohol Consumption
Get your body into a parasympathetic state
• This is where we mostly want to be. This involves calming and/or stress mitigation activities. The concept of training the house down is great, but if you are already stressed it will make your stress response worse.
• We want to manage stress first, and as we improve, then drive up training volume. The key is here is to always remember that it's not about what you can do, it's about what you can recover from and if you're someone who is stressed, your recovery won't be good. We want fat loss, but we also want to be healthy and feel better on the inside.
• Concentrating on slow deep breathing is a great tool. If we were running from danger would we be breathing calmly and deeply? No we wouldn't! We would be running to keep ourselves safe so the heart rate would naturally increase, causing us to breathe excessively fast. To feel safe and away from danger our body needs to be in a calm state. So try slow, deep breathing.
Other activities to assist you getting into a parasympathetic state include:
· Breathing techniques – my favourite is Diaphragmatic Breathing (breathing into the diaphragm instead of the chest)
• Slow walks
• Guided meditation apps e.g. Headspace
• our primary ‘happy’ neurotransmitter – is extremely important when it comes to fat loss as it has a high correlation with mental health, particularly depression.
• When serotonin is low we feel down, which directly effects our mood and enjoyment of life. It is also the precursor
• to one of our primary sleep hormones, melatonin, which when compromised leads to poor sleep.
• When sleep is poor, leptin levels decrease. Leptin is our satiety hormone responsible for keeping us feeling full. Poor sleep also raises ghrelin which is our hunger hormone.
• We now have a situation where stress has impacted our mood, sleep and hunger levels.
• These are just a few of the negative cascading effects caused by chronically elevated cortisol levels. As you can tell, none of this is going to help our fat loss efforts.
The message behind this post is to ensure that you MANAGE stress and not stress about eliminating stress. Stress will always exist. We live in a world full of it, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have control of when we are in Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System branch.
Managing Stress starts with SLEEP! If you improve sleep, you improve your stress management. It’s very simple but often overlooked!
Ideally, we want to be in Sympathetic when we train and then in Parasympathetic every other time of the day. We can be like this we just need to make the effort to ensure that we change our lifestyles to ensure that this happens.
Think about what you’re doing 1-hour prior to sleep.
Think about what you’re eating throughout your day.
Think about how you feel when you wake up every morning.
Think about how many times you go to the toilet to poo in a day.
Think about how you feel after you eat every meal.
Think about your energy levels.
They are all easy signs that tell you what’s going on with your nervous system, which has a huge impact on your bodily functions affecting how we feel throughout our entire day.
Yours In Health,
Coach Anthony Kassis