Can Stress Cause Weight Gain?


Can Stress Cause Weight Gain?

100_1501I have noticed more of my personal training clients asking me about stress and the effects it may have on the physique.  In the busy world we live in today, stress is a way of life.  Trying to maintain both a healthy lifestyle and eating habits can be difficult especially when time is scarce and schedules are packed.  But too much stress can actually lead to an increase in your weight.

When the body encounters stress it releases hormones which include adrenaline, corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) and cortisol.  Adrenaline and CRH prepare your body to deal with a threat by making you feel alert and decreasing your appetite, but this effect doesn’t last long.  Once the adrenaline and CRH wear off, cortisol kicks in.  Cortisol is responsible for helping the body replenish its food supply by increasing appetite.  This system works great when you encounter a physical threat or danger requiring the body to “fight or flee” but in today’s world it is usually a psychological stressor and not a physical stressor that people encounter.  Unfortunately, cortisol secretion not only increases the appetite but also stores the fat in the belly as visceral fat.  Visceral fat is responsible for inflammation in the body which can lead to the development of heart disease or diabetes.

Although stress is inevitable, there are ways to offset stress and minimize or avoid weight gain.  The first is exercise.  Exercise is the best way to reduce stress.  Not only does exercise burn calories by speeding up the metabolism but it also decreases cortisol levels and releases hormones to elevate mood.  Second, eat a well-balanced diet to include several small meals a day instead of three huge meals. This will keep blood sugar and insulin levels steady which reduce cortisol in the body.  Third, make sure to get enough sleep.  A lack of sleep will increase cortisol making you feel hungrier than you really are.  Lastly, avoid cigarettes and alcohol and reduce consumption of caffeine. Both cigarettes and caffeine can lead to low blood sugar levels, high cortisol levels, and increased hunger.  Drinking too much alcohol also negatively affects blood sugar, insulin, and cortisol levels as well.

For more information about stress, weight loss, working out, or if you’ve been thinking about hiring a personal trainer, contact us.


Training Innovations
2420 Midtown Pl NE
Albuquerque, NM 87107
(505) 261-1253