Posted 5 months ago

Why stress is slowing your progress

Have you ever considered the effect that stress is having on your progress? Did you know that a body in a state of stress is less efficient at burning fat or adding muscle mass?

It’s no secret that we live in a society where stress is elevated throughout the day. This can be down to work pressure, bills, family, and day-to-day living. Unfortunately, we’ve come to accept this as the norm – almost to the point where, despite stress levels being high, your average person does very little to try and manage that stress. In fact, most new clients I take on board have no stress management tools in place at all!

You might be asking yourself why a physique coach might ask and care so much about your stress levels – why does it matter?

Well, a stress response is – for the most part – an unconscious response. I’m sure you’ve heard of the ‘fight or flight’ response: your heart rate and breathing rate increase, you feel warm, your hairs stand on end, and you feel ready to go. This is an intricate system in the body that has evolved to respond to immediate danger, and is facilitated by the release of stress hormones i.e. adrenaline and cortisol.

A stress response isn’t inherently bad. After all, we’ve developed it over time to help us escape danger! And in fact, eliciting some degree of stress response during our workouts is also positive. However, it becomes problematic when our fight or flight kicks in or doesn’t switch off even when simply walking around, living our day to day life, or trying to get to sleep at night. So why does it matter for physique development? Well, having heightened levels of cortisol throughout the day will actually promote muscle breakdown; so, if you’re looking to add muscle mass, experiencing a high level of stress is your enemy.

High levels of stress are equally detrimental to fat loss. This is mainly because heightened stress can impact upon hunger and cravings, which paired with poor self-regulation can lead one to reach for high carb or fatty foods – this then leads to eating over your daily calorie limit, which will hider or slow down the fat loss process. You’ll also probably stress our more because you feel like you’ve failed. It is therefore clear that irrespective of your physique goal, high levels of stress are your enemy.

Now that you have an understanding of why stress isn’t optimal for transforming your physique, I’ll share with you some simple strategies that I use with my clients to help them manage and lower their stress levels.

Firstly, I’ll state the obvious and advise you to remove anything that is causing an unconscious emotional reaction in the body, such as excessively using your mobile phone. How many days have you looked at Instagram, a message or post and been triggered, gotten angry or frustrated? Although phones are deemed essential, being mindful of your usage can make a huge impact on your stress levels – for example, you could have set times where you use your phone. Also, I’d strongly recommend switching off your phone or placing it in a different room 2 hours prior to sleep, and instead of scrolling, doing something that will help you relax.

Secondly, given that faster breathing and heart rate are two of the most common signs of being in a fight or flight mode, it would make sense that the opposite – a slower breathing and heart rate – would put us in a more relaxed state (also known as “rest and digest”). As this is an unconscious system, the only way we can interrupt and manipulate it is by trying to control our breathing which will in turn slow down our heart rate.

For this, you could try guided breathing, meditation, reading, having a warm bath or playing with the cats or dogs. Even going for a gentle walk mid-day on your lunch break can drastically decrease stress levels by relaxing your breathing.

The list of de-stress techniques is endless, and preferences are personal. Whatever you choose, I’d strongly advise you try and do something a few times a day that will completely detach you from your day-to-day stress and completely relax you. If you do this, not only will you feel better, but you’ll also be stronger, have less cravings, find it easier to adhere to your diet, hold more muscle mass and overall, get better results.

To find out more about managing stress be sure to click below an sign up to the physique formula.

Vaughan Wilson Bsc Hons