Stress that occurs in our body and minds is an adaption of change in any form. Pressure at work, training hard at the gym, unhappy relationships, these all cause stress, and it's affecting your life. Your stress control centre is the hypothalamus, and it’s the one who decides what needs to happen, instead of your body thinking about how to cope with this change, it sends a chemical to your adrenal cortex to have an answer to the situation, whether it’s the right or wrong answer cortisol still gets released.
The chemicals send a signal to the brain usually saying that it's dealt with the stress, and we can go back to living our lives, but if this stress is ongoing, it comes back and blocks other neural transmitters like noradrenaline and the use of serotonin (the 'feel good' ones). Chronic Cortisol response is what causes things like anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and because the cortisol doesn’t know if its an internal or external stress, eventually the chemical triggers a response that creates fat to help cushion an injury, sometimes this can happen even if the injury doesn't actually exist.
In other external circumstances, your body starts to shut off different energy sources and will catabolise muscle and bone as energy, that’s why when we see people like long distance runners after putting their bodies under so much external stress without enough nutrients in their system, their bodies will eat away at their own muscle tissue (which contains glycogen) for a source of glycogen which can deplete muscle.
We can also alter our cortisol by stressing our cardiovascular system, having things like caffeine, coffee, and pre-workouts can increase your adrenal receptors to pump signals and chemicals to your brain to keep you alert and focused. The downside of adrenaline being released from your adrenal cortex, is that it also crashes, and that’s why you always perk up after your first coffee and then crave another an hour or two later to help give you that 'energy' back.
Another thing that cortisol is responsible for is helping you get to sleep and waking you back up. For those who have a perfect nights sleep, you usually find that you start to get sleepy between 9-11 and wake up between 5-8. When people suffer from anxiety, stress and insomnia there isn’t a linear pattern of stress, it pretty much goes up and down waking you up at all different times of the night. Depending on peoples lifestyles and careers, this can also affect when your cortisol peaks and drops.
There are different ways that we can overcome excess cortisol:
- either by eliminating its external sources,
- ending bad relationships,
- keeping a work/life balance,
- correct nutrition, and
- herbal supplementation.
High and Low GI Foods
Last week we talked about nutrient timing and how you can effectively use all kinds of food to help with your training. High and Low GI foods can help fuel your body for different workouts, and have varying impacts on your blood sugar levels. For some people (diabetics, people with PCOS, fibromyalgia sufferers, etc) consuming many High GI foods can have negative effects on your health. So we have put together a chart to show you some commonly consumed foods and where they'd sit on the Glycemc Index (GI) scale. We know most people don't want to eat 'clean' 100% of the time, so we've incorporated some options that'd we'd consider to be treats that you'd have in moderation.
What is Low GI?
Do you remember the Low GI diet fat that went around a few years ago? There's a common misconception that something is healthy if it's Low GI... this is not necessarily true. Carbohydrates are an essential part of your diet, but not all carbohydrates are the same. Low GI carbs are digested, absorbed and metabolised slower, which results in a more steady blood glucose level, and usually more stable insulin levels. Consuming good quality carbohydrates can help with weight loss and weight management.
What is High GI?
High GI food should be consumed in moderation, and if you're sensitive to carbohydrates, or have insulin problems, High GI foods should be timed to be eaten when your body will utilise them most efficiently (either 15-20 minutes before, or up to 1 hour after your workout). Consuming carbohydrates after your workout will enhance your muscle growth and contribute to muscle cell repair.
Trigger pointing, also called Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy can be done by a masseuse or physiotherapist, or, with a trigger point ball! You can buy purpose-built trigger point massage balls, or you can even pick up a lacrosse ball from your local sports store. Trigger pointing is used to manage aches and pains in your muscle by compressing deep muscles and releasing them. This is especially effective for post-workout soreness. Be warned, if you’re not used to trigger pointing you may find it painful!
Download our Trigger Pointing Guide here.
Download the worksheet here