Stress could arguably be blamed for many of modern society’s health related issues.
Is there a way to avoid it? How can we control it? What do you do when stress hits you?
I think first we have to figure out exactly what stress is. Because it’s not just “getting yelled at by your boss” or “dealing with a divorce” or “your child getting in trouble at school.”
Stress can be physiological or psychological, and can also be present because you have eaten foods that you are intolerant to or have excess toxicity in your body from air, water or food pollution.
Stress causes the secretion of cortisol by the adrenal glands adding fat directly onto the belly.
Because many people have chronic stress (or let little acute stress throughout the day build up into chronic stress) they have inflammation and high cortisol levels which results in belly fat.
When talking about stress and how to manage it, we need to take into consideration our levels of glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant that can be supplemented, but is the main antioxidant produced in the body. Glutathione is a wonderful cancer fighter and can help prevent many diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Bi-Polar Disorder. It is also necessary for optimal detoxification purposes in the body and kidney and liver function.
The main reason glutathione is so important is because it recycles other antioxidants and vitamins. In this state, your body can keep it’s cells fueled with necessary nutrients and defend itself against free radicals and oxidative stress.
So what helps raise glutathione levels? And how can I reduce stress? I’m glad you asked.
Yes, it’s true. You will have higher levels of glutathione if you participate in a regular weight-training program. Studies have shown it doesn’t matter what level intensity you perform, whether hypertrophy or strength training. Besides the higher glutathione levels, weight training will help you feel better by releasing endorphins, as well as being able to take out stored aggression!
A regular, planned meditation practice will allow you to sort things out in your head. This is largely attributed to higher glutathione levels. A big part of stress release comes with proper “yoga breathing”. Breathing shouldn’t be strained, but should be a “time-keeper” with a consistent pulse. Even 5 minutes every day can aid in stress relief.
Antioxidant-rich foods, green tea & omega-3’s can all help relieve stress in the body by optimizing the entire antioxidant system and by reducing inflammation in the body. Fighting inflammation is critical in your defense against stress and body fat.
Respiration is essential to life. Without breath, you die. But did you know steady, controlled breathing can lower cortisol levels and reduce stress? I’ve mentioned this exercise before. You can do it seated or standing, but it’s best lying down with hands on belly. Take a 3 second inhale by making the belly rise first followed by the chest. Hold the inhale for 3 seconds, exhale for 3 seconds, then hold after the exhale for 3 seconds. You just took one breath over the course of 12 seconds. After a couple of these move up to 4 seconds. Then try 5 and then 6. That will be the limit for many people. But do the math: That’s one breath every 24 seconds. Make sure both your inhales and exhales are through the noses to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. I do these controlled breathing exercises at stressful times of the day to help relieve acute stress.
Sleep is one of our greatest fat fighters. Cortisol follows the sleep/wake cycle (circadian rhythm) and without proper sleep we face problems with inflammation and adrenal fatigue, among other things. For those of you who don’t know what adrenal fatigue is, it will cause you to look older, feel worse, think slower, skin to get more wrinkly and you to have less energy. Sound good? Of course not! So, don’t skimp on your sleep!
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About Phil Gephart:
Phil Gephart is a certified personal trainer with a Master's Degree (MS) in Exercise Science with a focus in Coaching & Athletic Administration, received in 2009 from Concordia University in beautiful Irvine, California. Phil’s passion for fitness is reflected in his involvement in sports throughout his life—in high school, he played basketball, baseball and soccer, in college he continued playing basketball and soccer. Phil also played basketball professionally for five years.
Phil Gephart is currently a professor in the exercise science department at Concordia University, where he teaches an Advanced Personal Training course to undergraduate students.