Cortisol This & That

Who's not on the stress train these days? I know I am. I work too much, I worry too much, I check my phone too often which leads to too much texting, responding and communicating. Guilty as shit.

Stress appears to be a universal thing these days, with all sorts of bad connotations stuck to it. However, in itself, stress is not a bad thing. It's something that our bodies were designed to handle through the "fight or flight" mechanism. The reason it's problematic today is because our modern life is not stressful sporadically, it's stressful all.the.damn.time, and this our bodies are not set up for. At least not without some pretty gnarly consequences. It's sort of similar to inflammation. Acute inflammation is good. It's a protective mechanism that we need in order to heal an injured site. It's the chronic inflammation that is problematic, causing all sorts of health concerns and issues.

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Our fight or flight mechanism is primal and protective. It's there so we can respond, react and handle sporadic and extremely stressful events, such as a big ass bear launching an attack on us. The adrenals then release cortisol and adrenalin to give us a decent shot at running for our lives, faster than we would be able to without the hormonal boost. However, after a moment of extreme stress, our bodies need time to rest and recover, something that's just not happening these days (for most of us at least). We can't seem to catch a break, which leads to our adrenal system getting completely overworked, inefficient and burnt out. This is bad. Obviously.

Cortisol is the stress hormone. It's powerful and complex, we all have it and we all need it. We need high enough levels to get us through whatever workout we're doing, and to wake us up in the mornings. We then need low enough levels to help us chill and sleep at night. Normally, the levels of cortisol are (and should be) different depending on what time of day it is (higher levels in the morning, and lower levels at night). Too much or too little during the wrong times can, in other words, make or break us momentarily. Good thing is, we can actually balance this naturally (biohack if you will it) if we're feeling a little off, and set ourselves up for more energy and less stress.

Let's start with all you night owls out there. If you feel like you've got ants in your pants at night, chances are your cortisol is too high. Here are a few simple things you can try, to help lower the levels at night:

  1. Don't workout in the evening. If that's your only shot at squeezing a workout in, then really try out the following tips and tricks below after your workout sesh!
  2. Substitute TV and other electronics a half hour before bed with reading or planning the next day. This has been proven to lower cortisol.
  3. Take some Vitamin C (about 2 grams) after exercising.
  4. Take Magnesium in chelated form. 
  5. The amino acid L-Glycine reduces cortisol very efficiently. Start with 1-2 grams at night, and then work your way up to 5 grams.

If you're a night owl, chances are you're tired in the mornings as well. This means that your cortisol is too low for you to naturally wake up. Here's some tricks on how to raise levels, so the start of your day can turn into less of a challenge: 

  1. Try taking a licorice root supplement. It will help correct improper cortisol rhythm and also improve digestion, another common side effect of adrenal dysfunction.
  2. Take Acetyl L-Carnitine, an amino acid that produces energy. The body naturally produces it, but it can be helpful to get a little extra boost in the morning to help elevate cortisol if it's low.
  3. Pantethine is the stable form of vitamin B5, and it is used for many different things, with energy production being one of them (helps support proper adrenal function).
  4. Start your day with a workout! Doesn't have to be long, but get your heart rate up for 10-15 mins, sweat a little, stress your system a little :)

That's it folks, all I've got for today. XO