Controlling Cortisol Levels
Here are some solid tips to help control cortisol levels:
1) Diet: Make sure you are supplying your body with all the essential nutrients you need to prevent deficiencies and for optimal function. This includes plenty of high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals. Try not to restrict calories continuously as some research suggests that restricting normal caloric intake by 50% can lead to a subsequent increase in cortisol levels by 38%. (10)
2) Do not overtrain: Try not to work out three or more days in a row without taking a day off. Keep workouts to under an hour at the most and train efficiently and intensely. I know this phrase has been beaten to death but LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!
Take enough rest days between workouts - If you are really sore, then wait an extra day to train until your body fully recovers from your previous workout. Remember, less may be more in this case.
4) Relax and try not to get stressed out easily: Take an evening walk with a loved one or take a nap when you get a chance.
5) Try to get at least eight hours of sleep per night: Sleep is crucial to the recovery and recuperation process.
6) Spike Insulin levels after a workout: Insulin actually interferes with cortisol and may enhance cortisol clearance from the body. Spiking insulin levels after a workout (by consuming a high-glycemic index carbohydrate) may help minimize excessive cortisol levels since cortisol levels are elevated significantly post resistance training.
Supplements that may help control increased cortisol levels secondary to intense exercise
Phosphatidylserine (PS):This phospholipid, which has been known mainly for its cognitive effects, seems to have cortisol-suppressive properties. Recent research shows that 800 mg Phosphatidylserine given in two divided oral doses helps suppress cortisol secondary to intense weight training. (11) In fact, in this same study, the individuals using PS experienced less muscle soreness as well. Earlier research by Monteleone confirms these results. By decreasing cortisol levels, the testosterone: cortisol ratio can increase possibly relating to anabolic effects. PS seems to only decrease cortisol levels when they are elevated and does not seem to decrease cortisol levels below normal. Decreasing cortisol levels or suppression of cortisol production is not desired in many instances as it may cause adverse effects such as a decrease in reaction time to wounds and healing mechanisms in the body. There are two forms of PS available: a brain cortex derivative and a soy lecithin derivative. The brain cortex PS has been used in most of the studies and shown to be effective.
Acetyl-L-carnitine: This is basically the acetylated ester of L-carnitine. This supplement may help prevent the decline in testosterone that occurs during and after an intense resistance training session. It seems to lessen the response to stress.
L-Glutamine: This is the most abundant free amino acid in muscle tissue. (12) It seems to play a very important role in protein synthesis and is very important to weight-training athletes. Some research suggests that glutamine levels may be a good indicator of overtraining or overreaching. (12) In other words, athletes who were overtrained generally had low levels of glutamine along with high levels of cortisol. One study actually showed that glutamine directly prevents the cortisol-induced degradation of muscle contractile proteins.(13) Some of its positive effects include enhancing protein synthesis; increasing GH levels, which can counteract some of the catabolic effects of cortisol; potent cell-volumizing effects, which can create an anabolic environment in muscle cells; and partially determining the rate of protein turnover in the muscle. An oral glutamine supplement can help athletes prevent some of the symptoms of overtraining. It may also enhance glycogen synthesis through an unknown mechanism. It also helps provide a source of fuel for the small intestine and may enhance anti-inflammatory function. It has been shown to boost immune function. I hope you get the point -Glutamine is a vital nutrient for weight-training athletes.
Vitamin C: This vitamin, mainly known for it's anti-oxidant properties, may also have some anti-cortisol effects. A study done by Stone entitled "Effects of Vitamin C on Cortisol and the Testosterone: Cortisol Ratio" showed a decrease in cortisol levels in 17 junior elite weight lifters. This study also showed that the individuals taking Vitamin C (an extra gram a day) improved their testosterone:cortisol ratio by over 20%. This type of decrease in cortisol can lead to increased muscle and connective-tissue hypertrophy and enhanced recovery from training. Since Vitamin C also decreases your chances of suffering from a cold or flu infection by 30% (14) and may aid in collagen synthesis, it would be wise to take some extra vitamin C when involved in an intense weight-training program.
Zinc: A mineral that is an essential cofactor in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body including testosterone synthesis and steroid hormone production. Getting enough zinc may make the difference between making great gains and only making average gains in a weight training program.
Vitamin A: This vitamin, which is often times used for healthy skin function, may also minimize cortisol levels according to Dr. Sapse. He suggested this in an abstract he presented at the 1997 conference on cortisol and anti-cortisols. (8)
Gingko Biloba: This herb is mainly used for its excellent cognitive effects by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which can lead to greater mental focus and concentration. It may also have additional benefits of decreasing cortisol levels according to an abstract presented at the 1997 conference on cortisol and anti-cortisols. (15) The anti-stress and neuroprotective effects of ginkgo biloba in this study were due to its effect on glucocorticoid biosynthesis. The EGb 761 standardized gingko biloba extract was used in this study and many of the studies showing that it enhances cognition.
DHEA: This natural hormone of the adrenal glands that declines after the age of 30 seems to have some powerful anti-cortisol effects. Many abstracts presented at the 1997 conference on cortisol and anti-cortisols discussed DHEA's role in decreasing cortisol levels. DHEA is fat soluble so it can cross the blood-brain barrier and have some effects on cognition as well.
Androstenedione: This prohormone is a direct precursor to testosterone, which may explain its anti-cortisol effects since increases in testosterone can blunt elevated cortisol levels secondary to intense weight training. Different metabolites of androstenedione and testosterone, such as 4-androstenediol, 5-androstendiol, and nornadrostenediol, may also exert some anti-cortisol effects. However, more research needs to be done in this area to make this clear!
Androstenetriol: This steroid metabolite, which is chemically known as Delta 5-androstene-3b,7b,17b,triol, was shown in an abstract presented at the 1997 conference on cortisol and anti-cortisols to counteract the immunological effects of glucocorticoids. (16) This is an interesting compound that definitely needs to be looked at further.
This is a subject that will be studied thoroughly in the future. Studies investigating supplemental strategies against cortisol may help weight trainers get the most out of their workouts and help enhance the recovery and recuperation process. Now before you think suppressing cortisol levels can make you Hercules, remember, cortisol levels are one piece to a large and complex puzzle. It takes a combination of proper training, nutrition, and supplementation to achieve your true muscle-building potential. However, getting cortisol levels checked by your doctor and implementing strategies against cortisol may be a good idea, especially during a calorie-restrictive dieting phase. So, the next time you feel tired, sluggish, or sore for an abnormally long time in your weight-training program, and you don't know why, look into cortisol levels, and you might find the answer
there you go...your welcome