Do you ever think about your adrenal glands? Probably not. But you probably should. Because those pesky pounds that don’t seem to be going anywhere with your fitness routine and healthy diet may indeed be hanging on because of adrenal related issues.
Let’s talk about what your adrenal glands do and how they contribute to you reaching your health goals.
What are the adrenal glands?
The adrenal glands are the glands responsible for your fight or flight response – the adrenaline and then nor-adrenaline that is released based on different stimuli.
It’s your adrenals that are activated when you are scared and have to think fast, and it’s your adrenals that are activated when you get really excited at the beginning of a race and have that surge of energy. It’s the same glands that then help you to calm down and relax when you cross the finish line, or when the scary thing ends. But it’s also the same glands that are active in your stress response (both physical and emotional). When we are stressed, our body releases adrenaline because it interprets the situation as needing a fast response (because that is how we perceive it in our head), and so it sets our body up to be able to do that: our hearts beat faster, our breathing rate increases, our minds become ultra focused and we head into go mode. At the same time, our body releases cortisol, the natural stress hormone, which helps us respond to stress and deal with it accordingly.
What does this have to do with my weight loss goals?
The issue occurs when we are constantly under stress. This can be physical stress (i.e. over training, or going to the gym too much without proper refuel and recovery), or emotional/psychological stress (our job, relationships etc.). When our body is permanently in stress mode, the cortisol release is constant and actually starts to accumulate in our bodies. The adrenaline slowly stops being released because our body can’t continue to stay in high alert mode all the time and our adrenals become unable to do their job. The result is that the cortisol causes our body to store fat because it thinks we are in a permanent stressful situation and need to reserve our energy. It also causes fatigue, digestive problems, irritability, and several other health issues that not only prevent us from reaching our health goals, but just make us feel downright miserable!
What can I do about it?
The first thing is to reduce your stress level. Whether you are training too much, have a job that makes you unhappy or just don’t get enough sleep, these all put extra stresses on your body and make it hard for you to lose the weight or reach your goals. Reduce these obstacles as much as you can, eliminate fatty, sugary, processed foods from your diet (often consumed because we are under stress), and drink more water. Then re-evaluate your fitness plan and make sure you add in variety to your workouts so your body doesn’t become too used to doing the same thing. Together with your reduced stress lifestyle and your new and challenging workouts, you should see those pesky pounds start to fall away!