Rest 5 minutes.
Three rounds for time of:
Coach Mark’s Notes:
I've wanted to do a post on cortisol for a while and since so many people have been emailing me lately asking for a post on it, I decided to write it this week. That's a lie, all I get is hate mail. Cortisol management is extremely important to any athlete, as well as everyday normal people. There is so much information available on cortisol out there, but I wanted to provide HAF readers with a simple, easy explanation of what this hormone is and how it affects each of us.
What is cortisol?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone present in our bodies, produced by the adrenal glands. This hormone regulates certain bodily functions, mainly immune response. It is commonly referred to as the "stress hormone" due to its secretion during stressful situations, though stress is not the only cause of its production. It is normally highest in the morning, and lowers as the day progresses.
Why does it spike when we are stressed?
To prepare us for the "fight-or-flight" situation. Cortisol is our body's response to a stressful situation where additional energy or heightened senses may be necessary for survival. A spike in cortisol will cause muscle protein to be converted to glucose to supply the brain with energy. Other body tissues simultaneously decrease their need for glucose. Also, fat cells will release fatty acids for the body's muscles to use. These processes work together to give added fuel to the body and brain.
What good is it?
Cortisol is responsible for controlling many different bodily functions including glucose metabolism, blood pressure and cardiovascular regulation, insulin release and immune functions. As mentioned before, it also helps the body in physically and mentally stressful situations. It is safe and works well with our bodies when levels are normal. Only at elevated levels do the real problems start.
What harm does it cause?
Constantly subjecting your body to high levels of cortisol can cause breakdown of muscle and poor immune function. Mood swings, lack of motivation to train, poor performance and loss of appetite are symptoms of elevated cortisol levels. For an athlete, high levels of cortisol mean that the body can become catabolic, meaning that muscle starts breaking down and fat starts getting stored. Higher cortisol presence in the body results in suppressing testosterone, which leads to slower recovery.
How can it reach high levels in the body?
Stress in your life or work, physical trauma, disease, infection, and most importantly for athletes; over-training. Constant intense exercise with inadequate amounts of rest is a perfect combination for high levels of cortisol.
How do I reduce my levels of cortisol?
Sleep enough, and eat well. Rest more, stress less, and relax as much as you can. Get angry as little as possible. Even getting angry at someone has been shown to increase cortisol levels, so calm down and take it easy. If you're feeling not quite right, performing poorly at the gym or losing your mental drive to keep training, take some rest time. Bring those cortisol levels back down and be happier and healthier, it's just not worth the detrimental effects that this hormone will cause you.