Cortisol isn’t something many people think about but should. Our body tries to manage cortisol 24 hours a day, and it’s constantly changing based on the things going on around us as well as what we are doing. That being said, balancing healthy cortisol levels for athletes should be on the top of your mind if you want to help maintain and improve performance levels and stay one step ahead of your competition.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland but controlled by the hypothalamus. The body is good at controlling cortisol as it can become elevated and then managed quite quickly. While the rise of cortisol in most cases is acute, chronically high levels of cortisol can cause many issues that can damage health and diminish the performance levels of athletes.
As an example, when you exercise or train, cortisol levels rise due to the level of stress the body is put under. This rise in stress hormone is what helps produce energy for the body to perform. Cortisol also has anti-inflammatory properties that can ease pain, which can also help athletes continue to push themselves during training and competition.
This stress hormone also helps your body fight off infections and illnesses. But, again, this all comes down to balancing healthy cortisol levels and not allowing the rise in levels to become chronic and out of control.
What Happens If Cortisol Levels Remain High?
Your body is capable of balancing healthy cortisol levels, but if for some reason your body isn’t capable of managing your levels and they remain high, it can cause the following issues:
- Decreases growth hormone levels
- Increases abdominal fat
- Increases hunger
- Reduces protein synthesis
- Breaks down lean muscle tissue
- Decreases cognition
- Lowers libido
- Diminishes fertility
- Decreases glucose usage
- Decreases immunity
- Increases the risk of diabetes
- Increases the risk of osteoporosis
There are a few things to consider when you’re an athlete. For starters, the duration of your training session may determine how much cortisol is released into the system. One study has shown that training for more than 60 minutes can cause a spike in cortisol release.
Another piece of research looked at cortisol levels in athletes and found that endurance athletes had a higher long-term cortisol exposure, which, when you think about it, aligns with what the study mentioned above found. The longer a training duration (irrelevant of intensity), the higher the levels of cortisol.
The Benefits of Balancing Healthy Cortisol Levels
When you are able to support healthy cortisol levels, there are many benefits that you may experience. Many of these are extremely advantageous if you are an athlete who puts great demand on your body and needs it to perform and function optimally.
Below are some of the benefits you can experience when you’re able to create healthy cortisol levels.
1. Boost Energy
Chronically high levels of cortisol can lead to fatigue. Much of which is due to poor sleep patterns. However, through balancing healthy cortisol levels, your body can better manage energy production both when cortisol levels naturally rise during exercise and training as well as when you’re going through your normal everyday life.
2. Better Recovery
When cortisol levels are under control, you can experience better quality sleep patterns. By getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night, you can better recover from the stress of the previous day as well as the stress that came along with your workouts and training where you taxed your body and broke down muscle fibers that need to be rebuilt and repaired. This is incredibly important for athletes as they put high demand on their bodies to perform.
3. Minimize Weight Gain and Hunger
One of the negative aspects of chronically high cortisol levels is weight gain. This is due to ghrelin (a hunger hormone) being released as a result of increased stress and cortisol. The rise in ghrelin can cause hunger and lead to a caloric surplus and overeating, which then causes an increase in weight and body fat. Balancing healthy cortisol levels can minimize these effects and help promote and maintain a healthy body weight.
4. Improve Brain Function
Chronic stress can impair brain function due to a rise in cortisol. It has also been said that if cortisol levels remain elevated, it can lead to mental illnesses such as depression. In addition, higher levels can decrease memory, processing speed, and overall cognition. By balancing healthy cortisol levels, you can improve brain function and think and process things more clearly, which can provide you with a competitive advantage as an athlete.
5. Enhance Immunity
Immunity plays a role in all of our lives — it’s not just something athletes should focus on and worry about. If your body is stressed and unable to manage that stress and the reaction of cortisol levels spiking, it can diminish the immune system and cause the body to be less protected against viruses and harmful pathogens that enter our bodies. By controlling cortisol and keeping it normalized, you can better protect your immunity and your ability to stay healthy.
6. Reduce Inflammation and Pain
Healthy levels of cortisol can help improve your athletic performance by fighting inflammation and decreasing pain. Athletes push their bodies to the limit, and contact with others as well as the constant pounding of the joints can create both inflammation and pain if not controlled. By balancing healthy cortisol levels, you can help your body push harder and further by better managing the inflammatory and pain response.
7. Better Performance Later in the Day
Researchers have done extensive studies looking at how cortisol levels rise and fall throughout the day, which includes even when you aren’t training or competing. Generally speaking, they found that cortisol levels are much higher in the morning than they are in the afternoon.
The message behind this finding is that if you want to perform optimally and the demands put on the body are going to be intense, save the workout or training session until later in the afternoon when cortisol levels are lower.
How to Better Manage Cortisol Levels
Should you be worried about cortisol? The short answer is yes. Should you be concerned about cortisol levels from your training? Yes and no. Again, your body can do a good job of producing healthy cortisol levels around training, but one of the main concerns that should be focused on is elevated stress levels from work and unhealthy environments.
What can you do to help better manage your stress and cortisol levels? The hardest yet best plan would be to remove what’s causing you all of the stress. While that’s easier said than done, solving the issues causing you the most stress can dramatically and very quickly help you decrease your cortisol levels.
Do you feel like you need some help lowering cortisol? Are you looking for something that you can take which can help with balancing healthy cortisol levels? Try Simple Supplements Adrenal Support. This specifically formulated supplement utilizes the highest quality ingredients to help you reduce cortisol levels, decrease stress, improve brain function, reduce fatigue, improve mood, and help maximize energy levels and performance.
When balancing healthy cortisol levels is a concern of yours, turn to Simple Supplements Adrenal Support to help deliver the results you desire!