Is stress keeping you fat?

Going for the burn after a hard day's graft can feel great, but it may be stopping you losing weight.

Dalton Wong is one of the world’s leading personal trainers. He works with some of the most driven, wealthy and competitive people on earth. They are often celebrities or big in the City; they head up hedge funds or run their own business.

Yet, despite their hectic lives, dedication to fitness and huge self-discipline, some of them consistently fail to lose weight. The reason? Too much exercise.

“I see it all the time,” Wong says. “These people push themselves relentlessly at the gym, but the numbers on the scales won’t budge. Yet, when I tell them to get off the treadmill, get some rest and eat well, they are often astonished to find they finally start losing weight.”

The reason for this paradox? Stress hormones. “These people run on stress all day, but what they don’t realise is that exercise is also a stress on the body, and causes it to produce the stress hormone cortisol. Normally, this is fine, provided there are also periods of rest. If, however, people have no downtime, levels of cortisol remain high, and that will affect their weight.”

Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands as a reaction to stress. One of its main functions is to help the body produce blood sugar from proteins and pour it into your bloodstream, providing energy for the “fight or flight” response. Any excess sugar is then used for fat production.

Dr Henrietta Brain, an endocrinologist, says: “Hormones have a huge influence on our weight. Insulin and cortisol both contribute to fat accumulation, while human growth hormones and oestrogen affect fat mobilisation.”

Says Wong: “Elite athletes always build rest days into their schedule. Many of my clients never have a rest day. Not only do they work in highly pressured environments, they have family duties at the end of the working day, and they take strenuous exercise. Research shows that people with high lifestyle stress will release more cortisol during an intense bout of exercise than someone who has a lower stress level."

Source - Times

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