When the majority of people here how stress affects your muscles, they will naturally think of a kink in their neck or stiff, achy shoulders. Those are the two predominant spots for stress to manifest itself in our bodies, but today we’re going to look at how being consistently stressed can detract from your muscle development and – in the bigger picture – your bodybuilding goals.
We’ll then move on to give you some tips on how to destress for better workout results, but let’s begin by talking about how stress minimizes your body’s growth process in very physiological terms.
According to Heather Hughson ,Kinesiology expert at YesWellness stress physiology is nearly always a major cause of decreased muscle gain and slowed fat loss. In fact, it damages pretty much every other system in the immune system, endocrine system, neurological system, and gastrointestinal system.
Not Just Cortisol
Cortisol is the well-established malevolent chemical that your body produces in response to stress, but it doesn’t factor in when it comes to your muscle gains being stifled. Rather, that’s a culmination of the following reactions:
- Suppressing of pituitary function (HUGE, obviously) with LH, and TSH
- Increasing liver burden (and the metabolism of certain hormones, most relevantly)
- Decreasing conversion of T4 to T3
- Decreasing binding of thyroid hormone to receptors
- Decreasing secretory IgA – your immune system’s primary line of defense
- Decreasing your body’s ability to use leptin
- Influencing inflammatory messengers known as cytokines
The problem is that any and / or some or all of these effects can occur, and the specific combination of them makes for a very physiologically unique inhibition formula that works against your gains. As a result, there’s not really any one specific effective counteractive treatment that is a fit for one and all.
So, with that understood let’s talk about natural ways you can continue building muscle effectively while being stressed.
Be Proactive – And Smart – About Combatting Stress
Here I have 4 natural supplement / lifestyle changes you can implement to be less stressed – and get back to getting the muscle development and fitness results you’re after.
- Drink 5 Cups of Green Tea, Every day
Green tea is frequently heralded for its potential weight loss and anticancer properties, and that’s because of its powerful antioxidants. However, that’s not what makes it a de-stressing powerhouse. Before we discuss what is, let’s consider a study in Japan some years ago where men who did drink their 5 cups of green tea were 20% less likely to suffer signs of psychological distress as compared to people who drank 1 or none at all.
It is the Theanine in the green tea that delivers these benefits, and you can benefit from it too. Theanine is an amino acid found in high concentrations in green tea. It’s able to readily cross the blood-brain barriers and then stimulate dopamine, serotonin, and GABA (gamma-amunobutyric acid) while decreasing norepinephrine levels. Quite simply, that’s a dynamite recipe for being less stressed and being in a better mood overall.
- Try Kava Kava Supplements
While it’s traditionally been used as a ceremonial people among aboriginal people of the South Pacific, Kava Kava has become more popular around the world for treating stress and mild anxiety. There are some very minor concerns about the risk of liver damage, but if you limit your intake of this root formulation and only use it for intermittent and incidental treatment of stress and anxiety you will be fine.
It really is particularly effective and all natural, so do give it a try. Keep these guidelines in mind;
- Avoid high dosages in excess of >300mg/d
- Avoid using non-ground root preparations of kava
- Avoid combining kava with hepatoactive agents
- Do not continue regular dosage for longer than 24 weeks
Lastly, you can find kava kava in capsule form in higher quality health stores
- See To It You Sleep Better
You’ll hear all sorts of people make the insistence that you must get 8 hours of sleep in order to be at your physical – and regenerative – best, but in truth it’s really much more about the quality of your sleep. But the most relevant fact given that we are talking about bodybuilders here is that studies have shown that hard training athletes have sleep disturbances in part related to higher nighttime epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine concentrations.
With less sleep, and less quality sleep, you are more prone to stress influences in your life. So it becomes clear that by the nature of their pursuit, bodybuilding enthusiasts are more likely to be stressed because of sleep concerns. Take note of what was mentioned earlier regarding green tea, that drinking it can decrease raised norepinephrine levels. Go ahead and drink it in the hour preceding your bedtime and see you sleep better because of it.
Getting quality deep sleep is important too. During the deep phases of your sleep cycle the body’s cortisol secretions are decreased while growth hormone levels rise. Do what it takes to be enjoying the benefits of deep sleep.
- Enhance Your Body’s Adaptiveness with RhodiolaRosea
Rhodiolarosea is one of the class of herbs known as adaptogens due to their ability to aid the human body with increasing resistance to a variety of chemical, biological, and physical stressors. Rhodiolarosea in particular makes it so that you adapt more effectively to stress and fatigue. It’s worth noting that it doesn’t make you any less exposed to stress, but rather it helps you fight through it and be your best despite it.
The importance of this is in that stress leads to a pronounced decrease in performance. And as you’re stressed, you accordingly have a limited capacity for dealing with the realization of the fact you’re performing poorly at the gym (or wherever it is you train). As a result, you become even more stressed and anxious. A vicious cycle, to be sure.
Rhodiolarosea is my supplement of choice here, because not only is it effective as indicated here but also because it often takes effect within 30 minutes of ingesting it. That’s a big plus if you’re still aiming to get after it that day and not put it off because you ‘aren’t feeling it.’
Note that potency and purity can vary considerably. Choose your supplement in consultation with a knowledgeable individual at your local health food store or similar outlet.
Stress truly is unavoidable for most of us, but we can be smarter about how we limit the way it affects us and diminishes what we get back out of our hard work and physical expenditure. Take what I’ve shared here, and continue to dig on your own. Best of luck to you!
Ainsley Johnston is a health and wellness enthusiast who is a natural cures and treatment enthusiast and believes in supplementation choices as compared to pharmaceuticals. He’s also an avid sport and weight training enthusiast, and when not working at his primary job, he enjoys contributing related articles and blogs to YesWellness.com and anyone else who’d like to publish his knowledge on the subjects