For the past few months I have been doing what started out as what I call “accidental dieting”. For me this usually started out by getting sick, or having an off week, and I started to notice some changes in my body. Things just looking a little “tighter”. You get a little excited, and your focus starts to shift.
Dieting is always about little changes, tweaking minute details. With the warm weather, walking the 30 minutes to the gym, instead of spending 28 on the street car is an easy way to trick myself into “lazy cardio”
Adding a fat burning stack first thing in the morning, and fasting an 1-2 hours before breakfast, as well as cutting out/down carb meals, and cycling carbs.
However, this isn’t going to be a blog post on dieting. Because there is no one specific diet that works for everyone. Each individual’s needs are too unique. It comes to current activity level, overall output, training goals, metabolism, food sensitivities, body type… and the list goes on. I have been training, and competing long enough to know what works for my body. As well, as my training remains important enough to me that I am not willing to compromise a drop in capacity of weights.
Instead let’s talk about how dieting can affect your stress levels, primarily cortisol, and why it is important to monitor its effects closely.
Cortisol is the main hormone that spikes in times of stress and alertness. In short term this is important. Your cortisol levels naturally change throughout the day. A spike in the morning is what causes you to wake up and feel alert. It is also what contributes to intensity and focus while you work out, and the hormones that helps signal your body to break down both muscle and fat.
In the short term, this can all be quite useful when used and manipulated properly. But long-term spikes in cortisol can be detrimental to your quality of life. One such thing is sleep. Trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep and early morning wakening. Most people tend not to sleep well when stressed. Part of this can be attributed to mental health issues, like and inability to calm your mind. But what about hormones? Cortisol is to blame.
Also, have you noticed you get up to pee more when restless? This also relates back to stress. Normally your body will downregulate this function, so that when you finally drift off, and you aren’t disturbed by frequent wakening. If you’re getting up multiple times throughout the night to use the washroom, chances are your cortisol is high.
This is because the control of aldosterone (the hormones that regulates urinary function) is released from the adrenal cortex (i.e., adrenaline…a stress hormone). The aldosterone production is also affected to one extent or another by nervous control, which integrates the inverse of carotid artery pressure, pain, posture, and emotion (anxiety, fear, and hostility….). Anxiety increases aldosterone. Increased aldosterone therefore means, nervous balder. One of the many ways our evolution (flight or fight) was leaked into our everyday stressful lives. While the source of the stress may be different. In this case starvation, the effect is the same.
So, if you have been dieting for an extended period of time, and start to notice these seemingly inconvenient habits leaking into your life. Perhaps it is time to rethink your plan.