Everyone gets stressed – it is a normal everyday occurrence. Our bodies are prepared for stress and produce hormones (Cortisol)to allow us to deal with our stress. Stress comes in many forms; physical, mental and emotional – but our bodies deal with all forms of stress the same way! It is also important to know that all stress is summated in what i like to call our “stress bucket.”
When a stress response is triggered – cortisol is released. Our respiration rate and heart rate increases and blood is pumped to the extremities. I am sure you have all heard of the fight or flight response – well now you are ready to fight or run. This is known as a sympathetic nervous system (SNS) response. When the SNS is activated normally bodily functions such as digestion are put on pause because your safety (fight or flight) becomes priority number 1.
When you are stressed sometimes the last thing you want to do is eat – but what you decide to eat can either add to you stress or can help to ease the burden. When we are stressed many of us head for sugar or caffeine to give us that quick burst of energy or little pep up. Caffeine and sugar are in fact two of the worst things that you could consume – because both elevated blood sugars too rapidly which is another stress on the body. It is safe to say that pretty much any processed food should be avoided for the same reasons!! Read Are you eating crap? for more information.
So what should we eat? We need to understand that our bodies require certain nutrients to produce hormones – the main two are Fats (the good kind) and protein. Now we have the building blocks, hormones can now be manufactured – remembering that our hormones run on a hierarchy, firstly our stress hormones are produced, then the repair hormones and lastly the sex hormones.
So the best sources of fat include; Olive oil, butter (definitely not margarine), coconut oil, fish oils, raw nuts and seeds. While the best sources of protein come from; meat, chicken, fish and eggs.
Just before i wrap this up; it is important to note if you are training during times of high stress – you may actually be breaking down muscle and storing fat instead of what most people want.
Training harder is not always better!