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Cortisol
Hormone Health, 29. October 2018

Why carbs in the evening help you lose weight + our stress hormone cortisol!

Our stress hormone Cortisol

Today I’ll talk about a very important topic, which is our stress hormone cortisol. You’ll find out why it increases your belly fat, makes it harder for you to get out of bed in the morning and make you feel tired most of the day. Best of all, you’ll find out why carbohydrates in the evening are the perfect way to lower your stress!

Cortisol = success brake?

Cortisol, also called hydrocortisone, is one of the glucocorticoids and is an endogenous hormone that is produced in the adrenal cortex. This hormone is curse and blessing for many people at the same time, as it will slow down progress for most people significantly.

To explain more about the world of this interesting hormone, I’ll tell you the story of two people:

To increase the female quota – a story of two women: the stressed Jess and the fit Britt. My rhyming skills leave something to be desired, but that was not my strength at school. Nevermind – we will observe the daily routine, energy level and eating behavior of both persons and read about how well the stress hormone balance of both girls is.

Die Cortisolkurve ist bei vielen Menschen gestört.

Make the personality check!

Fit Britt

First off – our lovely fit Britt: Britt is the thriving life, always in a good mood, physically in great shape, athletic, healthy and an absolute energy bomb. The day starts at 6:30 in the morning, the alarm rings – she literally jumps out of bed and thinks woooow what a great day, finally Monday and back to working! Strike!

Daytime fatigue is a foreign word for Britt, as she always stays productive and has no problem memorizing things, etc. Also, she does not care about the cakes and sweets that lurk in the office because Britt knows they don’t do her body any good. After work she cooks for dinner, enjoys the evening and naturally gets tired around 10 pm, where she falls asleep within 2 minutes.

Sounds awesome the life of Britt, right? Maybe you recognize yourself a little bit and think yep that sounds like me, or you feel like many others who think yeah, yeah, I’d love to be like that.

The stressed Jess

Maybe you recognize yourself in the everyday life of stressed Jess. The day also starts at 6:30 in the morning with Jess. Unlike Britt, who jumps out of bed on the first alarm clock, Jess rapes the snooze button of her iPhone alarm clock. 8 approaches are needed to crawl to the shower in half sleep. The bags are hanging down from her eyes and Jess thinks, oh gosh, Monday, work until 6pm, how am I supposed to go through this ?! For breakfast Jess has toast with jam and of course 2 cups of coffee to be among the living. On the way to work, her energy levels go slightly uphill and she rescues herself to lunch break.

After lunch, however, the energy is gone and Jess falls into the classic afternoon energy hole between 2 and 5 PM. She could sleep on the spot, is unfocused, out of tune, and finds it hard to focus on the essential tasks. The next coffee is necessary and she feels magically attracted to cakes and sweets. Of. course she can’t withstand and munches down bite for bite of the sugar bombs.

After the cake and sweets escalation, Jess feels a little better and she saves herself into the well-deserved finishing time. In the evening, she is in the mood for food and craves for unhealthy junk. She munches down another bag of chocolate and stops the cravings. Now, with Jess, the seemingly impossible happens. At 9 PM she gets an energy boost and feels relatively fit for the first time that day.

Just stupid that she has to go to bed in one hour. After the third episode House of Cards, she still does not really get tired and literally stands in her bed – her thoughts are spinning, worries occur and falling asleep becomes a torture. She is somehow tired but somehow wide awake – tired but wired. At some point after 2-3 hours, she can finally force herself to fall asleep. Often, however, it happens that she wakes up several times a night as she has to go to the bathroom etc. In the morning, the same scenario occurs like the previous day.

In which person do you find yourself?

Poor Jess. You could almost think her symptoms are one in a kind. To be honest, there are a lot of clients who I’ve been coaching that have exactly the same symptoms and daily life as Jess. Now, of course, the master question that needs to be addressed, why is that? Britt always fit and Jess always stressed? A large part contributes to our stress hormone cortisol.

Cortisol is your friend and your enemy!

I always say: cortisol should only be increased at exactly 2 times – in the morning just after getting up and while we are striving for high performance. So for example while writing a test, or during sports. Here Cortisol is really the absolute performance enhancer and ensures that we are able to function at the highest level possible.

Cortisol levels vary depending on the time of day:

There is a so-called cortisol curve which can be read very well on the two examples of Britt and Jess. A healthy cortisol curve looks something like Britt’s (green graph). Cortisol is highest in the morning and falls off slowly and leisurely throughout the day, resulting in a healthy tiredness in the evening.

With a disturbed cortisol curve (red graph), it often looks exactly the opposite way. The cortisol levels are low  early, which makes it harder for you to get out of bed in the morning. At midday, they rise a bit, but often fall in the afternoon, which triggers the classic afternoon energy low. In the evening, cortisol levels often rise, with the result that falling asleep and often even going to sleep becomes a problem.

Cortisol causes cravings!

Again, you can see how hormones can control us like puppets, especially when it comes to issues like productivity, or our energy levels.

The question in the room is: why is Britt able to playfully say no to sweets, while Jess feels completely subjugated to them?

An advantage or disadvantage of cortisol is that this hormone always prepares us for a fight by letting blood shoot into the extremities and increasing our blood sugar. From an evolutionary perspective, stress was in most cases nothing more than:

Fight with the enemy, or animal.

vs.

Escape from the enemy and animal.

Today, stress is more like traffic, arguing with the boss, or the partner, bills, etc. While you can not simply kill your boss and not just escape from your obligations, your body from a hormonal view reacts exactly the way as thousands and millions of years ago.

This rapid increase in blood sugar often causes an equally rapid drop, which in turn leads to hypoglycaemia. While we are hypoglycemic, the craving for sweets increase enormously, because your body craves to raise the blood sugar again.

What causes a disturbed stress hormone curve?

Now, of course, the price question – what can you do to lower stress hormones to avoid all the negative side effects?

The answer here is often not that easy, as the release of stress hormones can have different triggers:

psyche

  • pain
  • food sensitivities
  • sports
  • digestive problems
  • nutrition
  • lack of sleep
  • job

So it’s very individual, which triggers play the leading role in you. I still give you three generally helpful tips, which you can implement immediately to lower cortisol.

 Tips for Healthy Stress Hormone Levels and More Energy!

# 1 Meditation:

A great tip I have for you is to start meditating! For many people a completely new territory and yes, I felt the same until 2 years ago. For beginners, I can recommend two apps that have proven to be awesome:

  • Headspace
  • Calm

With these apps, you can learn how to switch your brain off, sort your mind chaos and just shut down your overall stress levels. Studies have even shown that regular meditation improves long-term stress tolerance by getting you into the alpha brainwave state more quickly. This ensures that we can turn off our thoughts and take a breather. I recommend that you meditate before going to sleep, as it is easiest for most people. However, meditation requires a little bit of practice and discipline, because the first few times are often very unusual and it is extremely difficult to switch off. (at least that’s how I felt back then). The beauty of the apps is the simplicity and the fact that it is not made for any esoteric fans, but for everyday people.

Meditation für gesunde Stresshormonspiegel

# 2: Magnesium

Another tip that I can really recommend to you: reach for the salt of inner peace – reach for magnesium. Too many people suffer from a lack of magnesium, which can manifest in a variety of forms: fatigue, muscle tensions, problems with concentration, etc. I use magnesium both orally and transdermally. Here I use as a transdermal form  – a magnesium oil as a spray and, if I go to the bathtub from time to time, I’ll add magnesium sulfate as a bath additive. This combination helps me great with falling asleep and staying asleep. It’s best to take magnesium every evening as it relaxes not only the muscles but also the mind.

# 3: Carbs in the evening

Don’t carbohydrates make you fat when consumed in the evening?

Some very “smart” person, has at one time spread the rumor that Carbs in the evening make you gain weight. Therefore they should be consumed especially in the morning hours. In my view, that’s complete nonsense. When carbohydrates are implemented in the diet, it makes sense for many people to avoid in the morning and raise them in the evening. Sounds illogical for you? I can imagine…

We go back to our hormones – which hormone is always in direct contact with carbohydrates? Right insulin. You’ve probably heard something about insulin before. Insulin is associated with diabetes, insulin resistance, etc. If you are interested in the topic here is the link to my article about insulin. https://markus-schreyer.com/posts/insulin-dickmacherhormon/

In short, when you eat carbohydrates, your body releases insulin to deliver carbohydrates into the cells as an energy source. So you can say insulin is some kind of transport hormone.

Kohlenhydrate am Abend helfen beim Schlafen

Carbohydrates reduce stress hormone levels!

But now back to the really important point – insulin has another property which is that insulin is the direct antagonist of cortisol. Means, when we produce insulin, we lower cortisol. Let it melt on your tongue when we produce insulin, we lower cortisol – means that when we eat carbohydrates, we lower our stress hormone levels. As far as understandable?

Then back to the cortisol curve – a healthy cortisol curve looks like what again? Cortisol high in the morning and low in the evening, yes!

Where do most people, including the stressed-out Jess, have problems?

Having way too low stress hormones in the morning! So how much sense does it make to incorporate carbohydrates in the early stages, which lower the energy levels even further by regulating down cortisol through insulin?

And how much sense does it make to erase carbs in the evening, when they have the high stress hormone levels in the evening?

Would it not be wise to strategically incorporate the carbohydrates as a soul food in the evening to make falling asleep easier? I think so – at least that strategy works awesome for most of my clients and me, too.

Do the self-experiment!

Just do the self-experiment – 3 days in the morning eggs with avocado and 3 days in the morning, oatmeal with banana – how do you feel with the eggs and how do you feel about the oatmeal?

The same thing you do in the evening – 3 days of oatmeal and 3 days of eggs in the evening – watch your sleep and see how you are. For many, a lower carb breakfast with healthy fats and sufficient protein is the perfect start to the day. Therefore starchy carbohydrates such as rice, oatmeal, or potatoes will be the perfect ending of the day. The important thing with carbohydrates in the evening is always that you install a bit of “healthy” fats – eg. olive oil, nuts,  etc. These delay the blood sugar increase and ensure that you don’t go hypoglycemic at night.

Conclusion:

Cortisol is your friend and enemy. Learn to understand this hormone and manage it wisely! Have fun with carbohydrates in the evening 🙂

Coach Markus