Sunday, 2 June 2013
Much is made these days of reducing the level of cortisol within our bodies as if this hormone is some sort of foul demon which seeks to kill us by all means possible. However, cortisol is actually essential to our survival and without it we wouldn't be able to function adequately, actions such as walking would become next to impossible. Cortisol is known most popularly as a major stress hormone, in other words, a hormone which is released whenever we become stressed. This stress can be either emotional (due to an argument or even simply imagining an argument) or physical (because of a strenuous weightlifting workout or a long run). In all of these cases, cortisol is mobilised in order to provide us with the energy to deal with the present circumstance or in anticipation of a circumstance which requires exertion. It provides this energy by suppressing the immune system, increasing blood sugar levels and increasing the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, among other activities. The importance of this is that cortisol essentially breaks us down in order to provide the energy that we 'need' or, that our bodies believe we need. This can result in muscle breakdown. The reason that cortisol is so feared these days is because most people are chronically stressed which results in chronically elevated levels of this hormone. This means that most people exist in a state of higher catabolic activity than they should. The result of this is that it is harder to gain muscle mass and there is a fear of raising cortisol even further. Cortisol also inhibits the effects of insulin and testosterone. Insulin is very important for exercise as it brings essential substances such as amino acids back into the muscle tissue in order to bring about reparations. Testosterone is also vitally important for muscle growth and repair and this is why there is such a large emphasis placed on raising testosterone in order to improve muscle gains.