The Link Between Cortisol And Weight Gain
Science Based Amy Myers, MD
Amy Myers, M.D. is a functional medicine physician, trained and certified by The Institute of Functional Medicine. Dr. Myers earned her Doctor of Medicine at the LSU Health Science Center, and completed her Emergency Medicine residency at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Dr. Myers retired from her functional medicine clinic, Austin UltraHealth, where she served thousands of patients, to empower those who were failed by conventional medicine. Shes a 2x New York Times bestselling author, and the founder and CEO of the health & lifestyle e-commerce brand, Amy Myers MD®.
Are you eating healthy, exercising regularly, yet still struggling at the scale? Ive been there. I battled unwanted weight gain even though I was doing everything right. I was so frustrated and didnt consider that my stress levels contributed to my weight gain. The connection between cortisol and weight gain is overlooked as contributing to those stubborn pounds that wont come off.
The link between cortisol and weight gain can always be traced back to stress, and chronic stress leads to cortisol production in large amounts, which leads to obesity and weight gain.1
I will tell you about the link between cortisol and weight gain, other effects of too much cortisol production, and how to relieve your stress naturally so you can achieve your optimal weight. Before we get to that, I will review cortisol and its role in your bodys response to stress.
Can Cortisol Be A Good Thing
Clearly, cortisol is important for a lot of bodily functions, so we dont want to be afraid of it or eliminate it altogether. We need cortisol.
Every one of our cells has cortisol receptors, which tells us that cortisols effects are felt throughout the body. Transient spikes in cortisol are nothing to worry about. We dont all have high cortisol, contrary to what some wellness warriors want you to believe.
Sometimes though, cortisol levels that are too high or too low are beyond our control.
Addisons Disease is a condition where the body doesnt make enough cortisol, so blood cortisol levels are low. The symptoms of Addisons Disease include low appetite and weight loss, fatigue, muscle weakness, low blood pressure, and dizziness.
Cushings disease and Cushings syndrome are conditions in which the adrenals secrete much cortisol. Cushings causes fat to be stored in the abdomen and muscles, and its catabolic it breaks down muscles and bones. A wide face, purple stretch marks, puffy shoulders and a buffalo hump are all signs of Cushings.
Cushings is fairly rare, and is mainly caused by tumours. Although some people believe that chronic stress may lead to Cushings syndrome, there is no evidence to support that.
The Caffeine And Weight Loss Study
The research conducted by the University of Nottingham was divided into two parts: a lab experiment and human experiment.
The lab experiment
During the lab experiment, fat cells from mice were grown in petri dishes. A caffeine dosage was determined based on the highest concentration that would brown the fat cells without killing them.
One millimolar of caffeine was added to some of the fat samples to see if the cells developed more attributes of brown fat.
Adding caffeine to these cultures was found to promote brown fat cell function in the samples tested.
The human experiment
Involving nine participants, researchers studied the effects of caffeine consumption on brown fat function versus water consumption.
The brown fat activity was measured before and after the experiment by assessing the skin temperature near the individuals neck and shoulders.
In the participants who drank 65mg of caffeine, it was found the skin temperature of the assessed region increased when compared to the water-only group.
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Does Black Coffee Cause Weight Gain
Black coffee has no calories in it. What is put in the coffee as additives is the one that could make you gain some weight. The additives may include sugar, creamer, whipped cream and even chocolate. The coffee is however likely to impair blood glucose levels thus triggering negative physical events in your body.
Study Design Caffeine Dosing And Compliance
The study design was a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, 4-week crossover trial of acute caffeine effects in relation to differing levels of daily intake. Each study week included 5 days of home self-administration of placebo or caffeine , followed by 1 test day , and 1 crossover day to buffer sudden changes in intake between study weeks . Weekly maintenance and lab dose combinations are shown in Table 2. The development of tolerance was indexed by a decreasing response to the repeated challenge doses as a function of prior daily intake level.
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Does Cortisol Cause Weight Gain Everything You Need To Know
Note: this post addresses cortisol for people who do not have Addisons or Cushings Syndrome.
There are a lot of companies and wellness influencers telling us that elevated cortisol levels pack on pounds around our middles.
But what is cortisol, and do elevated cortisol levels really lead to weight gain? How do we manage our cortisol levels? Why are there so many cortisol lowering supplements?
What is cortisol?
Cortisol is a hormone thats produced by the adrenal glands, which are little triangle-shaped glands that sit atop our kidneys.
The main role of cortisol is to regulate our stress response. Ever hear of the fight-or-flight response? Its managed by cortisol.
Cortisol release is managed by the HPA axis. When our hypothalamus detects that were in trouble, the pituitary gland secretes adrenocorticotropic hormone , which tells the adrenals to release cortisol.
Lets say you come face to face with a lion in the jungle. This stressful situation causes your adrenals to release cortisol, which causes a cascade of effects in the body, essentially to help you get away from the Lion. Your heart rate goes up. Your digestion slows down, your insulin levels decline, and your liver releases glucose .
We also know that chronically elevated cortisol levels can result in metabolic syndrome, with elevated blood pressure, lipids, and blood sugars.
Caffeine May Hinder Your Weight Loss Goals
If youre struggling to lose weight even after ditching the processed foods and regularly participating in physical activity, you may want to consider the side effects your caffeine addiction has on your waistline.
Caffeine is a stimulant that activates our fight or flight stress response and encourages the release of adrenaline. This results in the energy boost and mental alertness you have come to love after drinking your morning coffee.
What your body doesnt understand is the stress response is because of the caffeine, not because youre faced with a threat such as a lion!
And while the hormone release will help you run from that lion, there is a pitfall of activating the stress response, particularly long-term. Simulating the release of adrenaline increases the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Cortisol encourages your body to hold onto and store body fat as a survival mechanism. This is most noticeable as the stubborn weight around your middle. Increased cortisol levels also can affect your blood sugar regulation, sleep quality, blood pressure and cause adrenal depletion.
So while caffeine may increase the function of brown fat and effectively help to burn more energy when taking at an extremely high dose, it has other effects on the body that may offset the health benefits.
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Is Coffee Good For You
By Meghan Telpner / Health
As much as I want to be immune to the fascination with the before-and-after transformations that are way too prevalent on , Im not. I see them. And to be completely honest, I find some of them amazingly inspiring. Mostly, however, I find them terrifying, misleading and harmful.
Theres one part of me that wonders how someone can create so many before-and-after photos. Ive often wondered if I could do that myself, like over the span of a five-minute transformation that involved lighting and posture changes only. What I find terrifying about it is not the dramatic transformations people put themselves through, but the way in which it is done. Often it is done through a mix of good lighting and then intensive training, low-carb, high-protein meals, moderate fat intake and then loads and loads of caffeine to keep the energy going when every other aspect of their lives is being pushed to its total limit. But is coffee good for you?
See, a little stress on the body and on us as a whole is what triggers changes, and can be a good thing. A little stress on the body motivates us and lets us see progress and achieve goals. Small amounts of ongoing stress, when processed effectively, can be a tool to help us achieve physical, emotional and spiritual health that is sustainable and maintainable.
What happens when the stress gets to be too much?
Insulin Resistance / Type Ii Diabetes
When we abuse our cells by throwing heaps of insulin at them every time we eat, there will come a point where they say no , or need more than we can produce . The overall result is an inability to regulate blood sugar levels, a potentially deadly state without medical intervention or overhaul in diet and lifestyle.
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What Is Brown Fat
Regardless of whether you want to achieve weight loss, weight gain or maintain a healthy body weight, we all have body fat throughout our body.
The total amount of body fat, as well as the distribution of fat types, will vary from person to person.
Brown fat is a type of fat that is gaining more research interest for its potential role in the treatment of weight gain and obesity. This is because when brown fat is activated, it can burn energy.
This body fat is mostly found in the neck and torso regions. It helps to assist with temperature regulation. For example, when its cold, brown fat is activated to heat us up.
Read more about the types of body fat here.
It has been suggested caffeine may be able to mimic the effects experienced when we are exposed to the cold and indirectly simulate the function of brown fat.
Exercise But Not Too Much Or Too Late
Regular exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. It can also lower your cortisol response to stress and low-intensity workouts can actually decrease cortisol levels.
However, high-intensity workouts increase cortisol levels â you are putting your body under a type of stress, after all. While this is okay every now and again, if youâre over-exercising, you may suffer the consequences of high cortisol. So, be sure to throw some yoga or gentle swims into your week instead of back-to-back HIIT classes.
As well as not over-exercising, be sure to get the timing of your exercise right. Avoid working out too close to bedtime or you run the risk of disturbing your sleep, which, of course, can lead to high cortisol and weight gain.
Also Check: How To Remove Cortisol From Your Body
Live In Sync With Circadian Rhythm
Itâs not just sleep deprivation that causes high cortisol, not sleeping at the right times for your body clock does, too.
This all comes down to your circadian rhythm, or the roughly 24-hour cycle that controls your sleep-wake cycle, the production of certain hormones, and body temperature fluctuations, among other things.
You can be out of sync with your circadian rhythm if:
- Youâre a shift worker
- Youâre ignoring your chronotype: Perhaps youâre a night owl forcing yourself to wake up early.
- You have social jetlag: Social jetlag is when your sleep schedule is different on certain days compared to others. For example, you might stay up later on the weekends than during the week, which about 87% of us do.
When youâre not living in sync with your circadian rhythm, your cortisol rhythm gets thrown out of whack and the hormone is no longer produced at the right times. Plus, you may find it harder to meet your sleep need, which causes higher cortisol levels.
Weight gain from circadian misalignment can also come from a , meaning you have a bigger appetite, as well as your glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity being impaired, which can lead to weight gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
You can live in sync with your circadian rhythm by:
The RISE app can predict your circadian rhythm each day, so you can see when your body naturally wants to wake up, wind down for bed, and go to sleep. You can then match up your daily schedule with these times.
Could Your Coffee Habit Help You Lose Weight
Type coffee and weight loss into Google and youll be greeted by many article headlines suggesting your coffee habit could be the answer you need to reduce your body weight.
Sounds too good to be true?
A recently published study in the journal Scientific Reports has suggested caffeine consumption increases brown fat cells. These cells differ from the fat that accumulates around our waistline as they adapt to the environment, increasing or reducing the amount of energy burned.
On the surface, it appears drinking caffeine might be the magic solution to successfully lose the kilos and achieve a healthy weight.
Unfortunately, its that simple.
Read Also: Signs Of High Cortisol Levels
So Can Coffee Make You Gain Weight Or Not
The short answer? Noas long as you consume a healthy balance.
I’m not arguing you should forever give up your beloved morning cup of coffee or mid-afternoon tea, which for some patients can become the best part of waking up or a break in their otherwise-hectic day. For myself, I enjoy a cup of tea with its balanced antioxidant polyphenols and L-theanine for calming the nerves.
At the same time, I want you to be aware that too much caffeineand for some people, it doesn’t take muchcan raise blood sugar and insulin levels, which can result in weight gain. That’s why cutting out caffeine in the form of coffee is part of any detox program, including my Happy Gut 28-Day Cleanse. In the meantime, let me help you enjoy your cup of joe while balancing its health risks and benefits.
How Can I Decrease My Cortisol Levels
You can decrease cortisol levels by avoiding stress, getting enough sleep, and reducing caffeine.
Extremely high levels of cortisol harm you instead of helping. It can cause sleeplessness, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, mood indiscretion, diabetes, and low energy levels.
But no need to worry, here are some tips to decrease cortisol.
- Always prioritize sleep and circumvent shift work. The increased load of work creates anxiety and apprehension.
- Do not do intense exercises. Although doing exercise is a healthy habit, overdoing exercise will produce opposite outcomes and also increase Cortisol levels in the body.
- Try to stay away from stress as much as you can. Stress is the main cause of increased cortisol levels. Try to eliminate the underlying cause of stress in your life. You can also go for meditation and mindfulness to stay calm and peaceful.
- Do not drink coffee in the morning or at other times when the cortisol level is high in the body. Try to consume coffee that has a lesser amount of caffeine or switch to decaffinated coffee which has only about 3% of caffeine.
Here is the list of different brews of coffee along with their respective caffeine content.
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Does Coffee Make You Gain Weight
What you will read will not make you very happy. Many of us coffee lovers are looking for an answer to the question, Does Coffee Make You Gain Weight?. The short answer is that it is quite possible. But how does this happen? What else can it lead to? And how can we continue to drink coffee without affecting our weight? I will answer these and other questions in the article.
Very strange, significantly since eating coffee beans can help you lose weight.
If you are a regular visitor to Starbucks, they have several healthy drinks to choose from.
Lets dig in.
You Could Feel More Relaxed
Nixing caffeine means no more morning or late-night jitters, and that could be good for your stress levels. All that irritability and restlessness you may experience during the workday could dissipate or lessen simply by cutting out coffee or soda. While you may feel a bit irritable and anxious when you first quit caffeine, your mood will eventually level out.
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The Change We Resist The Most Is Often The Change We Need The Most
Many people I work with have made extensive dietary changes and they will admit that coffee was the last and hardest thing to eliminate. Coffee is our ritual its our best friend.
But is it really? It is often said that the change we resist the most is the change our body needs the most. Let your intuition be your guide.
Coffee And Belly Fat: Quit Coffee Lose Weight
Remember how digestion slows down when cortisol surges through the body? If digestion slows down, fat metabolism becomes less effective. And heres the cruel reason why you tend to store more fat in the abdomen: you have more cortisol receptors in your midsection.
Pretty cruel, right? Well, its a starvation prevention mechanism. Think about itwhen we undergo stress, our body has no way of knowing when our next meal might be. So it tells digestion to slow down to conserve fat.
And if your cortisol levels continue to surge, you just might get coffee belly fat. Does coffee really cause belly fat, you might be wondering? Again, dont fret if you just drink a cup or two a day. But if you are someone who is type A and dont practice meditation or other stress-control activities, you might be more prone to coffee belly fat.
Thats why you might want to only have a half cup of regular coffee. This will prevent caffeine withdrawal symptoms. And then, the rest of the day you can drink decaf. In addition to preventing coffee belly fat, there are other benefits of quitting caffeine.
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