If you control your carbs and therefore control your exposure to insulin, you can then partly control cortisol through good nutrition.
Cortisol and insulin both work in maintaining blood sugar. If blood sugar gets too high, insulin is released to regulate it and store it in the liver, muscles, or fat. If blood sugar gets too low, cortisol is released (through a pathway) to elevate blood sugar.
The goal here is to minimize the exposure to cortisol in order to reduce fat in this area. Most people are overexposed to this hormone due to our chronically stressful lives and poor nutrition. Daily stress can be tough to reduce. Ideally, the best protocol for losing the “gut” would be to quit your job, move to a quiet island, and get lots of relaxation time. Since that isn’t happening anytime soon, the first thing I have my clients do is change their diet.
Changing your nutrition to losing fat in the “gut” area is very similar to losing the “love handles”. It again is about controlling blood sugar, but in the case of cortisol we want to be sure your blood sugar does not get too low. The main purpose of cortisol is to raise blood sugar. So we can partially control cortisol by controlling blood sugar.
To keep your blood sugar steady, most people will need to reduce carbs and only eat low glycemic ones. Many people do very well on higher fat, lower carb diets as it will keep your blood sugar much steadier than a low fat, high carb diet. Some people will go through an adjustment period of 2 weeks if their carbs get below a certain percentage of calories and some will not take to a low carb diet at all. Everyone is different, so you will have to pay attention and see what works best for you.
Sometimes people can be lean, but hold on to a chunk of fat in the lower abdomen. This can be genetic, but it could also be influenced by the over exposure to cortisol.
For the average person, a good place to start is to cut out all bread or wheat (gluten) foods. The average person eats way too much bread which is high glycemic and a fairly calorie dense carb. Typical results of eliminating wheat are a reduction in general body fat with an accelerated reduction in front-midsection fat. Similar results will occur for anyone eating too much white rice as I did growing up.
Does nutrition for losing fat in the “gut” and “love handle” areas sound similar? It is. The idea here is:
A note on Cardio:
If you are trying to lose your “gut” stay away from long duration, steady state cardio. Doing long bouts of cardio greatly increases cortisol. If you are healthy enough, focus on sprints or intervals for cardio. If you are deconditioned or new to exercise, then cap your cardio at 30 minutes and focus on cleaning up your nutrition. A solid nutrition plan has to be part of the fat loss equation for nearly everyone in order to get results.
1)Moyer AE, Rodin J, Grilo CM, Cummings N, Larson LM, Rebuffé-Scrive M. Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Obes Res. 1994 May;2(3):255-62.
2)Epel EE, Moyer AE, Martin CD, Macary S, Cummings N, Rodin J, Rebuffe-Scrive M. Stress-induced cortisol, mood, and fat distribution in men. Obes Res. 1999 Jan;7(1):9-15.
3)Jennifer Daubenmier , Jean Kristeller, Frederick M. Hecht, Nicole Maninger, Margaret Kuwata, Kinnari Jhaveri, Robert H. Lustig, Margaret Kemeny, Lori Karan, and Elissa Epel. Mindfulness Intervention for Stress Eating to Reduce Cortisol and Abdominal Fat among Overweight and Obese Women: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Study. J Obes. 2011; 2011: 651936.
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