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Why Stress Might Be Holding Back Progression

Email sent: May 19, 2020 12:32pm

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Do you find yourself incessantly tossing and turning at night, struggling to find some way to shut off your mind and get some sleep?
​Enjoy Today's Short Blog: Why Stress Might Be Holding Back Progression

Have you experienced (or are you currently experienced) low motivation and desire to attack your workouts?

Does your physique seem “softer” when looking in the mirror or at weekly progress photos?

If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, then there’s a good chance that you’re feeling rather stressed.

And, while stress is an inherent (and necessary) part of life, the sad reality is that too much stress can actually impair your progress and lead to plateaus in your training and fat loss.

Today, we examine why stress might be holding back progression in your training program or transformation challenge.

Let’s begin with an overview of what stress is and why it’s necessary (to a certain degree).

Stress 101

When discussing stress, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

Namely[1]:

  • Stress is the body’s response to any perceived threat -- emotional, psychological, or physical
  • When we perceive, our adrenal glands secrete cortisol (the primary “stress” hormone)
  • Stress is necessary in order for the body to adapt and become stronger, more resilient (i.e. resistance training)
  • There is a baseline “threshold” of stress that must be reached in order to force the body to adapt
  • Too small of a stress and there won’t be much of a need to adapt
  • However, imposing too much stress to the point where the body cannot cope with it mentally or physically can decrease the rate of adaptation
  • The body does NOT differentiate between different types of stress (mental vs physical) to a certain degree. But, there are specific adaptations depending on what type of stress the body encounters (resistance training vs deadlines at work, for example). Still the flood of hormones and catecholamines that accompany a stress exposure are more or less the same.
  • Chronic stress can lead to many deleterious consequences leading to various endocrine disorders and countless other adverse effects

What this means is that all the stressors the body is exposed to compound over time, and the body only has so many reserves for dealing with and recovering from stress.

Tax the body’s adaptive reserves too much and you begin to impede recovery and blunt adaptation, meaning the body spends most of its time just trying to get back to baseline and won’t necessarily become stronger or more resilient.

Furthermore, chronic stress has been known to lead to numerous undesirable consequences, including[2,3,4]:

  • Disrupted energy utilization and storage (i.e. increased fat gain and stunted fat burning)
  • Impaired sleep
  • Increased feelings of hunger and decreased feelings of satiety
  • Insulin resistance
  • Muscle wasting
  • Decreased cognitive function

Therefore, it’s important to consider all manner of stressors when laying out a training program.

Someone who is working an 80-hour work week with a family and little children typically has more psychological and emotional stress to deal with than the single 20-something working a 9-to-5.

What this means is that these two individuals have drastically different “adaptive reserves” that can be allocated to recovering from training.

The single 20-something will typically be able to endure more frequent and higher intensity workouts due to having less demands placed on their adaptive reserves than the individual working 80 hours per week with toddlers at home.

As such, the two will have different training regimens and recovery protocols.

However, that doesn’t mean both individuals can’t get amazing results.

It just necessitates an individualized approach to diet, training, recovery, and stress management.

Speaking of stress management, let’s now review some ways you can help mitigate stress in your life and limit the chance for plateaus in your training and physique goals!

How to Manage Stress........................

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