Stress and fat are best friends. Where you find one, you usually find the other. This is why many of the best weight loss strategies are just as much about controlling stress as they are about controlling fat.
The link between stress and fat
Both mental and physical stress can influence how your body functions which in turn can alter how well you store or burn fat. There’s still some debate over why or how this happens, but here’s the bottom line:
Chronic stress messes with your energy level
Controlling body fat is all about energy. It’s about controlling the amount of caloric energy coming into your body and the amount of caloric energy going out.
While calorie balance may seem simple, it’s not. We really don’t fully understand how the body regulates its calorie balance. We know more about the moon than we do about calorie balance.
One thing we do know is that your personal energy level has a massive amount of influence on both your calorie intake and calorie expenditure. When your energy level is high your appetite is low and you naturally expend more calories. When your energy level is low you tend to eat more and burn less.
Chronic stress wreaks havoc on your energy level. The more stress you experience in life the less energy you have. The less energy you have the more fat you carry and the harder it is to lose it.
Ironically, a lot of fat loss methods induce a lot of physical and mental stress in an effort to be more effective. That would be great if stress caused weight loss, but the opposite is usually the case. Many people get caught up in a downward spiral where they stress out over their weight which only makes it harder to control it. The harder it is to control their weight the more they stress out over it and the cycle continues.
Let’s explore some of the biggest reasons why you can get cause in this cycle and how you can escape it.
Stress inducing exercise habits
Exhausting workouts can actually cause you to burn less energy over the long run. Sure, you’ll burn more calories by pushing yourself until you drop, but then your energy level is shot for the next day or two.
High fatigue workouts are fine in moderation, but they are not the only way to train. You can still burn plenty of calories with moderately fatiguing workouts. Using a mix of high and moderate fatiguing activity throughout the week can improve your energy level and help you burn more fat.
You also don’t have to workout until you collapse. It’s fine to stop working out without feeling dead on your feet. This post on Peak Set Training can help you auto-regulate your workouts so you’re not always pushing too far.
Stress inducing diet habits
As I mention in this post on Healthy Eating, the entire point of a healthy diet is to remove stress from body and mind. A diet that causes chronic stress is not a healthy diet regardless of the theory behind it.
Most dietary stress comes from either over consumption or under consumption. Eating too much of anything causes stress as well as not eating enough of the same thing. Carbohydrates are a good example of this. Some people are consuming too much sugar and carbohydrate in their diet and it’s causing stress. Other’s may be consuming too little and it’s causing stress that way too.
Dietary dogmas are often to blame for both under and over consumption. They portray foods as being either good or bad resulting in over consumption of the “good foods” and under consumption of the “bad foods.”
Stress inducing lifestyle habits
Poor sleep, excessive alcohol, work stress, and even staring at a screen too much can be energy sucking habits. Watching the nightly news on TV or spending too much time on the internet are also good examples of stress inducing habits.
Reduce stress to burn more fat
The big take away from this week’s post is simple. Keep an eye out for energy draining diet, exercise and lifestyle habits. It’s impossible to know for sure what changes you should make regarding all three, so use your energy level as a guide. If eating, training or living a certain way is making you always feel tired or stressed then seek to change or remove those habits.
Don’t worry too much about the “right” way to eat or train. If you make a change that improves your energy level then it will help you burn more fat. Everyone’s needs are different so what’s best for you may be different than what’s best for someone else. Listen to your body and go with your gut. At the end of the day, it’s the only thing that’s going to tell you what’s best for you.