TL;DR Article Summary
Yes, too much cortisol can make you gain stomach fat. The reason for this is cortisol’s effects on your blood sugar and nutrient metabolism. When your cortisol levels are chronically elevated, your body will remain in a stressed state, making it hold onto body fat. High cortisol also leads to an increase in appetite and sugar cravings, further aggravating weight gain around your stomach area.
How Cortisol Works in the Body
Cortisol is a hormone that is released by the adrenal gland. This hormone is responsible for many functions in the body, including regulating metabolism, blood pressure, and immune system responses. Cortisol levels are higher in the morning, when people are usually less active. As activity levels increase throughout the day, cortisol levels fall. They should be the lowest at night. However, while cortisol is essential for our health, it can also be highly detrimental when chronically elevated. If stress is left unchecked, cortisol levels will be chronically elevated.
This can lead to many problems, including muscle atrophy, weight gain, decreased immune function, and a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In both humans and animals, chronic elevations in cortisol are associated with changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis as well as changes in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for memory formation and cognition. In rats, chronic elevation of cortisol has been shown to result in spatial memory deficits. Luckily, if you have high cortisol, you can take steps to lower your cortisol levels in order to increase spatial memory and cognition, and prevent weight gain (more on this in a minute).
Measuring Cortisol for Weight Management
Cortisol can be measured in saliva, urine, or blood. The most common way to measure cortisol levels is through a saliva test. Saliva cortisol levels are usually measured between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., as it is believed that cortisol levels tend to peak during this time period.
In individuals with high stress and anxiety, their saliva may show abnormally high levels of cortisol in the morning, but normal values by noon or later on in the day. However, some researchers have found that the peak time for saliva cortisol levels does not necessarily correspond to when an individual feels most stressed. The rate of cortisol release is thought to be controlled by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
Weight Loss, Cortisol, and Biological Rythms
The ability to release cortisol is regulated in part through an individual’s circadian rhythm and also through their intake of nutrients and other factors. In response to stress, the HPA axis releases more cortisol into the bloodstream, which helps maintain homeostasis through increased metabolism, growth hormone secretion, protein synthesis, and reduced inflammation.
However, when this response becomes exaggerated, cortisol levels over time can create a state of chronic stress. Stress has been associated with negative health effects such as the increased risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity, sleep disturbances, and depression. So yes, as you can see by looking at cortisol’s mechanism of action, it can indeed lead to weight gain. Below, we’ll explain in more detail how this occurs.
Why Cortisol Can Lead to Weight Gain
Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to stressful situations. It helps us to respond quickly, but when it’s constantly elevated, it can lead to weight gain by causing our bodies to hold on to fat and making us crave high-sugar foods. It also leads to weight gain by messing with our blood sugar levels. When you experience ups and downs in your blood sugar, you will be more likely to overeat due to energy and mood swings throughout the day.
Another way cortisol can make you put on weight quickly is by interfering with your sleep. When you don’t sleep well, your body responds by increasing your hunger. As well as making you feel hungrier, elevated cortisol levels can also make it harder for you to find the motivation to exercise and maintain a healthy diet. They’re also directly linked with obesity and appetite-related conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. This is, in part, due to rampant inflammation from the constant flood of cortisol.
How You Can Prevent Cortisol from Making Your Stomach Fat
Stomach fat is a common problem for many people. Stress is one of the main factors that cause it. Cortisol is the hormone that causes stress.
In this section, we will talk about how you can prevent cortisol from making your stomach fat. There are a few things that you can do to reduce stress and cortisol levels, including taking long walks, spending time in nature, and considering taking cortisol-lowering supplements.
- Take walks outside or go for a walk before you get stressed out.
- When feeling overwhelmed try using deep breathing techniques to calm down.
- Spend time with your family members. , friends, or pets.
- Consider taking a supplement, such as l-theanine, ashwagandha, a botanical (kava), or curcumin.
Combining all of these things can help you stop gaining excess weight from elevated cortisol levels.