Hello Everybody! Long time no see. It’s been a few weeks since a new article has come out, and all I can say is that work has been absolutely swamped, and I haven’t had the time to come on here and write something out. That being said, the entire last sentence is completely false since gyms have not yet reopened in NYS. The last few podcasts haven’t really required a write up.
Anywho, Episode 18 of the Made To Excel Fitness Podcast was Mythbustin’ #3 - Is working out too much making you fat???, so a write up for this particular episode was a given. As always you can listen to the episode here if you like a mixture of inevitable charm, sarcasm, and shit talking. But maybe reading is more your thing. Nerd. (I’m just kidding, I love you deeply).
On a week to week basis, there’s no particular rhyme or reason for the podcast episodes I end up recording. Usually I just see something ridiculous on the internet and talk about it. This time, it was 3 things. Sidenote, I am paraphrasing these below posts...
Influencer #1 (900k followers) - Cortisol is bad for you and makes you gain weight and lose muscle.
Influencer (ish) #2 (90k followers) - High levels of cortisol lead you to make poor food choices (high sugar), decrease muscle mass, and increases fat accumulation.
Influencer (ish) #3 (13k followers) - Long Low Intensity Steady State Cardio raises Cortisol causing them to gain weight (LMAO)
Now when I read/watched these 3 statements being made on Instagram I laughed, turned my hat backwards, rolled up my sleeves, and was getting ready to blast some fools with knowledge on the topic. Then I started doing research…
WHAT IS CORTISOL
In short, Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that is secreted by the adrenal gland, and is part of the glucocorticoid family. One of the primary functions of Cortisol is the facilitation of Amino Acids into Glucose in order to provide the necessary energy to combat stress, illness, infection, bleeding, etc. While all these things are obviously fantastic, a high level of increased Cortisol for an extended period of time could come with its complications such as an increased blood glucose level, and muscle tissue breakdown.
Some factors that can potentially increase the amount of Cortisol you have in your body can be Stress, Exercise, Lack of Sleep, Diet, etc. etc.
There can be a multitude of reasons that Cortisol goes up, and a multitude of reasons why having increased Cortisol could be a setback for you.
So will this be the first time that I stick my foot in my mouth in a Mythbustin’ episode…?
WHY CORTISOL IS PROBABLY NOT WHATS HOLDING YOU BACK
Influencer #1 - What influencer #1 does (you can listen to the episode for specifics) is throw a bunch of ideas at the wall and hope one sticks. While this particular person may not say anything that is 100% incorrect...actually he kind of does. He did say that there’s a bunch of secret foods you can eat to boost metabolism, and while this is technically correct, won’t actually do anything to help with your weight loss journey. While Cortisol could negatively affect your progress, just randomly saying that to the internet without knowing who could be watching and knowing someone’s circumstances makes about as much sense as wearing a Parka in the Nevada desert in July.
Influencer #2 - A lot of what this particular person said is correct. Increased stress does lead to increased Cortisol. Stress usually does lead to stress eating and an increase in the amount of calories one may consume. So technically, what this person said is true, but what they don’t take into account is the fact that a good PLAN allows you to remain on track even when the road gets rough. Instead of battening down the hatches like this coach tells you to do and step away from all sugar and refined carbs, which can lead to even more headaches down the line, coming up with a plan that can be followed at all stages of life is PARAMOUNT.
Don’t have a great plan in place? High or Low Cortisol won’t make a drastic difference.
Influencer #3 - Last but not least, my favorite claim. “I worked out too much that I wasn’t able to lose weight”. Now, this particular person runs a “Fitness” Instagram page but they do not have a job in Fitness, nor educated in the manner. If you hear someone say that working out too much is screwing up their weight loss progress, your Bullshit meter should be on high alert and screaming into your ears. It seems as if Cortisol will rise with long distance aerobic training along with High Intensity short workouts. So for this person to claim that running 5 miles per day is less advantageous for them over HIIT workouts (which they started doing after the fact) is a heinous assumption.
To be fair, this person clearly doesn’t know any better. Telling over 10,000 people that are under the assumption that this “Influencer” knows what they’re talking about, that working out “too much” could be the one factor holding them back from their dream physique makes about as much sense as the Los Angeles Lakers signing me to a 10 day contract just in case one of their players contracts COVID. J.R. Smith and I can be confused about the game clock on the court together.
Once you start putting that Bachelor’s Degree from the Made To Excel Fitness University of Hard Knocks of Common Sense to use, you’ll start to realize just how many people on the internet are misinformed.
When you’re not skipping class and you show up to Mythbustin’ 101 at MTEFit U of HKCS, you’ll learn that whenever you come across an “iffy claim” you can look at it a couple of different ways.
99% of lies you hear are based in some form of truth (completely made up statistic). But the rationale remains the same. Does the science behind Cortisol make sense? We have no reason to believe it doesn’t. The function of Cortisol is pretty straightforward and makes a lot of sense, but we know that science and reality can be both true and oppose each other.
Is it possible that Cortisol is the root cause of your underlying inability to make progress in your fitness journey? Sure. But is it likely? NO. From my experience, if you’re struggling to make changes to your fitness self, it most likely stems from multiple causes over a long period of time that build up and make it hard for you to make progress. These factors can be any one of a plethora of things (overconsumption, bad planning, not enough exercise etc. etc.). Can Cortisol be one of the factors holding you back? Maybe. But it’s rarely ever going to be the ONLY thing holding you back.
What’s the point of pushing the Cortisol narrative if it really doesn’t help? In this case, it’s probably money. Supplement companies do sell Cortisol Blockers (probably not going to top any Best Seller lists anytime soon), but a quick Google search will show that many of these Supplements are ineffective. Even if they did help, it would probably only be by a marginal amount and you would still need to address other issues more than likely.
In reality, a “fact” like this probably serves as a crutch for your favorite fitness coach. If a client (you) is struggling to make progress, Cortisol could be a secret weapon in their back pocket to help explain your struggles. No blame on them, no blame on you. Now this fitness coach has opened your eyes to something you never knew before, and it makes a ton of sense, all of a sudden they’re in your trust tree. You have faith in this coach to do right by you, and you will spend money with them because you trust them over a stranger on the internet. At the end of the day, fitness is a money game like any other business. Whenever someone claims something, always think about who benefits in that situation.