Our bodies can handle a normal amount of stress just fine. However, when we are constantly over-stressed is when it begins to cause problems. And the reason is because stress throws our hormone levels out of whack.
When our body senses a “fight or flight” situation, it releases more of the hormone cortisol to help deal with the perceived situation.
One of the results of increased cortisol over time is overeating. Overeating leads to weight gain which causes your metabolism to slow down, thus causing your body to burn less fat and store more.
And if you are not getting enough sleep, because you are staying awake at night worrying about the issues causing your stress that can affect your metabolism also.
When you are sleep deficient, your body has a hard time metabolizing carbohydrates causing your blood sugar level to rise.
In response, your body releases more insulin to help lower your blood sugar level. To help reduce your blood sugar level, your body metabolizes your blood sugar, but because it doesn’t need to use the calories right now, it stores them as fat.
Stress not only causes you to gain weight, by not getting enough sleep and increasing your level of cortisol, but it is also slows down your metabolism – the rate at which your body burns fat. And if you are not getting enough sleep, you are more apt to be tired throughout the day and not exercise – the main way to help speed up your metabolism and lose weight.
By exercising, you burn calories at a higher rate than if you did not exercise; exercise also helps relieve stress. If you have less stress, you’ll sleep better. If you sleep better, then your body will do a better job of metabolizing carbohydrates meaning you’ll lose weight.
By reducing your stress level through exercise, your body will not flood your bloodstream with cortisol, thus helping keep your appetite in check and preventing the associated weight gain.
But there is another aspect of exercising that can help you burn more calories – building muscle mass. We are not talking body-building type of muscle mass gain – just some toning and defining with a little increase in size.
The amount of muscle mass you have directly affects how many calories your muscles burn day in and day out. The more muscle you have, the more calories it takes per day to keep them going, even without taking in consideration the number of calories burned through exercise.
By exercising for at least 30 minutes per day, you are also burning more calories than you would if you did not exercise. But to build muscle mass for the long-term calorie burning effect, the type of exercising you do is important.
Strength training or weight training is the best type of exercise to build muscle mass. A program of four days of cardio with two days of weight training per week is a good mix to both burn the maximum number of calories and build muscle.