Training or exercise, simply put, is a stress placed on the body. Its short-term effects are catabolic, meaning that exercise, particularly in the form of resistance and endurance training, includes the breakdown of muscle fibers (micro-tears) and bone (micro-fractures). On the other hand the long-term effects, which typically occur during rest and nutrient intake or eating, are the repair and rebuilding of stronger and more efficient muscle and bone, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and in which effectiveness is dependent on the type of training. These longer term processes of repair and re-build responses is an evolutionary adaptation to the stress that results from training.
On a different yet related note, cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which sit right atop the kidneys. It is a hormone strongly associated with fat deposition especially around the belly area or the umbilical. This means that the higher the cortisol produced the higher the tendency is to deposit fat.
Stress on the body comes in different forms and may result from many different factors that include mental, physical and even spiritual. Stress, however, is not necessarily a bad or negative thing (distress). Positive or good stress (eustress) may come in the form of feeling joy and excitement. Physical training is a form of stress that may initially seem negative at a micro-scale but its long term adaptation response is a healthier stronger body that makes one feel better and more confident.
Taking in consideration the aforementioned, one can safely deduce that the chronic stress of overtraining or excess physical training, such that the body does not have enough time to recover and starts to predominantly produce cortisol, may very well result in undesired body composition profile changes that depict lower lean muscle and increasing body fat and visceral fat (fat around the gut and organs) levels. In essence, research supports the argument that elevated cortisol resulting from chronic excess physical training is a significant confounding factor in increased fat deposition especially around the belly area as well as lowered lean muscle mass levels especially in individuals attempting to “lose weight” by integrating caloric restriction.
The moral of the story is simply not to overdo it with training. One needs to bear in mind that stress adds up. So the stress of training one day, even though it may be the same or even lower than that of previous training session may have negative effects, for instance, if it is coupled with lack of rest, lack of proper nutrition or extenuating life stressors such as emotional, family, occupational or financial. The key is to listen to your body and be in tune to the patterns that work. The following is a simple step guideline that can help:
1- Assess your current physical conditioning state and plan a training program that compliments it.
2- Assess you current stress level, find out your main sources of stress and make managing them your priority.
3- Re-visit you training program daily if you need to and augment it to compliment your stress level.
4- Make sure you eat well and rest enough to recover and re-build.
5- Your best option is to seek help from a holist practitioner or fitness professional who adopts a holistic approach in order to best guide his or her clients in achieving their desired health and wellness goals. WE CAN HELP!
Yours in health and fitness …