Naturally adding lean muscle mass through heavy weightlifting, solid dieting and a sound supplement regimen is a laborious task. Even with every external component 100% on point, you may still face some rather damaging opposition; and that is from cortisol.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone which is released by the adrenal gland. It is a catabolic hormone which acts to suppress muscle gains and increase fat gains. Cortisol levels are typically highest in the early morning, during periods of high stress and during strenuous activity.

Cortisol is released during exercise as it plays a number of vital roles in the body. These include keeping blood sugar under control and reducing inflammation. While these processes are vital, if too much cortisol is released, it can be counterproductive to muscle gain. It is for this reason that we need to keep cortisol release under control.


ENSURE ADEQUATE NUTRITION POST WORKOUT


In order to help ward off cortisol build up post-workout, it is imperative that you consume the right nutrition. By causing almost immediate spikes in insulin, you will be able to fight the effects of cortisol. The best way to do this is by supplementing with a liquid high GI carbohydrate like waxy maize, dextrose or cyclic dextrin.



When carbs are consumed in liquid form post-workout, they not only help to increase nutrient distribution efficiency to muscle cells, but they also replenish muscle glycogen and help shift the body from a catabolic to an anabolic state.

To further shift the body from catabolism to anabolism, it is also important to consume a fast-acting protein source like whey which helps to kick-start protein synthesis. According to studies, the most effective ratio to enhance anabolism post-workout is 3:1 or 4:1 (carbs to protein).


STRETCHING & LIGHT CONDITIONING

Post-workout, it is a good idea to perform static stretching. Stretching after an intense workout releases natural “feel good” hormones and helps to lengthen the muscle.

In the hours following your workout, your body produces carbon dioxide and lactic acid. To help flush this from your system and speed up your recovery, make sure to do some light conditioning.


STAY HYDRATED

Making sure that you are hydrated throughout the day will help to speed up recovery. Water helps to flush toxic waste products and ensures optimal internal functioning.


HYDRATION GUIDELINES

  • Drink one to two cups upon waking
  • Try to drink 2L of water throughout the day.
  • Make sure you drink 500ml of water for every 30 minutes of exercise.
  • After intense exercise, make sure you drink a sports drink which is packed with electrolytes and 6% carbohydrates.

MONITOR YOUR SLEEP

Besides getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep per day, it is also a good idea to try and take advantage of circadian sleep cycles to improve your quality of sleep thereby wading off cortisol production. When you sleep, your body typically goes through 4 to 6 cycles of 90 minutes each. These 90 minute cycles include the following three phases:

Light sleep (30 min cycle) – Is the earliest phase of sleep where you are not fully asleep.

Deep sleep (30 min cycle) – As the name describes, deep sleep is when you are fast asleep. It is this cycle that growth hormone (GH) is released and when the body repairs itself.

REM (rapid eye movement) – Is the phase of sleep where you typically dream.


When you wake up, the best cycle to wake up in is during light sleep as your brain waves are close together and you wake up feeling fully refreshed. If you wake up during deep sleep, you will feel tired and groggy which is obviously not optimal.



To prevent this, monitor your sleep and try to figure out when you wake up in a light sleep cycle. You will know by how you feel that morning. Once you have figured it out, make sure to set your alarm to wake up in this cycle every day and go to bed at a similar time each night.

 



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