- During Pregnancy and the early Post Natal period, Cortisol is NATURALLY ELEVATED! In the Post Natal period the thought is that the elevated Cortisol and other stress hormones have the effect of keeping the mother alert and aware of any possible dangers to the infant and may have a role in the attachment process.
- The physical stress of labour and birthing, alongside the stresses of adjusting to early motherhood and poor sleeping patterns/lack of sleep means that Cortisol levels may remain high well into the Post Natal period making it difficult for mothers to lose weight post birth.
- During pregnancy, the hormonal signals have been set to ensure fat is stored in preparation for feeding the baby - theoretically, a mother may need somewhere in the region of an extra 650 calories each day to produce quality breast milk.
- Being an older mother is also a factor in holding fat as sadly, by the mid to late 30’s the body is preparing for menopause. And the ultimate paradox........as women head towards menopause the body will automatically be reluctant to let go of fat around the middle as this is where Oestrogen is manufactured. This happens because the body knows that Oestrogen will help protect our bones from Osteoporosis so the body tries to hold onto the fat to hold onto the Oestrogen to prevent Osteoporosis which it obviously deems to be a greater threat than having a fat belly!
- The ULTIMATE blow comes in the fact that…….abdominal fat cells have four times as many receptors for Cortisol than anywhere else in your body so if you’re continually too stressed, your abdominal fat cells will be calling out for Cortisol and encouraging the body to store fat around the abdominals!
- Adrenaline & Cortisol are the two main stress hormones produced by the Adrenal glands. Totally useful when we need to get out of danger, not so great when our modern life and stress levels keeps us chronically in a state of over-production.
- Both hormones circulating in the system increase appetite and then drive the stressed individual to consume – guess what? More carbohydrate and fat!
- Fat is stored around the middle simply because there, it’s closer to the liver where it can be quickly accessed to be converted back into energy if needed.
- Natural Cortisol levels that we need to wake us up and go about our business in the daytime can remain elevated by STRESS! They can also be elevated by a house too brightly lit in the evening time, and overstimulation via watching TV and working late.
- Excessive production of Cortisol leads to adrenal fatigue which presents itself as chronic fatigue syndrome, infections, musculoskeletal aches and pains and headaches.
- Obeying our natural rhythms of sleep and rest – our CIRCADIAN RHYTHM allows the adrenals to rest.
- Caffeine, sugar, tobacco and LOW BLOOD SUGAR create EMERGENCY situations within our systems and signal STRESS.
What Can You As A Health & Fitness Professional Do About This?
In my early days of a Trainer, I was simply in a life phase where I could go all day and night without really considering the vital importance of rest and restorative activity. Now, in my 40's I really get it! And I ensure that rest and restorative activity is included in every session with every client. I keep the training element of the session short and sweet, 20-30 mins and ensure we have time for some foam roller work, a bit of remedial therapy on any niggles they have, a 10 minute meditation on the breath or a Power Plate massage for the the non-pregnant clients....either way, they walk away feeling and KNOWING the value of STILLNESS AS WELL AS MOVEMENT.