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Stress and Strength: Four Ways It Impacts Your Performance

Stress. It’s an almost inevitable part of our lives and of course, as most of us now know, hitting the weights and breaking a sweat is a pretty great stress reliever. But when you’re under constant stress, your body's stress hormones remain elevated and this can begin to negatively impact both your mental, and you guessed it, physical health which can mean that things like your performance in the gym take a hit.

These are some of the most common ways being under constant stress may impact your training.


Stress Affects Recovery

We’re sure you’re familiar with the sore feeling you get after a good session in the gym. That feeling results from tiny microtears that happen when you put stress on the muscle. With the right amount of rest and recovery, the muscles will repair themselves, you can tick off another day of training and your muscles will continue to grow and get stronger. However, when you find yourself stressed over a long period of time, cortisol (also known as the main stress hormone) remains high which can affect your muscle's ability to recover. This means that you could potentially be more susceptible to injury and you might notice recovery taking slightly longer than usual.


Stress Can Mess With Testosterone Levels

Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed with the pressures of work or you have a lot on your plate at home, when our bodies are under stress, a fight or flight response is triggered which elevates our stress hormones. As mentioned, if you constantly find yourself in stressful situations, these hormones will remain elevated. According to the APA, this can totally impact the “normal biochemical functioning” of the male reproductive system. Of course, this includes testosterone levels which play a vital role in controlling weight and increasing muscle mass - two things that can completely impact your training. In fact, one study published in the Psychiatry Investigation found that lower levels of stress can lead to increased levels of testosterone in men and vice versa.


Stress Can Affect Your Metabolism

There are so many factors that can affect your metabolism that are pretty much out of your control - these include things like age, gender, and genetics. However, there are a handful of things that you can do to positively influence your metabolism and one of those is managing your stress levels when possible. You see, when your body is in fight or flight mode, it releases the body’s energy stores and slows down your metabolism. This can eventually lead to unexpected weight gain which might make it difficult for you to reach your goals and may even impact your motivation in the gym.


Stress Can Play Havoc On Your Food Choices

You’ve been feeling overwhelmed over the past couple of weeks and nothing sounds better than ordering in your favorite takeout. Sound familiar? Well, there’s actually rationality behind that craving. Our stress hormones directly affect our appetite, so when you find yourself under stress over a long period of time it might mean that your meal prep and water intake take a back burner and processed or sugar-filled foods (probably better known as ‘comfort’ foods) tend to take a front seat. Remember, enjoying those foods that are seen as ‘not-so-good’ every now and then as part of a balanced diet doesn’t need to be justified but if you find yourself craving those foods because you’re feeling snowed under, it’s important to take the right steps towards managing your stress levels.

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