Stress and keto are two things that don’t work very well together. In fact, not only does stress affect a diet, but it affects a person’s overall health. For those new to the low-carb, high-fat lifestyle (the Body Reboot book goes into details about this incredible diet), being stressed out can stall attempts to get into ketosis. Plus, during the adaptation phase, it’s even more important to keep stress levels low. Keeping stress at a minimum will help body better transition from eating a high-carb diet to a considerably lower carb diet. The tips below will explain what stress does to a body and how it affects a ketogenic diet. Listen to your body and do your best to stay stress-free.
If you feel like stress is taking its toll on you and potentially prohibiting your body from entering ketosis, there are symptoms to pay attention to. Ruled.me mentions a list of common stressors and why they may prohibit ketosis.
Stress increases the levels of stress hormones like cortisol in the blood. It doesn’t matter where the stress comes from (your thoughts, what you did, what someone else did, etc.), it all causes the same hormonal response.
One of the hormones that is released in response to stress is cortisol. Cortisol increases the activity of gluconeogenesis to raise blood sugar levels, while simultaneously decreasing insulin sensitivity. This combination of actions causes more blood sugar to hang out in the blood for longer periods of time, which shuts down the body’s need to produce ketones.
Cortisol, however, is not the enemy. It provides us with the boost of energy we need to start the day and power through exercise and stressful situations. Problems will only arise when the body rarely stops secreting cortisol because the mind is always stressing about something.
Not sure if stress is a problem for you? Here’s a list of common stressors that can keep you from ketosis:
Exercising too much
Not eating enough
Worrying about the future
Beating yourself up for past mistakes
Overwhelming yourself with work and never taking breaks
As these and other stressors accumulate in your life, your stress hormones remain elevated throughout the day. This limits your ability to produce ketones, lose fat, and maintain muscle mass — three things that you want to avoid at all costs on the ketogenic diet. No keto carb limit can save you from these adverse effects. You must take responsibility for mitigating your own stress.
Stress most certainly can make it more challenging for a body to reach ketosis, and Healthline explains why this is the case. They also mention a few studies that confirm that too much stress and not getting enough sleep can make it challenging to lose weight: Curr Obes Rep. 2012 Mar and Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Jan.
Research shows that stress, especially chronic stress, and lack of sleep can negatively impact weight loss.
When your body is stressed, it produces excess amounts of a hormone called cortisol.
Elevated levels of cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone, can encourage your body to store fat, especially in the belly area.
Additionally, those who are chronically stressed are often sleep deprived, which has also been linked to weight gain.
Studies suggest that a lack of sleep negatively impacts hunger-regulating hormones, such as leptin and ghrelin, causing increased appetite.
You can lower stress and improve sleep by trying techniques like meditation or yoga and spending less time on electronic devices.
If you’re wondering what too much stress can do to your body while in ketosis, here’s what SIIM Land has to say:
How Does Stress Affect Ketosis?
When cortisol is elevated, glucose is released into the bloodstream. What follows are higher levels of insulin as well. As blood glucose goes up, ketones go down and vice versa. Raising insulin will stop fat burning and keto-adaptation for the coming few hours, potentially even days.
Constantly high levels of cortisol and insulin are catabolic to the body, meaning, they break down tissue for the production of energy. That’s why it’s a good idea to pay especially more attention to how you’re working out during your first few weeks of keto. You don’t want to put yourself through glycolytic workouts while not replenishing them with some fast absorbing glucose because the body will take that fuel from your valuable muscles and organs.
Similar to what SIIM Land and Ruled.me have to say about how cortisol affects a body, Perfect Keto further explains how stress can harm your keto efforts.
Stress is a significant factor when troubleshooting weight loss. When you’re stressed out, your body produces cortisol.
What is cortisol?
Cortisol is a signal hormone known as the stress hormone. It’s one of the top hormones we release when we’re under pressure or in a fight-or-flight situation. Cortisol has the ability to channel glucose to the muscles during the body’s response to stress[*].
It plays a major role in keeping us alert, awake, motivated, and it’s necessary for our survival.
It’s also responsible for storing fat around your stomach area, making weight loss a challenge. The real problem kicks in when cortisol production becomes chronic due to constant stress, so the fat around your stomach starts to increase.
Of course, That Keto Guy acknowledges that it’s next to impossible not to feel stressed out sometimes, but he offers some pretty great ideas on how to counteract that stress. Yes, it sounds like an easy fix to meditate and try other ways to relax, but you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that some of these methods may actually work.
It would be impractical of me to tell you to stop stressing all the time. Especially in the world we live in, full of fast-paced stressors, information, technology, getting the kids out the door, Donald Trump being president…
…Ahh, it’s too much! I’m stressing out just thinking about stressing out!
We all know how this feels. There isn’t one person alive who doesn’t experience long bouts of stress. The hormone cortisol is the reason why keeping your stress levels down will help you get into a state of ketosis.
Simply take the time out of your day everyday to mindfully rid of unnecessary stressors in your life. Bad relationship? Cut him/her off. Work deadline stressing you out? Get it done and out of the way now. By getting the things done that you know you need to do, you are automatically de-stressing your life.
On top of that, several studies, have shown how profound meditation is to decreasing stress and improving focus. There is actual science showing the brain increasing its grey matter through a daily meditation practice.
You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel by incorporating meditation into your daily routine on top of simply cutting out unnecessary stressors out of your life.
Once you are in ketosis and you feel like your body is adapted to burning ketones as opposed to glucose, you may find that the diet is actually helping you feel less stressed! Matt Nicholls on Medium explains how the keto diet has helped his social anxiety and helped him feel less stressed. So if you work on your stress earlier on perhaps later on when your body is in ketosis it can later help you better manage your cortisol levels!
Since being on the diet my social anxiety seems to be waning. At first, I thought this might be a placebo effect because I’d heard that ketogenic diets can have a positive effect on anxiety and depression.
Having said that, I started to notice these changes in the first week of the diet and they have persisted in the two weeks that followed. It would have to be one hell of a placebo for it to last this long.
The most recent changes in my anxiety include:
· Having full-on conversations with cashiers that exceed beyond “hi”, “thanks”, and “bye” when I’m shopping
· Being out in public for more than a few hours without caring who is walking past me or looking at me
· Slouching less as I walk through the streets and actually looking people in the eye as I talk to them
· Not lowering my voice to a faint murmur when there are people nearby, making it easier for me to speak to people over the phone on public transport
At the time of writing this post, we're currently giving away free copies of the Body Reboot book because it's our mission to increase awareness and to help people lose weight and get healthy! If you help us cover the cost of shipping, we’ll send a copy to your door FREE. Go over to this page to see if there are any copies left.
Sources: Ruled.me, SIIM Land, Perfect Keto, That Keto Guy, Medium, Healthline, NCBI: Curr Obes Rep. 2012 Ma, NCBI: Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Jan
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