Is Your Exercise Building Muscle or Belly Fat?
I think we can all agree that the point of dedicating time to our workout routine and overall fitness is not to put on fat?
Um, thot so..
Well, you might be surprised how common this really is, particularly amongst the saucy Bella’s at mid-age (around 45).
Today, I’m going to chat with you about what the common mistakes are that so many of us are making, which can undermine our sincerest efforts and actually lead to increased body fat.
Is this happening to you?
Once you understand why this happens, you can change things up a bit and begin to see a nice shift in how you look and feel.
But s’riously, How the
hell can I be exercising so much and adding more belly fluff??
I know it seems counter intuitive as this does go against everything we’ve ever believed about exercise.
The short answer is:
PISSED OFF HORMONES.
We need to educate ourselves so that we are making exercise choices that work with our hormones, instead of forcing our lovely lady hormones to work against us.
I refer to this phenomenon as weight loss resistance, and the main culprit is one specifically uppity hormone that’s been all the rage lately called cortisol.
You may have heard the terms adrenal fatigue or adrenal burnout, as these are increasingly common buzzwords in the natural health world, and for good reason. We’ll tie it back to your exercise routine in just a minute, but lets take a look at the following list of symptoms, and see which ones you might be experiencing currently, or have experienced in the past:
- Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, after a full night of sleep
- Sleeping well but still feeling fatigued throughout the day
- Craving salty and sugary foods constantly
- Stubborn belly and back fat that simply won’t budge
- Stressed & depressed
- Signs of premature aging
- Thyroid issues
- Decreased sex drive
- Decreased ability to handle stress and increased irritability or what I call, bitchy beaucoup
- Difficulty recovering from illness
- Light headedness when standing up quickly
- Extreme PMS/menopause symptoms
- Foggy brain/inability to concentrate/poor memory
- Afternoon energy crash
Sound familiar?? If so, it is extremely likely that you are suffering from some degree of adrenal fatigue. But fear not, there are lifestyle and diet shifts you can make to support your beautiful bod pod, but for now we are going to focus on the specifics of exercise. We’ll save the rest for another post. Let’s not go all boot camp here Okay?
Anyway, CORTISOL is the primary stress hormone released by our adrenal glands. Our adrenal glands are little grape-size glands located by our kidneys. If these poor little dudes are overworked by chronic stress, they become exhausted and angry.
And while we probably think of exercise as a de-stressor, it can; in fact, be a major stressor on the body if not approached correctly for where our brains and bodies are, at any given point in time.
When we think of stress, we generally think of the mental/emotional kind. This is, of course, a significant source, but stress can also be physical. This kind of stress could be a major injury, illness, surgery, or over-exercise. Our body is amazingly intelligent, but it doesn’t distinguish between stressors: stress is stress to those hardworking adrenal glands!
Long distance, medium-high intensity and long-duration cardio is very often seen as a stressor by the body, and produces an excess release of cortisol. Since cortisol is our fat-storage hormone , if we are constantly stressing our body with this type of exercise, we are likely over-producing cortisol. A good way to describe it is that our adrenals were designed to come into play when we are suddenly running from a bear chasing us in the woods. Heart is pumping, body is on full alert..that’s when cortisol and adrenals are lifesaver rockstars.
If you think about our modern world and how many of us roll these days: Between often obsessive over-exercise, the wrong type of exercise FOR US, or no exercise at all, along with the simple fact that we move and think at a constant and unnaturally fast pace, our body is almost always thinking we are running from a tiger! And while in our younger years maybe we could handle this, in our middle age…NO WAY JOSE.
Adrenal fatigue, while not always, is much more commonly experienced as we approach and enter middle age. The stressors discussed above (mental, emotional and physical) are built up over time. Those who are experiencing a serious degree of adrenal fatigue (symptoms list) are probably doing so because of years of stress; this is not a phenomenon that occurs overnight. That is one reason why it is muy importante to take a long hard look at our exercise routine to make sure it, too, has shifted with time to meet our precious bodies’ ever-changing needs.
And the even more ennoying (my son made up that word when he was 3) part?
Cortisol generally likes to show it’s pissedoffidness by storing fat around our midsection, giving us that muffin top thingy, that makes us have to buy those big hippy chic tunic tops. They look cool, but I’d rather they be more of an option than a rule, wouldn’t you?
Actually, it’s much more serious than just a muffin-top situation, excess belly fat is also linked to increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Ok, so lets fix this by looking at some common mistakes we might be making in our workouts:
- Only doing long-distance, medium to high-intensity cardio or boot-camp type classes.
- Upon entering the gym, never venturing from the treadmill.
- Feeling fatigued after a workout instead of energized.
- Maintaining the same routine regardless of your stress level, sleep, etc.
- Not switching it up with more restorative practices such as yoga, walking and meditation.
What are the best alternatives to make sure we are not over stressing our lady bodies and producing excess cortisol?
- Instead of long duration, high intensity cardio ALL THE TIME, try HIIT workouts (high intensity interval training).
- Pay attention to your body, you should feel energized coming out of a workout, almost like you could do it all over again. If you don’t, you should switch it up.
- Strength train with weights, flow yoga that emphasizes plank positions and core work, Barre or Pilates classes.
- Add in days of more restful/restorative exercises such as casual contemplative walking and yin yoga.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to remember the fact that our body needs a different workout routine at different times in our lives: days, months, and sometimes, even years.
I promise you, this can actually help you lose weight in times of stress. On the flip side, if you are relaxed, well rested, feeling 100% and want to take that long run, go for it. Just be sure to mix in other types of workouts throughout your week, and continue to pay close attention to your very intelligent bod pods’ signals and responses.
In future posts, I’m going to share the pros and cons of different types of exercise, along with how to approach the forms we’ve talked about in this post. That way, you can make educated decisions that work in harmony with your body and get the results you want.
But the basic rule of thumb is that we are all bio-individual and it’s the same with food as it is with exercise: YOUR BODY KNOWS WHAT SHE NEEDS. While you can learn all about nutrition and exercise, that is not a replacement for both listening to and watching how your body responds to how you are treating her.
To get you started, check out the following links to begin (or continue) exploring HIIT for a cardio alternative, yoga to work in a restorative practice, and consider these fun and effective workout ideas:
- Take a walk or hilly hike in the woods, or go play outside in your garden. What? You don’t have a garden? OKAY plant a few herbs in a pot. Then you have a garden.
- Go on an evening bike ride with a gal pal or your partner instead of meeting for wine. Did I just lose you on this one? Oops. Not ALL the time but try it a few times. Okay, how about wine afterwards? Come on- meet me half-way here, Bella.
- Try a yin or restorative yoga class, or if you prefer the comfort of your home, check out this fabulous video.
- Go out dancing with your friends, or try a dance class. Always wanted to learn salsa or belly dancing? Go for it!
- Whether you are new to HIIT workouts or not, here is a great article from the Huffington Post about the benefits and 3 quick routines.
- Sign up for a zumba class.
- Check out Kundalini yoga. I love it. It’s FANTASTIC.
- Try THIS. It’s my favorite non-exercise, exercise.
Most importantly…experiment. Play around like a kid at the park. Listen to your genius of a body and have FUN!
Oh and check this out the fat loss smoothie video I made for you. This morning routine hand in hand with the right exercise for YOU is a fabulous combo for kickstarting your health and weight loss goals!
Power Weight Loss Protein Smoothie Part 1
Enhanced Beauty Smoothie for Hair, Skin & Nails Part 2
Let me know how it goes in the comments down below. I’m all ears and cortisol balanced ;)….now. And you can be too!