One of the quickest ways to increase testosterone as well as improve overall life quality is to reduce stress. Stress is a result of the catabolic hormone cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone and is released to help you deal with stressful situations effectively.
Cortisol serves a vital function in the human body however is constantly elevated in modern times to an unhealthy degree. Some of the culprits of these higher amounts of cortisol are smartphones, GMO and dairy foods, social media, sugar, sleep deprivation, alcohol, and coffee.
Chronically high amounts of cortisol are associated with fatigue, anxiety, fat gain, high blood pressure, acne, inflammation, poor mood, lower testosterone, and more. Basically, high cortisol levels are damaging to general health as well as the ability to lift weights optimally.
Sources Of Stress
Stress is a result of stimulus. It is a response to something else. Cortisol is a “daytime hormone” meaning it is produced during the day. Testosterone is produced during sleep and repairs the catabolic effects of stress. When both cortisol and testosterone are in their natural, optimal ranges they work together cohesively.
Due to a nocuous blend of technology, poor diets, poor lifestyle choices, and lack of sleep however, this balance is thrown off.
This study found increases in cortisol resulting from phone use. This study found that smartphones decrease the amount and quality of sleep. This study found an increase of cortisol from sleep deprivation. This study found an increase of cortisol from sugar.
Although one night of poor sleep and one night out at the bars won’t throw you into a catabolic state, these activities build up over time and compound with each other, delivering a hit to your testosterone and ability to function optimally.
Studies have also shown that the amount of social pressure in modern times is much higher since social media causes heightened amounts of comparison, meaning you constantly feel pressure to be better. This pressure is good in small, well-timed amounts, but feeling high amounts of pressure frequently is going to decrease testosterone and ultimately impede your ability to improve overall despite the pressure on you.
Coffee, alcohol, and nicotine also all increase cortisol levels. For more on coffee check out this post. For more on alcohol check out this post. To find the perfect balance between going out and lifting, check out this one.
Supplements That Lower Cortisol
To decrease your levels of cortisol, one option for achieving this is through supplementation. There are vitamins, herbs, and fish oil supplements that all can have a positive hormonal effect and decrease cortisol.
There are three important vitamins to decrease cortisol and manage levels of stress. These are vitamin D3, vitamin B1, and vitamin B5. Vitamin B1 and B5 are both beneficial for stress because of their impact on the adrenals. They are also beneficial for the nervous system and regulating the body overall.
Vitamin D is good for reducing stress and also directly increases testosterone. This study found that cortisol levels were significantly reduced in those who took a vitamin D supplement per day versus those who didn’t.
If you are able to spend time outside everyday, a better way to get vitamin D is to get direct sunlight on your skin. Vitamin D from sunlight has been shown to increase testosterone levels by up to 200% for 2-3 hours after being directly in the sun. If you can’t get direct sunlight every day, check out this supplement, which will supply a years worth of D3.
All of these vitamins can be consumed naturally through food and the sun however to ensure that you are meeting the recommended intake, supplementing can be beneficial. I recommend purchasing supplements through Bulk Supplements since they have better prices and more quantities per pack than at any store.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids can also help lower cortisol. Omega-3’s are present in high amounts in fish, nuts and seeds, but can also be consumed in the form of a supplement.
This study has shown supplementing ginseng to be effective at lowering stress and balancing hormones.
Ashwagandha is also famous for its ability to regulate cortisol and has found in many studies to decrease stress hormones and increase levels of testosterone. Rhodiola is able to have a similar effect and also increases stress-resistant proteins.
To get all these adaptogenic herbs, I’d suggest this blend (schisandra, eleuthero, rhodiola, cordyceps) and this ashwagandha tincture. All of these adaptogens can also be found individually at Bulk Supplements.
It is clear that cortisol affects testosterone. This has been found through studies but also from a logical point of view makes sense because cortisol is a catabolic hormone and testosterone is an anabolic hormone.
There are many ways to maximize your testosterone levels naturally. Reducing your cortisol is one of them and can be done by identifying sources of stress and removing them or taking supplements. Taking the right supplements can help your adrenals manage stress hormones and reduce the cortisol response to stimulus. Both of these methods work and by taking steps to decrease stress, performance and results in the gym will improve as well as your health and wellbeing.