Ways to Counteract Cortisol Build-Up during Exercise

cortisol during exercise

Have you ever wondered why it seems so difficult to build muscle? Are all those hours in the gym just not having as strong an effect as you had hoped or even any effect at all? More than likely, this issue will have something to do with Cortisol buildup. Indeed, scientists have known for years that elevated levels of this hormone interfere with all kinds of functions including learning and memory, immune function, weight control, blood pressure, and may even increase sadness.  Some supplements show promise in reducing Cortisol during exercise.

An article on Bodybuilding.com entitled “The Implications of Cortisol Release” discusses how Cortisol works. However, to make things easier for you, we have created a short “beginner’s guide” to Cortisol, if you will. Read on to find out more!

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is the primary stress hormone within the body. It is released as part of the body adapting to conditions whenever a threat is sensed. This reaction is also often called the “fight or flight” response. Unfortunately, as far as weight training is concerned, the hormone has a negative effect. It is catabolic, meaning that it actually works to break down muscles. This breakdown happens due to the fact that it reduces protein synthesis and prevents tissue growth. This breakdown generally begins occurring after about one hour of continuous exercise.

Total Workouts under an Hour:

So, the first thing that we can do to limit the buildup of Cortisol during exercise is to limit the time that we exercise. Try to keep the total workout to under an hour. Obviously, this limit might not be possible every time or for everyone, but the longer you go, the more of a problem Cortisol will become. An alternative to this shortening would be to take supplements during the workout that help to naturally raise or at least maintain testosterone levels such as D-Aspartic Acid, Horny Goat Weed, Tribulus Terrestris, or even Boron.

Limit the Cardio:

Although cardio time should be counted in the hour for the limit on workouts, it deserves special mention. The problem is that cardiovascular training causes the body to release Cortisol much faster than weight training. So, limit the time on the bike or treadmill. One option is to do your cardiovascular work on days that you do not lift weights.

Good Nutritional Habits:

The best way to eat in terms of Cortisol release is to consume more small meals throughout the day. In other words, take the same amount of food, but instead of having three relatively large meals, eat 5 or 6 smaller meals. Breakfast and the meal immediately following the workout are the most important. Also, make sure everything is balanced, since a good combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat has been shown to help control Cortisol levels the best.


For the entire Bodybuilding.com article, click here.

Compound Lifts versus Isolation Lifts

compound lifts

A long-standing debate in the world of weight lifting and exercise is between what types of weight-lifting exercises to use. The two choices are generally broken into either compound lifts or isolation lifts. Each of these has pros and cons to consider before making a final decision. Another thing to consider is what type of training you are going to be using as well as the reason for training. For example, someone who is training for football will have different concerns than a competitive body builder. Either way, do not neglect your preworkout nutrition, as it is important for any serious weight lifter.

What are Compound Lifts?

Compound lifts are those which use multiple joints in an effort to work several different muscles or muscle groups at the same time. The best example of such an exercise is the squat. This seemingly simple movement is really anything but. It can be felt in the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, lower back, and even your core.

What are Isolation Lifts?

Isolation lifts are those which work only one muscle or muscle groups at a time along with only one joint. A great example of an isolation movement would be the biceps curl. Curling a single dumbell or performing this movement on a machine will really only work the biceps and its tie-in or connecting muscles.

Why Use Compound Lifts?

There are a lot of great reasons to use compound lifts. Since they work more of the body it usually means more calories burned and simulates real-world movements and activities. It also serves to improve things like coordination, reaction time, balance, joint stability, and it decreases the risk of injury. Additionally, it keeps your heart rate up and offers cardiovascular benefits. Plus, you will be able to lift more weight and train harder.

Why Use Isolation Lifts?

The best reason to use isolation lifts is to correct muscular imbalances or weaknesses. This imbalance is often created by injury, so isolation lifts can help you to recover. In many cases after an injury the hurt muscle needs to be retrained and isolation movements can really do this retraining much more effectively. Many people also use these types of movements when wanting to focus on a particular muscle or muscle group. For example, a bodybuilder getting ready for a contest might feel that their biceps are a little small in relation to their shoulders, so they spend some time doing curls and maybe even chin-ups.

Conclusion—Which is Best:

In general, compound lifts should be used much more often. These are going to be the bread-and-butter or foundation of your training routine. They will help to build more muscle, strength, power, and provide a good base to build upon. Isolation lifts can be used from time to time, but they should be seen more as finishing pieces.