Even though cortisol is mostly known as the ‘bad guy’ among the hormones in the human body because of its link to increased blood sugar levels, this steroid hormone is essential to human life. Cortisol prepares the body to combat stress from illness, trauma, fright or infection by regulating blood sugar levels and immune responses.
In addition, this hormone is responsible for stimulating muscle catabolism by reducing protein synthesis, transforming protein into glucose and halting muscle growth, which means that it has the opposite effects compared to testosterone and growth hormone and it has to be controlled in order to optimize muscle growth. There are good times for higher cortisol levels, as it helps reduce inflammation, but there are also times when elevated cortisol is the last thing you want.
In general, cortisol levels are highest in the morning and they taper off throughout the day, but they also get raised during and after a strenuous workout. And in case of overtraining or severe mental stress, cortisol levels can remain elevated for a longer time, which can interfere with your muscle building efforts and hurt your gains. To avoid this, read the rest of this article to learn how to prevent and minimize the negative effects of this powerful hormone.
Fish oil for optimal muscle growth
Fish oil is your most powerful ally in reducing cortisol levels, burning fat and improving your health in general. Many studies have proven that fish oil supplementation significantly reduces cortisol levels by moderating the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and norepinephrine.
Recently, a group of Italian researchers from the Universita Politecnica delle Marche published a study in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research which claims that a modest dose of one gram of fish oil per day can reduce cortisol levels and lower stress and anxiety. For the study, they recruited 31 alcoholic (when alcoholics stop drinking, their cortisol levels rise) and divided them into two groups: the first was given placebo and the second were given a 1.000 mg capsule of fish oil containing 252 mg DHA and 60 mg EPA every day for 21 days. By monitoring the cortisol concentration in the subjects’ saliva, the researchers were able to discover that by the end of the study, the fish oil group had significantly lower cortisol levels, compared to the subjects in the placebo group who didn’t experience any change in cortisol production.
In addition, fish oil supplementation reduced the feelings of stress that the subjects reported at the beginning of the study. Although many biological processes in alcoholics differ from those found in healthy men, the cortisol-reducing effects of fish oil apply for both groups, as proved by many consequent studies.
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These findings suggest that fish oil supplementation can be used to reduce cortisol levels in athletes, allowing them to make the most of their training efforts. That being said, the best time to take it is at dinner or before you go to sleep so that during the next day your cortisol levels remain tamed and unable to harm muscle protein synthesis. So buy your fish oil capsules today and start making bigger gains!