What and Why is the Cortisol Curve So Important?
Updated: Feb 26
Are you experiencing high amounts of energy at night while dragging in the morning?
If so, you might be suffering from a stress hormone imbalance called the "Cortisol Curve."
Cortisol, also known as our "fight or flight" hormone that gets released during times of stress, should be at it's highest in the morning with a steady decrease throughout the day-visualize a roller coaster.
This decrease in cortisol production in the evening hours is why we SHOULD experience fatigue the closer we get to bedtime. This helps lead us into a high quality sleep rhythm that helps restore physiological functions. When that "curve" is reversed like so many people experience when "their minds race at night" or get woken up several times every night, this can eventually lead to continuous hormonal and other physiological breakdowns since our main source of recovery (sleep) becomes sacrificed.
HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?!
3 words...poor stress management! Whenever we get stressed or feel anxious, our body releases cortisol as a way to combat the stress. If we don't take time for ourselves frequently and take actionable steps to decrease daily stressors, our adrenal glands can break down and once again, lead to serious health problems. Take walks throughout the day, listen to calming music, exercise, journal, meditate and pray, get a massage, do daily or weekly actions that bring you back down.
HOW DO WE CORRECT THIS?!
Besides taking time for ourselves to destress, other strategies consist of nutritional timing and reducing high-intensity forms of exercise.
As stated in previous articles, exercise is a stressor, a good stressor, but still a stressor. When we exercise, our body releases cortisol to keep up with the physical demands exercise causes. When we perform high-intensity routines such as Crossfit, Insanity, Orange Theory, etc., our adrenal glands get even more pressed to release the flight or fight hormone. This is when taking "deload weeks" and/or changing up your fitness routine to something less intense can actually become more beneficial for your health in the long run.
When it comes to nutritional timing and the benefits it provides for reversing the cortisol curve; thanks to carbohydrates and their role in releasing insulin, insulin is the "shut off valve" for cortisol. If you think you might be experiencing this, a good strategy is to slowly INCREASE carbs throughout the day. Now, before anyone says anything, NO-EATING CARBS AT NIGHT DOES NOT LEAD TO WEIGHT GAIN! Focusing on having a small number of carbs in the morning and then having the bulk of your carb intake towards the later part of the day, especially 2-3 hours before bed can help cut off that cortisol response and allow you the chance to finally relax and to get a good nights sleep.
You may have to perform these strategies for a considerable amount of time since this hormonal imbalance didn't happen overnight so consistency is key! If you have any questions about hormonal health, please contact us today.
"Coach Taz" aka Taylor Rodriguez is the owner and head coach of Taz Fitness & Nutrition. He is a Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach located in Deltona, FL that coaches individuals online and in person. Taylor was a former partying pro wrestler turned fitness enthusiast after the economic downturn of 2008-2010. After losing almost 70 lbs, his new passion is to help struggling individuals find new confidence within themselves to achieve any goal that they see possible. To begin coaching with Taylor or to request a free consultation, contact us today.
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