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Fat Loss And The ATM Approach to Cortisol Management

“Damn Kiwi! What’s going on man?” Toby exclaimed, with a pointed look at the new roll on my midsection.

 

Sitting beside his Arizona pool in our board shorts, I could tell that Toby, a long term friend and prominent strength coach, was remembering the last time he had met me, when my abs had been visible while sitting. He was now looking at my rather different belly, obviously thinking I had gone the pasta and pastries route to altering my body composition.

 

“It is not what you think mate” I said, “my diet compliance has been spot on.” To directly illustrate my point, I looked over to my girlfriend sitting in the sun by the pool, looking even leaner (and even more scrumptious I might add) than the last time Toby had met her, and conspicuously lacking the belly fat I had recently accumulated.

 

Pointing to her I said to Toby “Our diets have been identical in content, and compliant the whole way. It is just that I have been burning the candle at both ends, and now I am paying the price.”

 

“Ahhhh” Toby responded, understanding….. “cortisol”.

 

Yes Toby had figured it out. Cortisol. Or more to the point, chronically elevated cortisol.

 

———

 

IF you are not losing fat as fast as you would like or you have some pesky abdominal fat that just won’t go away…… and you eat according to my food for fat loss guidelines….. but your fat loss efforts have stalled, or even worse, reversed a little…..

 

OR you are looking to maximize muscle gain, and you are eating right and all day, but it just ain’t happening….

 

OR you just want to look amazing naked and live as long, healthily and as happily full of energy as you can…. your diet is on the money…. but you are feeling considerably less than “superhuman”

 

Then this blog post is for you.

 

 

Chronically Elevated Cortisol, And Why You Should Care

 

Lets talk some numbers as they relate to my recent experience with chronically elevated cortisol levels.

 

Eleven weeks of sleeping only three to four hours a night due to an over active stressed-out brain and work load  (aka, stress).

 

Nineteen pounds of pure, wobbly, fat, most of it placed directly on the mid section (see photo)

 

Ten percent body fat increase (from 8% to 18% bodyfat)

 

100% Diet Compliance

Chris the Kiwi with Super Coach Eric Cressey, taken two weekends ago
Chris the Kiwi with Super Coach Eric Cressey, taken two weekends ago

 

 

Note the general puffiness I have and the roll starting to push out through my shirt around the middle, then compare that waist to the picture in the BIO link at the top of this blog – hello chronically elevated cortisol

 

 

Wowsers!

 

That last item should scare you the most. The fact that this could happen while I was following a compliant diet sure scared me.

 

I like to think very good at what I do (helping people get lean, happy, and healthy), with some nearly full proof measures to get lean fast, stay lean, and do so without any real duress.

 

Note: We have readers who have lost 60 lbs of fat in three months while never exercising due to injury following the food for fat loss guidelines – not bad at all…..though I recommend adding in exercise to speed things along as well as for its health benefits, but I digress… –

 

Yet I am the fattest have been in the last three years (since I was sick), with almost all of it around the middle, see the pic.

 

The reason, and there is only one reason, chronically elevated CORTISOL levels.

 

Waking up bleary eyed, puffy faced and with a fatty middle has finally started to piss me me off, and since I am SURE there are plenty of you who have cortisol severely limiting your body composition progress (be it less fat or more muscle), not to mention health, and since most people just have no freaken idea what the hell is going on, or what to do about, this post is dedicated to cortisol reduction.

 

Cortisol Background – Some brief science to get you started

 

Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands. Most famous for being released as part of our flight or fight response (hence described as the “stress” hormone), cortisol is a vital hormone and has import well beyond just the fight or flight response.

 

Cortisol has important impacts on the following, to name a few:

 

Proper glucose metabolism

Metabolism of protein, fats and carbohydrates

Inflammatory response

Regulation of blood pressure

Regulation of cardiovascular function

 

Cortisol gets bashed a bit unfairly in my opinion. We need cortisol. It also acts as a potent anti inflammatory and really kicks off the healing process post workout or injury. It is also a natural part of the system. Healthy people have slightly elevated cortisol levels on waking, generally termed the Cortisol Awakening Response, or CAR, and these levels slowly decline during the day, dropping to a low in the evening. This is thought to be a process that evolved to allow us to get up and go on waking.

 

These relatively low levels of cortisol that move from higher to lower during the day are the human norm.

 

In terms of fight or flight (what I like to call the “go baby go!” response) when under pronounced stress we have a near instant and ACUTE spike in cortisol levels that causes several stress related responses, including immediate release of fats and glucose into the system, along with spikes in blood pressure and heart rate, providing us with readily available fuel to a system that is primed to, well, go for it.

 

This same acute cortisol spike can also allow us to breakdown muscle protein to blood glucose for fuel (through gluconeogenesis), can give us a brief spike in concentration and awareness and generally assists us to get out of trouble.

 

Win or die in a fight, eat or go hungry when closing in on a hunt, make it or not in a natural disaster – the type of stress we have evolved to deal with over the millennia is the short (admittedly frequently violent) kind. We are extremely well developed from a physiological stand point to deal with this short term, very intermittent type of stressor, which comes with ACUTE elevations in cortisol levels.

 

Once the fight or flight part was over with (assuming we survived), we went on with our slower paced lives and generally allowed our cortisol levels to normalize again.

 

We are evolved to deal with this, and this response was in fact, designed to help us. The problem is NOT cortisol, nor is it even elevated cortisol.

 

The problem kicks in when we have chronic (long term) elevated cortisol levels, for which we are absolutely NOT designed. Some typical symptoms of chronically elevated cortisol levels:

 

Low energy

Fat around the mid section

Tend to have trouble falling asleep and sleep poorly

Waking up to pee

Suppressed testosterone levels (cortisol and testosterone compete for the same resources)

Difficulty retaining or increasing muscle mass

Flagging libido

Stalled progress in athletic performance

Black shadows under the eyes

Poor skin quality (cortisol effects collagen)

Generally not feeling superhuman

Frequent upper respiratory tract infections

The “I need coffee” syndrome

And…very sluggish feelings in the morning, frequently waking up feeling more tired than when you went to sleep

 

This last is caused by a reverse of our normal diurnal cortisol rhythm, so instead of having a nice Cortisol Awakening Response in the morning, we start the day beaten up with low cortisol levels (and very little get up and go) then get elevated cortisol levels later at night, leaving us unable to sleep and the cause of the so called “tired and wired” effect that leads to poor sleep and you guessed it, chronically elevated cortisol levels – talk about a viscous cycle)

 

If you have one or more of the above symptoms, then chances are very high you are suffering from chronically elevated cortisol levels.

 

To those chasing fat loss, or muscle gain, note that elevated cortisol levels generate the production of blood glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. In this process, cortisol induced signaling leads to your body breaking down your precious fat-burning muscle, and using it to create glucose, for fuel. (Don’t worry, we are going to cover this more in later posts.)

 

To make matters worse, cortisol blunts insulin sensitivity, making you more insulin resistant just as your body is squirting glucose into your system.

 

In other words, you could be living by the Food for Fat Loss dietary guidelines, and walking around with blood glucose and insulin levels of a pre-diabetic tubby walking out of an all you can eat pasta joint.

 

This process prompts visceral fat accumulation, which can be deadly, as well as the famous belly fat we all love to look at in the mirror.

 

The short version, good bye any hopes of fat loss…… and……

 

HELLO FAT ROLL.

 

Yep, chronically elevated cortisol levels are horrid, but in and of themselves, THIS IS NOT THE PROBLEM.

 

Too many people get focused on what is ultimately a symptom. If that sounds like the big pharma approach to medicine to you, well, I digress….

 

I get a bit pissed off when I see famous authors and coaches advising people of the perils of chronically elevated cortisol levels, then trying to sell you on their version of magic pills, that are designed to once again (maybe) fix a SYMPTOM, without looking at the root cause.

 

The root cause of the problem is not chronically elevated cortisol, but what causes those chronically elevated cortisol levels in the first place.

 

The number one root cause of chronically elevated cortisol, the part we have to fix first and foremost, are the stressors of our “modern” lifestyle.

 

Or put another way mate, the lifestyle habits and choices of that person staring back at us in the mirror.

 

You and me both.

 

Most of us understand what it feels like to suddenly have a fight or flight moment. The big problems arise for us when our lifestyle choices generate low level but ongoing stressors that consistently elevate cortisol for extended periods of time.

 

I don’t want to get into too much science in this post, nor do I want to go into a big spiel about modern living, choices we make, or answers to the “Yes, But” statements that are sure to follow. That will come later.

 

Instead, I am sleep deprived and cranky. I don’t like having a fat roll around my middle, so I am going to come straight out with some easy steps to get this puppy sorted.

 

It starts with lifestyle. My lifestyle. Your lifestyle.

 

 

Here are 8 Tips to Turn Around Your Cortisol Levels, And regain the path to “ripped-ness.” I like to call it…..

 

 

The Kiwi’s ATM Approach to Cortisol Management. 

 


What is it going to be today mate, a deposit, or another withdrawal?

 

 

I like this way of looking at managing the lifestyle elements of cortisol since most of us understand two very simple ideas as they relate to our bank accounts and an ATM….

 

IF you make more in withdrawals than you make in deposits, it does not take long for that account to be EMPTY.

 

IF you want to want to grow your “bank” account, you need to make to focus on making deposits as often as you can, and limit withdrawals as much as possible.

 

The exact same thinking applies to chronically elevated cortisol levels, except in this case, we are talking about making another demand on our adrenals or adding another stressor as our withdrawals, vs reducing demands on our adrenals and decreasing our stressors as deposits.

 

If you keep asking that ATM for a withdrawal – pretty soon you will be paying the Pied Piper in terms of chronically elevated cortisol levels.

 

Simple right?

 

I thought so, let’s play. Here is a basic, non-exhaustive chart showing some of the most common occurrences where we have a simple lifestyle CHOICE of whether we make another withdrawal on our health/cortisol ATM, or make a deposit.

 

If you believe you are suffering from chronically elevated cortisol levels, or if you want to change your health or body composition in a favorable direction, then all I want you to do is go down the column on the left and swap the WITHDRAWAL you are currently making for a DEPOSIT.

 

If you do this, really do this, then in no time at all, you won’t recognize how much better you look, feel, and perform.

 

I put some foot notes at the bottom which should help you out.

 

ATM Approach to Cortisol Management
ATM Approach to Cortisol Management

 

A couple of notes for you about this chart.

 

1. This is not exhaustive

2. The first three are NON-negotiable. Sleep quantity and sleep quantity are BOTH important.

3. If you are a shift-worker or a new parent, I feel for you. Just do the best you can and apply as many as you can.

4. If you are NOT suffering from chronically elevated cortisol levels, then the comments on Intermittent Fasting and very short weights workouts do not apply.

5. Endurance exercise dramatically elevates cortisol levels. Unless you are in love with a sport associated with intense endurance exercise, skip it. If you are trying to get leaner, put on muscle mass, or reduce cortisol levels… skip it completely.

6. Coffee and caffeine – being a coffee lover, and a realist, I wouldn’t dream of telling you to give this up cold turkey. But be realistic, caffeine intake is NOT helping your fat loss if you have even the tiniest of cortisol issues. Try and limit number of coffees per day, and keep cycling it down, and keep all caffeine intake to before 12pm, or if in doubt, 9 hours before you go to bed. Taking caffeine to “keep going” or stay alert, is a direct withdrawal. Listen to your body and take a nap, even 10-20 minutes has powerful health and fat loss benefits.

7. The sun – there are a lot of posts coming up on the sun. Suffice to say that whether you look at it from vitamin d levels, neurotransmitter activity, or simply the feeling of well-being and relaxation we get from sun exposure, go get some, all will help reduce cortisol levels

8. Alcohol suppresses testosterone and causes a spike in cortisol levels. Keep to 3/4 or LESS of a glass of wine only

9. Underfeeding, or going long periods of time without eating, are stressors. They are not massive stressors and if you don’t have any cortisol issues, go for it. If you do (or suspect you do) have cortisol issues, AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE until you are running on all cylinders.

10. Chasing relaxation (and avoiding things that directly stress you) are going to be key to lowering your total cortisol levels.

 

You will note that I said NOTHING here about DIET!!

 

I have written this assuming that as a reader of mine, you are following a clean eating regimen, preferably a form of my Food for Fat Loss guidelines.

 

IF you are not eating completely cleanly, YOU ARE DREAMING. I suggest you either get on the clean eating program, or forget about it and go enjoy your fat roll.

 

Food is first for a reason, with sleep and cortisol management only fractionally behind in terms of importance in my opinion.

 

You will note that in this post I also did not cover your job, your relationships, choices of where we live, what we do each day, what we buy, or even how some of us decide to live our lives from a possession-is-wealth mentally. In other words, the many other choices we make that directly impact our lifestyle, our stress levels, and our happiness.

 

We can save all of that for later.

 

In the immediate future, I CHALLENGE you to aggressively go after as many of these “withdrawals” as you can, replace with “deposits” and then look me in the eye in a month and tell me you don’t look, feel, and perform like a whole new person.

 

A happier person.

 

“100% Focus on Happiness”

 

That is my mantra, and it starts with phenomenal health.

 

Best,

 

Chris “the Kiwi”

 

If you liked this post, please click “LIKE” below. Thank you.

 

ps. I left out ice baths, surfing, and yes, the very important healthy sex life, all of which would definitely be in my top 10 for cortisol management (and happiness!).

That said, what three things relax you the most? I would love to hear those and any other thoughts, questions, or comments, in the comments section below….. cheers!

 

 

 

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About the author
Chris 'The Kiwi'
So named because he comes from a little country in the Pacific called New Zealand where a small, fat, quasi-blind, and largely defenseless bird by the name of “Kiwi” is the national animal, and what we are called when we land in other countries. He is focused on using what he can remember from his studies for a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and his cumulative years as a nutritionist and strength coach to help other people enjoy amazing levels of health and energy. He enjoys ticking through his list of life goals and meeting new people.
  • James Doe

    Hi, i just want to share my experience with everyone. I have being hearing about this blank ATM card for a while and i never really paid any interest to it because of my doubts. Until one day i discovered a hacking guy called (OSCAR WHITE). he is really good at what he is doing. Back to the point, I inquired about The Blank ATM Card. If it works or even Exist.He told me Yes and that its a card programmed for random money withdraws without being noticed and can also be used for free online purchases of any kind. This was shocking and i still had my doubts. Then i gave it a try and asked for the card and agreed to their terms and conditions. Hoping and praying it was not a scam. One week later i received my card and tried with the closest ATM machine close to me, It worked like magic. I was able to withdraw up to $4500. This was unbelievable and the happiest day of my life. So far i have being able to withdraw up to $28000 without any stress of being caught. I don’t know why i am posting this here, i just felt this might help those of us in need of financial stability. blank Atm has really change my life. If you want to contact him, Here is the email address oscarwhitehackersworld@gmail.com And I believe he will also Change your Life….

  • Doug and Cathy Sly

    Chris, I have Addison’s Disease (Adrenal Insufficiency) and have an extremely hard time losing the fat roll. I am on so medications because of the adrenal glands not working that I have to be careful and not go into an adrenal crisis. What is your advise in working with this issue>

  • Rebecca

    Wow – Great Blog Chris! You described me to a tea! I’m looking forward to trying these things out, and I’ll let you know how it goes…

  • Bob Bales

    what are your thoughts about using a sleep aid like melatonin?

  • Russ Moores

    Chris. I guess spinning twice a week is out? it’s a 45 min class that burns between 900 – 1000 calories. Also, can I add resistant starch to my AG’s?

  • Rena

    Great info. At 65 I know I need to get more sleep. But I love working puzzles as a relaxation, as well as a good movie. Thank you. now I know where the roll that I didn’t have came from.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Rena

      You are welcome. I hope you go after it

      Cheers

      Kiwi

      Chris Ashenden

  • Holly

    I love your post, thank you. I know I have high cortisol levels and although some of this information I already knew, some is news to me. In particular, refraining from endurance training and intermittent fasting. I am a 36 year old female, 5’10 and 167lbs. I have been trying to lose 25 lbs since my last daughter was born 4 years ago. I eat only organic meals, juice almost daily, log my food, avoid most desserts and eat really clean. I take 2-4, 40 min spin classes per week, 1-3 Pilates and usually run 1 day per week at a slow pace for about 35 minutes up and down hills. I also will replace a Pilates class every week or so with a hot yoga class. I don’t sleep good at all, never have. I do drink 1-3 alcoholic beverages 4-5 times per week and run at full speed all the time! Can you please explain outside of terrible sleep and drinking alcohol, what I can do to help my regime and lose weight? I’m desperate!! Thank you so much!

  • Curt

    Golf used to stress me out beyond the bend… but now that I’m better at it, golf helps me relax and focus. Golf is also excellent physical exercise in the outdoor sunshine, and can be an excellent exercise in creative problem solving, and can be great as a way to socialize healthily. There’s always that next green or course calling out to my imagination, and there’s always looking forward to a future in which I’m a better player than I am today.

    Now if only poker provided excellent physical exercise, I’d be all set up…!

  • Toni M Baker

    Grammiefox from a year ago and Johnny from 11 days ago asked about chronic fatigue, and I don’t see a reply from you. I’ve been battling Chronic Fatgue syndrome for over 5 years; any experience you’ve seen with us improving, would be most encouraging to us. Everything
    You have laid out in this article I have learned on my journey, so it’s nice to see it all in one article! And a reminder to implement these all at once.
    Also, like you, I’ve been to a functional medicine dr, with IV treatments, tons of supplements, acupuncture etc etc. I improved a lot. Over the last year I’ve been doing BioSet and with that had a 6 mt window of feeling great again; normal most days. Only to crash again in September, struggling with severe fatigue and depression. Difficult to focus on the “happy” attitude one must have.
    Everything that I’ve been through and tried has been directed by Gods hand, and now I believe He has led me to you. I’m on the athletic greens, eating even cleaner than I was, etc etc. also, have decided to accept that I will have CFS probably the rest of my life, and the stress of finding a cure is relieved. I still believe however, that I can have a higher level of energy and a life again, since I have experienced that off and on. I hope your advice will help!

    • Wet10

      I am new to athletic greens & have not yet studied the eating guidelines so you may already being doing this….I suffered from CFS for years until I was diagnosed with Celiacs disease. Removing ALL gluten and staying well hydrated has been my key to reversing CFS PERMANENTLY…..for what its worth….

  • Johnny

    Hey Chris , I’m 29 yo male, from nyc…suffering from adrenal fatigue… Are you able to help?

  • Joel Raffaeli

    Thank u Chris!!!! I hav been reading ur emails since my first order of Athletic greens. I luv the product and still am using it and I enjoy knowing that it completes my diet..I am a Mma fighter and full time blue collar worker wit a 3-4 hr commute a day. I need this product. I had to cancel my further orders due to finances at this time but will jump right back on it at the beginning of new yr. Meanwhile I hope to enjoy ur emails

    • Anonymous

      Hey Joel!

      Thank you so much for your amazing comment mate. It is comments like this that make me love what I do.
      Much appreciated. And yes, more emails to come.

      Best

      C

      Chris Ashenden

  • coach alex

    I swear you’ve been monitoring my lifestyle for the past 20 years! I can NEVER sleep. I’ve just pushed it to the side and dealt with my day or night. I take Athletic greens, eat real well (including Probiotics and Krill), and in 6 weeks I’ve only lost a little of my fricking fat belly! Now I know it’s time to sign up for a sleep study and overcome this problem!!!!
    Cheers,
    AM

    • Anonymous

      Way to go mate!

      Hope you really get after it

      Best

      C

      Chris Ashenden

  • JV

    Can you elaborate more on the stuff regarding cardio? Would you consider 35 minutes on an elliptical at a moderate pace too much? If so, what do you recommend for cardio health instead?

  • Grammiefox

    My husband has adrenal fatigue. He’s been eating more the Gaps diet, but we aren’t seeing much improvement after 6 months or so. Gaps says to eat 80/20 veggies/protein …. opposite of what you say. I would love to hear your comments related to this. I know adrenal fatigue is a slow healing process.

  • Mike F.

    Wow! The simple steps covered much more aspects of health (sleep, sun exposure, physical fitness, etc) than I expected and were spot on for feeling well rested and full of energy. I try to do all of this things everyday and feel great! I especially liked the analogy with the bank account.
    One thing I find especially useful with sleep is to schedule more sleep than you know your body and soul needs to allow for the time it takes to fall asleep and to make sure you wake up on time with no alarm.
    Also, make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day drinking plenty of water, so you are not tempted to drink a bunch of water due to thirst right before bedtime. If you have to interupt your sleep in the middle of the night to use the restroom, this can be enough to leave you feeling sluggish in the moring.

  • Lots of Questions

    Could you explain why you feel a blacked out room is better than a sleeping mask. Is there some effect of light on your exposed skin? Or What? The reality of a fully blacked out room is nearly impossible for people who live in cities, have to get up to pee, or have a partner in the room who has to get up to pee. Plus I question the loss of benefit of waking up to natural sunlight. Please talk about this more. I have heard people say a red LED light is okay. I need to hear the reasoning for all of this.

  • taisner

    HI Chris,

    I love getting your articles! I am assuming the caffeine would include green tea and “Oolong” tea? I have just started drinking 2-3 cups a day since it is supposed to help with fat burning also?

    Thanks,

    Tatia ~

  • queline

    sorry dude, i think you have body dysmorphia….you are NOT bulging out of the middle and do not look puffy or fat……..

  • Chuck Rylant

    This information is incredibly informative!

    I have a question Chris, if you can spare a moment, re; the Met Con workouts. Do you mean the CrossFit style workouts such as 30 reps of cleans with 135 with no rest (just an example)? This is much different than endurance (which you mention in the notes) such as a 5k run.

    Are you suggesting that met con workouts are not a good idea, or just to minimize them? This concept is new to me. When I was training hard for MMA/Jiu Jitsu stuff, I started doing mostly met con because it’s so similar to a match/fight. Now I’m not so much into that stuff, but still do those type workouts.

    Can you please clarify your perspective of that style of workout and what frequency you think is good or bad?

    • Anonymous

      Hey Chuck,

      Thanks mate! Great to have you on here.

      Yes, that is exactly what I mean. A quick comment: I would NEVER do 30 BB cleans in a row apart from perhaps the very very rare occasion you feel like testing yourself.

      In terms of metcon or the newly coined term metabolic resistance training, it is just performing resistance exercise with longer periods of work and shorter periods of rest.

      If you are suffering from chronically elevated cortisol levels, and are not dealing with your sleep and recovery properly, then I am suggesting you back right away from metcon style sessions, and focus on strength for a period, to let your body really get back into a positive hormonal environment for health.

      Smashing yourself all the time especially when you are not recovering properly to begin with due to lifestyle/sleep is a pretty quick recipe for no progress (or going downhill).

      Changing to a strength focus for a period is almost ALWAYS a good idea.

      Focus on the deposits for a while, you will do great. Let me know if any other questions. I put together an entire workout string for an intermediate strength trainee suffering from chronically elevated cortisol levels. To have some fun, I did this using the 4 HB, but it should give you an idea. I think you will enjoy it.

      http://www.christhekiwi.com/hormesis-and-hormones-how-to-combine-happiness-chronically-elevated-cortisol-fat-loss-and-a-4-hour-body-inspired-one-week-intervention/

      • Alex

        Hey Chris,what do you think about deadlifting every day 3 sets of 2-3 reps away of failiure. Rest on saturday and sunday. I want to pack on some muscle on my upper body, but I have trouble with recovery when training with high reps. I don’t know how to train. Deadlifts are the best whole body workout but I am not sure if they can make my shoulders and arms bigger. What do you sugest? Thanks!

  • http://www.vitalityadvocate.com Vitality Advocate

    You are an inspiration Chris. Probably my favorite article you’ve written. Thanks!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks mate! Appreciate it.

  • Kay

    Chris,
    Thanks for the article. I haven’t slept well since I was a kid. Now I see why I’m having such a problem
    lately with the stomache fat.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Kay,

      The sleep very very important. I hope you stack it right up on the priorities list (sleep is also my health “nemesis”)

      C

  • http://www.facebook.com/MatteoMak Matt Makowski

    Good stuff Kiwi…however…I get way more sleep than I think I need …a good 8-9 hours (tho I confess I am now an old fart). I do still play inline hockey three times a week and find I really need that sleep on the nights I skate (it’s roller hockey). But I have a roll of maybe 10-15 lbs I would love to get off…mainly my belly and man boobs. ( I thought playing Survivor might take some of it off…LOL) But I am 71, tho a very fit 71. What else apart from sleep?

    • Anonymous

      Hey Matt,

      Don’t be afraid to go after the sleep – 9 to 10 hours a great target to aim for. Proud of you for your activity level. Now look to eating, I assume you have read my approach, the Food for Fat loss series here on this blog. ( christhekiwi.com/start-here/ if not!)

      Cheers, C

  • Blessedbe Beth

    Being a full time caregiver to my 90 year old mother who has just entered hospice – this is a timely article. My tummy has ballooned over the last few months despite active lifestyle. I have taken all the light sources out of the room at your suggestion and have not used an alarm for years. Will do the caffeine suggestions next. Love your approach and focus. Thanks for this, makes sooooo much sense. Off for a walk now. sleep tight.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Beth! Happy you are taking action, let me know how you get on.

      C

  • Zee

    Thank you Chris for such great information. I definitely need to change my sleeping habits and aim for deposits…I have been on the food for fat program for 2weeks now…it’s harder than I thought…getting tired of meat and vegetables and I am not the best cook so sometimes my meats don’t turn out as I hoped…any advice…I doubled up on my servings of atheletic greens and my bowel movement are now daily….thank you. Is kickboxing and Zumba considered endurance sports?

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Zee, glad to help.

      I have no problems with kick boxing, or with dancing of any sort. Go for it!

      Zumba can push into endurance though depending on how hard you go, so if you are wiped, i wouldn’t do it (go with another sort of dancing, like a salsa class or night of salsa dancing, which is fun). If you can keep a big happy smile on your face, you are good to go.

      C

      • Zee

        Thanks Chris

  • http://twitter.com/alicat1517 alicat1517

    Chris – Loved the article. Couple of questions: I am a runner (4 – 5 miles most mornings). I do love it! I find it relaxing, meditative, and that it gives me energy for the rest of my day. Will it hugely affect my cortisol if I continue? Also, found your facts on stimulants interesting. I am narcoleptic and take medication for this – stimulants are used (not caffeine). Do you have any experience with this? I have felt for years that this stimulant thing I am prescribed to take every morning is not too great for me, but they will strip me of a driver’s license if I cease treatment (for obvious reasons). I found your information on feeling tired in the mornings due to reverse process interesting, and am wondering if the medical community has my disorder (the cause of it) incorrect. Maybe it has to do with cortisol; maybe it has a fix that has nothing to do with harmful, annoying stimulants.

    Any thoughts or ideas would be welcome!!! Love the AG!!! Keep up the good work!

    • Anonymous

      Hey mate,

      All good questions. Remember the cortisol is related to people who are having issues with cortisol. The going to bed early and sleeping in dark rooms is non negotiable, but much of the rest really depends on how you are doing.
      Athletes train like crazy and if they control their recovery can continue to do so. The ATM list is designed so that people push towards less chronically elevated cortisol levels. As such, take the exercise prescriptions there with that in mind. (Ie if you are not losing a battle with your cortisol)
      Running – I am not a fan of distrance running for hormonal, muscular or joint health, but if you like it, it makes you happy, and you recover from it ok, go for it!
      Narcolepsy – this would appear to be very heavily auto-immune related, as such eat according to the Food for Fat Loss guidelines, (have carbs from fruit and tubers post workout if no bodyfat issues) but take the additional steps for AI of eliminating all nuts for a full month, and ditching the nightshade family of plants.
      Try that for 60 to 90 days, keep going on your meds in the meantime, and go after as many of the cortisol elements in that table as you can, and let’s revisit.
      Appreciate the comment!

      C

      http://www.christhekiwi.com

      • http://twitter.com/alicat1517 alicat1517

        Dude! I’m so excited that you actually responded to me, although you seem to be very good at responding to people. You are the best! I will try your suggestions, although I do love my nuts. Bummer! What is in nuts that caused you to suggest I rid myself of them for a period of time? Another issue… I am a lacto/ovo vegetarian. I have laid off the dairy for quite some time (aside from a little half & half in a cup of coffe and cottage cheese – Timothy Ferris says cc is okay to eat). I will try giving that up too, although that only leaves me with eggs for protein.

        Thanks again!

        • Anonymous

          Hey mate,

          Nuts:

          n6 (omega 6) load, which leads to inflammation, not feeling very good, and feeling…”puffy”
          lectin content – these are proteins in the nuts designed to help protect the nuts and can mess with your GI tract, more study needs to be done on this though i will add
          phytic acid content – can inhibit mineral absorption in the GI tract
          calorie dense and easy to over eat.

          For most folks, having a few nuts each day is a great idea. They are nutritious and yummy. For those with allergies and auto-immune disorders, it is advised to absolutely remove all nuts for a decent period to see if it assists with your symptoms.

          From a pure health perspective beyond that, the main issue with nuts is keeping the total daily n6 load low.

          Hope that helps!

          Unfortunately people with AI issues should also consider ditching eggs (specifically egg WHITES) for an extended period as well, before adding them back in. Sorry mate, I know your protein sources are limited, but with narcolepsy you really want to consider your whole health. I would try 30 – 60 days of no nuts, nighshades and def no dairy. IF you are up to it, try eating whatever other animal protein sources you can think of.

          C

  • Jocelyn123

    Is an hour “spin” class considered endurance exercise?

  • stargazerlily

    I like this article Chris, all great info. What about someone who has low cortisol levels though? I’m not talking about Addison’s disease, but my cortisol test revealed that my cortisol levels fall below normal, except my CAR…that is in the normal range, but it drops too low throughout the rest of the day. My doctor and I suspect that it may be due to years of elevated cortisol when I was very young, leading to adrenal fatigue. So I read and hear about all these ways to lower cortisol levels, but I’m unsure whether that will have a negative effect on me, or whether they will still help to balance. Any ideas?

    • Fighter8002

      Stargazerlilt…check out my post….we are in the same situation

    • Anonymous

      Hey mate,

      If you have some long term adrenal fatigue I would do the following:

      1. implement every thing on that ATM list that you can that you are currently not doing
      2. make sure you EAT a very protein dense meal within 30 minutes of waking (40-50 grams of protein) every day
      3. ditch all stimulants, absolutely all stimulants
      4. eat according to the Food for Fat Loss Guidelines on this post
      5. make sure your vitamin d status is absolutely looked after

      All of the lifestyle elements to help reduce chronically elevated cortisol levels will help someone who is adrenally messed up. I have been there, not much fun, but you will get better in time.

      Consider tracking down a good naturapath and playing with some herbals at larger therapeutic doses as well, but I would get EVERYTHING else sorted first.

      C

      • stargazerlily

        Thanks for the tips Chris. I am working with a top notch holistic MD right now to balance cortisol and deal with some other auto-immune issues, so must be cautious with herbs for now.

        What’s the best way to get 40-50g of protein for breakfast, in a healthy way? I usually eat free-range eggs, but that would be about 9 eggs!

        • Anonymous

          My favourite, by miles, is the amazing combo of a big steak, with two or three soft cooked eggs (poached or fried) dropped on top. The egg yolks go everywhere, tastes amazing. May feel strange for a day or two to eat a big steak in the am, but it is the ultimate breakfast! (I normally round out with a side of steamed spinach, when available.
          C

          http://www.christhekiwi.com

  • Fighter8002

    Very interesting article. Recently I dropped a small fortune to have saliva testing to measure cortisol levels. Interestingly my cortisol levels are very low throughout the entire day. My practitioner remarked I was a cortisol flat liner and was experiencing adrenal fatigue. Curiously nearly all the symptoms you relate also apply to me. I am eating very clean, trying to moderately exercise and getting appropriate rest. Although I have lost a small amount of weight it is going desperately slow and I am plagued with fatigue. I would be most pleased to read your comments regarding extremely low cortisol levels. Thank you kindly for reading this,

    • Anonymous

      Hey mate, I answered this above for Stargazerlily. Cheers, C

  • Bjmvh9

    Chris,
    Great article here – one question regarding the black out sleeping quarters. What’s your take on wearing a sleep mask if you can’t get a room blacked out?
    Thanks!

    • Nhanif09

      I was thinking the same thing.

      • Anonymous

        Hey guys, NOT as good as a fully black out room, but definitely better than nothing. I would consider the glass slightly higher than half full in this instance, and you definitely want even a half full glass ahead of an empty one. When I travel I use a black sleeping mask and ear plugs, religiously.

        Good question!

    • http://www.vitalityadvocate.com Vitality Advocate

      Try this mask… Mindfold by Alex Grey. Works absolutely amazing.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks mate! Will check it out!

  • Maggie

    I thought intermittent fasting was shown to be beneficial to fat loss. However, here I see it in the withdrawal column in your table. I am currently doing 2 24 hour intermittent fasts a week. Does this really elevate cortisol levels?

    • Anonymous

      Hey Maggie,

      For starters, I wouldn’t do the 24 hour fast, I would probably just go with 16-18 (less stress/downside, near identical upside, plus it is easier to get adequate calories and nutrition in). It is important to realize that many things are stressors, and short punctuated stressors (exercise anyone!) are where the action is at. Please see my comments on HORMESIS on this blog post here

      http://www.christhekiwi.com/hormesis-and-hormones-how-to-combine-happiness-chronically-elevated-cortisol-fat-loss-and-a-4-hour-body-inspired-one-week-intervention/

      Intermittent fasting should be considered a punctuated stressor. If your body is currently struggling with elevated cortisol levels then I would avoid it like the plague.

      IF (and only IF) you have all your ducks thoroughly in a row would I consider playing with intermittent fasting. That means:

      Food quality
      Food quantity (sufficient)
      Sun exposure and vitamin d status
      Sleep
      Rest and relaxation
      Intelligent exercise programming and volume
      Active recovery and stress management
      Community, socializing “fun times” and social activities

      If any of those are not up to par, skip the IF and come back and sort out the more important essentials first.

      If cortisol/stress/recovery an issue, skip the IF.

      If all of those sorted out and you are rocking, then consider playing with ONE day a week of IF, maybe two.

      If that works out for you, consider making it every day if it makes you happy.

      Intermittent Fasting will get its own post eventually. My take on it is that it works really really well for some people some of the time (especially if exercising very consistently and with great hormone status), and is a really really bad idea for others some of the time and for still others it should never be done, ever.

      Food quality first
      food quantity first
      sleep quality and quantity first
      get that cortisol under control

      then play with it!

      Hope that helps!

      C

  • http://www.castironfitness.co.uk/ Julian

    awesome article!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Julian!

  • TG

    Hi Chris,
    I have been tested w/ adrenal stress panel and moved through stage 2 to stage 3 adrenal exhasustion. So my overall coritisol sum is LOW on all readings. My hormones are way out of balance and I am trying to maintain a decent level of fitness with now just 2 workouts per week and light walking and yoga. I am en ex physique competitor and the over dieting and training got me here. What type of workouts on my 2 days are BEST for me? Shorter duration metabolic style sets or a slower paced, longer workout using heavier weights? Very confused as to which one taxes my adrenals more. Thank you for any insight!

    • Anonymous

      Hey TG,

      I would do NEITHER of the ones you mentioned.

      You have two choices:

      1. very short NEURALLY based strength workouts
      2. long slow ambles

      then once you are up to it, very SHORT metcon style workouts, starting with SPEED WALKS.

      I detailed an example of how you could do this (using just the 4 Hour Body for fun) on the blog here, you can read it at

      http://www.christhekiwi.com/hormesis-and-hormones-how-to-combine-happiness-chronically-elevated-cortisol-fat-loss-and-a-4-hour-body-inspired-one-week-intervention/

      Let me know how you get on. You may want to consider the following:

      eating a meal of 50grams or more of protein as soon as you wake up (this is quite hard to do, I recommend two or three eggs on top of a big piece of steak, but it works a treat)

      and taking 800mg of phosphatidyl serine post workout. AG has 400mg plus, so you just need to find another 400mg.

      Hope that helps!

  • Lisa Hugh

    This is great.
    Thank you for the mention to new parents. Babies are a joy, and a challenge.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Lisa!

      Congrats on the family too, love it :)

      C

  • Joshua Bowditch

    Hey Chris! Love the Greens and the guidance!

    One thing I am experimenting with is herbal teas high in adaptogens. Mainly: Ashwagandha, Ginseng, and Tulsi (Holy Basil). My goal is lower the cortisol levels in my body and also stress levels. Hopefully this will count as deposits into my ATM. All are caffeine free which means I can take them whenever.

    Been on the Kiwi Protocol for 12 days, also strength training. I’m looking forward to the results after 30 days!

    Keep up the good work!

    • Anonymous

      Great stuff Josh!

      Keep after it mate. Thank you for the comments, I appreciate it

      Cheers,

      Kiwi

  • Catherine

    Hi! Thanks for the article. I am printing this out and looking at it EVERY DAY!! I am naturally high strung and teach hour long weightlifting workout classes (Group Power / Body Pump) … and forget to play :-) I am also a certified coach for the Psychology of Eating and this article summarizes much of what we learn.

    But we learn … then forget to apply what we learn.

    I love how you created this simple chart. I would LOVE to hand this out to people in my classes if its ok (with your website and full credit of course).

    One thing I would like to add that you did not mention is the constant withdrawal we take from the “ATM” when we compare ourselves to others and stress out about our situation — whether that be physical, financial, relationships, etc. Its important to keep making deposits into our “bank account” by reinforcing 100% focus on happiness :-) It’s crucial to take a psychological vacation from telling ourselves we aren’t good enough and should practice gratitude when we start into judgement.

    Thanks for reading my 2cents.

    Love your stuff,
    Catherine from AZ

    • Anonymous

      Hey Catherine,

      Thanks mate, yes you may print out and take to your class, would love to you to spread the word, thank you.

      I agree :)

      Hope you have fun making more ATM deposits this week mate.

      C

  • Danyelcgimeno

    Awesome awesome info Chris…thank you. I’ve definitely been noticing a little spare tire around my middle the last couple of months, and I pride myself on maintaining an active and super healthy lifestyle. But one thing is for sure: I do not get enough and proper sleep! Funny thing is, my lack of sleep was the last thing I’d really focused on as being the root of the weight gain. I just kept assuming it would correct itself…

    • Anonymous

      Hey mate. Thank you. You and me both!! This post and the follow up one week intervention were written for exactly people like you in mind. Go after it mate! (and let me know how you get on!)

  • Chris

    Okay, here’s a “yes, but” for you. I find your post interesting and, as a personal trainer who also practiced 10 years as a mental health professional, am extremely interested in the effects of stress in our lives and how they can be ameliorated by the reduction of said stress. BUT… if cortisol is so strongly correlated with increased abdominal fat please explain why people who experience increased stress actually lose weight. If there was as clear a link as you suggest, then everyone who experiences a chronic increase in stress would get fat. This just isn’t the case.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Chris. Thanks for the comment. A common question.

      The data is actually going against you on this one, but lets cover off something else first.

      Firstly, please don’t confuse “weight” loss with “fat” loss.

      I am sure you are chasing improved body composition with your clients. Weight loss as a measure of progress is a poor indicator in all but the massively obese.

      Fat loss is a whole other story. Yes, stress can cause WEIGHT loss in SOME people, (usually only those few who find they feel less hungry when stressed) – but even for that population, what are they losing exactly? Muscle first, almost without exception, meaning even in those who experience weight loss under prolonged periods of stress it is never the FAT that comes off first. Stripping muscle while maintaining or even increasing fat mass is hardly an improvement in body composition. Most are simply losing muscle, and at the end of the road, those in this category will end up skinny fat. Yuck. (The catabolism of muscle for fuel is major function of cortisol).

      To the point, I disagree that increased stress leads itself to weight loss, with the exception of the population who find hunger turned off, and they are a minority, and they are losing muscle, not fat.

      What the data and my experience says: Stress has been shown to INCREASE risk of obesity and type two diabetes, both in adults and children. I also believe stress leads to increased body fat.

      Chronically elevated cortisol levels, with the corresponding increase in insulin resistance, has been shown to directly lead to increased visceral fat accumulation. Keeping diet and exercise the same, the fastest way to take someone with abs and put a little roll around the middle is to mess up their sleep and other lifestyle factors that contribute to chronically elevated cortisol levels. It can happen very quickly, even to those following a clean eating regime like i was for the example in this post.

      I have some reading I recommend for you, all of which will provide subsequent links for you to keep reading:

      http://www.ysonut.fr/pdf/Association-between-sleep-loss-and-increased-risk-obesity-diabetes-2008.pdf

      http://jap.physiology.org/content/99/5/2008.short

      http://www.ajcn.org/content/91/6/1550.short

      http://www.eje.org/content/159/suppl_1/S59.full

      http://www.eje.org/content/159/suppl_1/S59.full

      I strongly recommend you get your clients on board with aggressively going after lifestyle factors that are leading them to having chronically elevated cortisol levels. I promise you, they will lose FAT a lot faster this way.

      Kiwi

      • Nhanif09

        Great response to this question Chris!

  • JP

    Kiwi,

    Thanks for the post. Right in my wheelhouse. Trying to eat clean, but struggle. On it, though.
    My specs:
    6’2″
    252#
    Eat 4-6 small meals throughout the day(mostly good)
    Workout 5-6 days a week(3 cardio/3weights) Cardio-30 mins on elliptical. Weights-30 min max.
    Sleep less than 6 hours a night(work at 6am/up at 4:45am)
    Wondering if I go to bed at 9pm would help/now 10-11pm.
    I know I need to tighten up the diet, and I have always struggled sleeping 8 hours as well.
    Gonna do those, and would like to know more about your interval exercise.
    Might try to get my kids involved at get family time in a different way.
    Appreciate any help or a place to find answers,

    JP

    • Anonymous

      Hey JP,

      I am sorry mate, not sure how i missed this one. YES going to bed earlier will definitely HELP. Hope you go after that and the diet at the same time.

      Best,

      C

  • im a pal

    There is a problem viewing this on the iPad

  • Andrew Hassel

    Very awesome post Kiwi. I heart ice baths.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Andrew!

  • Reneembarrett

    Totally sounds like me, I am going to put the list on my bathroom mirror.

    • Anonymous

      Cheers mate. Make sure you implement them too. Let me know how you get on.

  • Rgrobljr

    You are great, thanks for all the wonderful information you give.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks mate!

  • Camilleajo

    Kudos to you, Chris “the Kiwi”!

    Knowing the benefits of allowing our bodies to recharge is knowledge that often comes only after our bodies finally respond by shutting down somehow. (ie. auto immune disease). Modern society seems bent upon channeling people to mindless, damaging, bad eating, sleeping, exercising which then leads to lethargy and high CORTISOL levels which brings us to all the things in your great list. My question is, how does one check cortisol levels besides noticing increased belly fat?

    • Anonymous

      Hey mate. Thank you. Beyond symptoms.. a simple blood test, while you are chatting to your doc, I would ask for an Adrenal Stress Index test as well. Let me know how you get on.

  • KMcG

    What’s up with surfing? I surf as often as I can being temporarily in Manhattan from CA. To me, that is an endurance sport. Why is the physical response so relaxing aprés surf?
    Working as a freelancer in entertainment for 17 years has taken its toll on me. I’m even considering changing careers to have a lower stress lifestyle. Of course, that factors out some of the most interesting stuff in life. I’d prefer not to give up my lifestyle but augment it however possible to make me more resilient (just turned 40). Even eating right and exercising more than adequately, I retain that little pudge on my belly and it is 100% elevated cortisol from chronic stress that is the culprit. I’ve got a 10 lb monkey on my belly! Great post.

    • Anonymous

      Hey mate. Few things relax me as much as going for a surf. In terms of endurance, it is only endurance for your upper back, unless you are spending your entire time trying to paddle out past the break, which is a whole other story. I put the relaxation down to a combo of sun, fun, air, exercise, cold, and water. What is not to like? Mate i hope you go after the cortisol management as aggressively as you ever went after a wave. Cheers for the comments!

  • Cortisol Junkie

    Thank you for this. My cortisol levels have been more than double the normal range which leads to significant frustration and utltimately failure with any eating / exercise plan. My doctor tells me the only thing I can do about it is try to get more sleep but my insulin response, etc. is being effected so it’s very unhealthy and I want to fix it (and thus it causes more stress).

    • Anonymous

      hey mate. INSULIN management sounds like it would be a very good idea for you. When I repost the Food for Fat Loss guidelines I would follow those to the letter plus the suggestions on this post and I think you will be a new feeling junkie.

  • Info

    very helpful. As a chronic sufferer I am looking forward to more info.

  • Ki

    The cortisol stuff was news to me – thanks for posting it.

    • Anonymous

      Cheers Ki

  • P Creel

    Great information which one can use towards improving their wellbeing.
    Thanks for the shared knowledge.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks mate!

  • Grandma To 2

    Chris ~ I read your note and in light of my present state, it seems idealistic! I’m curious about yr. opinion on this. . . I am 54 yr. old, menopausal, & overweight, with a very full work schedule with a self-owned business w/my husband. TIME for exercise is difficult to come by, but could be made to work if I worked at it harder. I have recently had a saliva test done because I am VERY tired after waking, struggle through my work day, and by evening when it is bedtime I feel SO much more alert and able to focus – the saliva test shows my cortisol level extremely low in a.m. and very high in p.m. – exactly the opposite of “normal.” They have had me on an adrenal stress preparation for over a year, which has changed NOTHING. I am taking the Athletic Greens for a couple of months now – but curious what your take would be on the situation. Can the whacked up cortisol levels be changed, or is that just ME, and my own personal circadium cycle?

    • Anonymous

      Hey Grandma to 2. No it is not just YOU, and it can absolutely be changed. What you are expressing is VERY common for people with chronically elevated cortisol levels. EXTREMELY common in CEOs and company founders, and compounded by your menopause. Dont’ sweat, I think you can go after this by making it a priority to get your lifestyle/sleep and diet completely compliant with a health approach. Then adding some smart exercise early in the day will definitely help you. More to come on this

  • Olivia

    Thanks for posting this article. It was very informative!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Olivia. Glad you enjoyed it mate

  • Lentilchef

    As always mate, a magical post. Seems to hit home in several areas for me. I will get to sleeping and back to my sprinting!

    • Anonymous

      YES!!! Cheers mate. GREAT combo you speak about there, will be more on that to follow.

  • Meegan

    very interesting! It seem so difficult to get more then 6 hours sleep. I am going to give it a go!!!! Meegan

    • Anonymous

      Cheers Meegan. You can doooooooo it! :) hehe. you and me both mate. I really believe it is just a choice.

  • mguide

    This definitely sounds like something worth exploring. Two things that have the most noticeable relaxing effects for me are reading before bed and getting my mind off of work on the weekend.

    I usually take a long time to fall asleep – my mind will be all wound up and I might be rolling around in bed for an hour or more. Reading keeps me from thinking too much, and as soon as I can no longer focus on what I’m reading (currently Good Calories, Bad Calories), I know I’m ready to fall right asleep.

    Spending the whole work week in the same environment and deeply involved in my work… I get to a point where I feel like I’ve been there forever. Getting out (in the sun) just engaging in another type of activity gets me out of that mindset. Driving over the mountains to wine country or into the mountains to get a little nature are both incredibly effective for making me feel like a human being again.

    • Anonymous

      hey mguide. Thank you for sharing – i love your two approaches here. I read to unwind prior to bed as well, but typically fiction, as i find that reading good non fiction generally gets me thinking. Hope you are enjoying that book, it is a good one (though I enjoyed his new one better, if you find G Cal B Cal too heavy, consider Why We Get Fat). As for the weekend approach, when I am a good Kiwi I apply that approach each and every morning, even if just for a little bit of time. The results are outstanding. Cheers Kiwi.

  • http://about.me/etienne/bio etienne taylor

    Chris,

    Great piece.

    Once diet and sleep are in order (both hugely important as you point out) how you start the day matters allot.

    After the morning protein meal but before getting chained to my desk, getting morning sun in my eyes for +/- 20 minutes or so makes for an amazing start to the day. (I understand that it actually causes a cascade of hormone release, notably GH)

    When I do this I find I’m able to keep my coffee consumption down to only slightly unreasonable.

    Thanks as always,

    Etienne

    • Anonymous

      Hey Etienne, thanks for the comments mate. Great feedback, and yes I agree wholeheartedly on your approach… SO much better for you/us than the wake to caffeine model of modern quality living…..

  • GM

    This is amazing, I would love to know more about this

    • Anonymous

      Cheers GM

  • eigersmom

    Great information. Thanks!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks mate!

  • Christie

    Hi! I am brand new to your teachings. I love the chart and will be implementing this today, even on Halloween with all the craziness that goes on around the home with our little ones. Thank you for sharing this information and I look forward to reading more.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Chrisite. My teachings? I think you will come to think that you mean my mumblings? :) Great work on the immediate implementation!!! talk is cheap, doing is the key to everything, i like it. Let me know how you get on, plenty more to follow.

  • Brenda

    What relaxes me most? Playing in the ocean! I get the benefits of cold, mineral-rich water, massage and movement. It’s really fun!

    • Anonymous

      Hey Brenda. Love it.

  • Tedd

    I work out at 5:30am and before working out take Athletic Greens. Should I switch that to a Whey Protein Shake and take the Greens after working out. Please advise. Thanks, Ted

    • Anonymous

      Hey Tedd. Give it a go mate. There is plenty of good stuff that happens when we exercise (but not stupidly) on an empty stomach, but if cortisol is a major problem, experiment with protein (or even some BCAA’s) prior to the workout, and don’t go too nuts in your sessions.

  • Joe

    A very interesting perspective on managing diet with lifestyle…

    • Anonymous

      Cheers Joe. The two go together, hand in hand, when it comes to positive health or body composition changes.

  • http://twitter.com/finnious Scott Finney

    Thanks Kiwi, your emails/blog post are always a great way to start off the week.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Scott! More coming mate

  • Batia

    Great article, thanks for this information. I will make some changes.

    • Anonymous

      Cheers mate. The changes are what i am after, keep us posted

  • Pamela

    I really like the withdrawals and deposits chart. It’s clear and easy to understand.
    Thanks for sharing, Chris! Pamela

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Pamela. Confession: it took me nearly an hour to figure out how to get that chart out of excel and into this post. Cortisol took a hiding…… :)

  • Batcat1

    Great information! Thank You!

    • Anonymous

      Cheers mate!

  • Molly Kilfoyle

    Hey Chris, thanks for the info. I think you have it the nail on the head for me. I am in full menapause and do not sleep well at all. I fall asleep quickly but alway wake up around 3am and have trouble going back to sleep. I have a very stubborn roll around my middle that will not go away. I eat right and exercise. Love the Greens. Any suggestions? I do not want to go on sleeping pills like my doctor recomended. Really liked the whole ATM comparison.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Molly. A great question. And maybe one deserving of its own post later.

      I hope others who have gone through menopause and read this chime in with their experience, since i am not in that came.

      Kiwi two cents: I would really aggressively go after that entire list i put above. Stay right away from the sleeping pills. I get a feeling that many people who eat “right” – may not actually be doing so, so please ensure you are really getting your compliance in line. Once you have done that implement some smart exercise, done early in the day. From there I am ok with you playing with melatonin, since from everything I have ever seen, read, or experienced, our endogenous production of melatonin does not seem to be affected by exogenous melatonin intake. (ie it does not get “shut down” via a negative feedback loop the way, say, testosterone does). So for you, in order, food, the list in this post without exception, some smart exercise done early in the day, try and get outdoors in bright light early each day and also try and catch every sunset you can (there is some pretty interesting science on how the changes in light can affect our sleep patterns) then add in some melatonin and see if that doesn’t help keep you asleep for a bit longer. Let me know how you get on, and note, I am NOT a doctor, so the melatonin goes past your doc first please.

  • Jill Seymour

    Thanks for this Chris!
    Your article had me nodding right along as you described me to a T!

    I am a distance runner, and am definitely in love with the sport so will not be giving it up anytime soon. I’d love to hear you expand on your thoughts/the evidence about endurance exercise and cortisol levels, including possible ways to improve the situation.

    Thanks again!

  • Jill Seymour

    Thanks for this Chris. You have described me to a ‘T’ and I really enjoyed reading this article. My only qualm in the ‘withdrawal/deposit’ section is the point about endurance exercise. I am a distance runner and am not likely to give it up any time soon. You did address it a bit later on, but I wonder if you could talk more about endurance exercise and cortisol levels in a later post?

    • Anonymous

      Hey Jill. Thank you. Yes, we can go over the endurance lover’s “dilema” in a later post. In the interim, how about halving your volume until you are no longer a “T” in that above chart?

  • Noles67

    Some great information but suprisingly most is common sense. Thanks for the reaffirmation

    • Anonymous

      Cheers mate. And I hate to admit it, but most of the good stuff is..

  • Mdaniellew1

    My husband and I both do shift work (he’s second shift and I’m third shift/overnight) and I’ve noticed that the cortisol overdose is definitely getting to both of us… in addition to the “fat and happy” early marriage stage. I’m definitely going to try to make some of the suggested changes to increase our “deposits”. Thanks for the info!

    • Anonymous

      Cheers mate. Let me know how you get on. Shift work a killer

  • Jeanni Russ

    I love your simple, but complex reward and common sense. I’m going to print and laminate and keep as a reminder. I am a chronic abuser of many of the things you mentioned above. thank you for your honesty and the accountability. Always look forward to reading your emails.

    Worlds of help as always.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks mate. Really appreciate the feedback. Let me know how you get on (and how feel) after you have taken action on the chronic abuser items. I can pretty much promise you a seriously cool outcome if you go after this aggressively.

  • MsDuctTape

    Please post more about addressing this issue! Thanks for the information.

    • Anonymous

      Done. Cheers. Kiwi

  • Pam

    Not the best news for a coffee lover! guess it is time to embrace quality over quantity! Savoring of one really good coffee. Thank You for another great post!

    • Anonymous

      Pam, i hear you mate! I am definitely a lover of espresso. Unfortunately, espresso/coffee in quantity or late in the day doesn’t seem to love us back the quite the same, so you and me both on the quality over quantity standpoint. Let me know how you get on with this one!

  • Mike

    You have made me really look at a lot of issues in my life; mainly my sleep. I have very erratic sleep; causing me to average 5 – 6 hours if I’m lucky! Wake up to pee, think about stress related issues, and so on. The list is a really great guide to say the least. I have been told more then once that it appeared that I was retaining some cortisol around my abdominal area. Thanks very much for all of the valuable info. I hope this gets addressed further!

    • Anonymous

      Hey Mike. Great feedback mate, thank you. You sound like me mate, so i challenge you (and me) to apply every applicable change up in that table, in conjunction with a 100% clean diet, for a full 30 days. I am game if you are.

  • oaklandmom

    Thanks. Good stuff. More than 8 hours of sleep and having time for exercise (and getting the kids to school on time . . .) hmmmm

    • Anonymous

      I sense some shorter, more effective workouts could be in order.

  • Tropezar

    Great information. I like to see something that isn’t straight to a pill. Your deposit and withdrawal info is very practical – liked it a lot.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Tropezar. Let me know how you get on implementing it.

  • http://www.sustainabilityschools.com Sustainability Schools

    Great stuff, the actionable data in your Withdrawl > Deposit is particularly helpful!

    • Anonymous

      Cheers mate

  • Jerry carter

    I enjoyed your artical and vote for more informational on combating cortisol.

    Jerry, Chicago, IL.

    • Anonymous

      Hahaha! Thanks. Done.

  • http://www.robertlabonne.com Rob

    Meditation, a 10-20 minute nap, and a walk on a beautiful day are what relax me the most. I’ve been slacking in the fitness department for the past few months with this new business I’m running. I’m planning a big overhaul of my fitness and eating regimen starting next monday.

    • Anonymous

      Nice Rob. Great stuff. What are you doing specifically for the meditation?

  • Beachbratcat

    This is exactly me. There are only so many hours in the day – and I have them ALL filled!! As I cannot change a great portion of my life right now, how about some help in blocking, or reversing, the over abundant cortisol? Great information – thanks.

  • Ponderquest

    Excellent article, Chris. Would you consider age to be a factor?

    • Anonymous

      In cortisol? yes absolutely. the stupid things we do cumulatively all add up. :)

  • Beachbratcat

    Here I am! And the more I worry about it, the worst it gets. The question is, what can I do (or take) to help reverse this trend. I can make a few modifications but cannot change most of my life’s stressors right now. There are only so many hours in the day and I have them ALL filled! Help!!

    • Anonymous

      Hey mate. I strongly suggest you and i both UNfill some of those hours and focus more on quality of life……. Choices. :)

  • Formariemaxwell

    Fabulous share and the chart swapping is powerfully effective. Thanks Chris. You are doing a great job. Now, how were your withdrawal and deposits today. Hopefully you are chilling it out a bit.

    • Anonymous

      Hahaha. Thanks mate. This last week has been crazy, but I have done well, thank you for asking! Hope you are doing great.

  • Guest

    Thanks, Chris, I think this is part of the puzzle of why it has been so difficult to lose weight (54-year old post-menopausal female – NOT an easy combination!) and am going to have to think about what you said about endurance … I’ve been told the only way to do it is an hour of cardio a day. Since I have a monster job and two teen daughters, the hour of cardio has NOT been happening … and neither has the sleep or stress-reducing activities … but the cortisol levels sure are high. Your approach may be doable. Thanks!!

    • Brenda

      I’ve been in your shoes. Finally, I realized that I needed help and hired a personal trainer. I work out twice per week at a physical therapy office and have kept it up for the past 2 years. This has been transformative and much less stressful and more effective than running 1 hour each day. I also get up an extra 20 minutes early each morning and go for a relaxing walk outdoors, regardless of the weather. This walk is not about getting a workout, it is about letting my mind wander and is very meditative. The combination of these two activities seems to work wonders for me. It really helps to have a coach!

      • Anonymous

        Excellent input Brenda. I like it!

    • Anonymous

      hey mate. I would skip on that advice, and go with something more or less exactly like Brenda chimed in with below. Short strength workouts, short intense interval sessions (but not to death), and then plenty of walking and ambling around.

  • Jenlynn68

    Good reminders… working on eating clean myself. Seems to me that the two do go together, if you have cortisol issues, it’s harder to make good choices with eating and it becomes a vicious cycle.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks. Yes they definitely do. Cortisol causes a direct release of glucose into the blood from the liver, and all that implies as it relates to cravings, energy highs and lows, and staying the path in terms of diet compliance.

  • Jessie

    Awesome post, I’m doing many bad things on this list, not sleeping at least 8 hours daily being the worst one, as I haven’t done this in years. I also try to cram too much in my day right before I go to bed, as that’s when I feel I have the most energy. I need to schedule my day so as to be productive and at the same time not burn myself out. Thanks!!!

    • Anonymous

      Hey Jessie, You have hit it on the mark. A VERY common symptom of elevated cortisol levels is feeling pretty drained all day then suddenly coming to life in the evening. have to break the cycle hard and really work on zoning out prior to bed and getting into a better sleep/wake refreshed pattern. Let me know how you get on

  • Marilyn

    Unfortunately your blog won’t come up on my iPad.

    • Anonymous

      Sorry Marilyn, I passed this to our dev guys.

  • Lvm

    no matter how minutes I choose to relax in the sun, the first half of minutes is relaxing. The second half is almost always spent thinking I should be back to work and what I will do as soon as I hit my desk.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Lvm. How about halving those sessions then :)

  • palindrome

    Wondering does fish oil supplementation matter with cortisol levels?

    • Anonymous

      Hey Palindrome, i haven’t read science on this particular angle but i would think it would help, inflammation is a mother of a stressor.

  • Clea

    Hi Chris,

    where can I find your fat loss guidelines?

    Thanks.

    • Anonymous

      hey Clea, I am going to be posting un updated version in the near future.

  • Raj

    Time to go to sleep — without the alarm.

    • Anonymous

      Good stuff Raj

  • Ramer

    I’ve suspected for some time now that I was suffering from chronic elevated cortisol & experiencing nearly all of the symptoms associated with it (your list). I have never been able to quite put it all together to figure out the best course of action to reverse this problem; I thought I would just have to learn to live with it. Your advice is extremely helpful to me & it all makes perfect sense now, both common sense & scientifically speaking. I have been doing many things to correct the problem, such as meditation, sun exposure, walks, clean eating, no alarm, but now I think incorporating your other suggestions into my daily regimen (especially the type of exercise recommendations) will finally get me on the right track to much better overall health. Very much appreciated.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Ramer. Great comments. Let me know how you get on with the deposits.

  • CD

    Thanks for some great information! Definitely something to factor in…..looking forward to the sequel post on this subject!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks CD. I’m thinking hard on how best to approach that one, since there is no “one size fits all”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=515834927 David Yakobovitch

    I love this post Chris! A great re-focusing on many of the core principles directed in Four Hour Body as well as new material for the cortisol approach. You’re absolutely right! For relaxation, I practice yoga, take epsom salt/baking soda baths, and read books. The baths can work wonders for resetting your sleep schedule and balancing your magnesium levels as well as detoxing your body. Reading before you go to bed on books? Exactly, limiting the un-natural light intake. And yoga for clarity of mind. 3 ways to build a healthier lifestyle.

    • Anonymous

      Hey David. Thanks mate. Excellent choices for the unwind, thank you for sharing!

  • Litratcher

    Glad you’re back, Chris–it’s nice to know you’re human. Now that tri season is over, it’s time for me to recharge. Love this deposit/withdrawal analogy! Keep it coming.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks mate. And oh yes, I am very human. Good luck with the off season training mate, i hope you are working on injury proofing, and then getting stronger

  • Indiacarless

    Great post. Lots of good, helpful information.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks mate!

  • Kolby

    You mention shift workers…I work 12 hour shifts sitting in a building without windows, staring at a computer, 3 or 4 days/nights per week. There is no chance of napping, but I do have the opportunity to go to the gym during the day. Any suggestions on how to cope with this type of work (hell)?

    • Anonymous

      Hey Kolby. When you can, seriously consider a change of jobs (i say that seriously).

      In the interim, like all shift workers, you need to be very aggressive with your treatment of light and sleep. This one is a big one, and worth a full post. I worked shift work for nearly 3 years and it crushed me. That said, I ended up with some pretty cool tricks that towards the end were really helping, mainly based around light, sleep patterns, and when and how to exercise. Start by dialing back as many of the withdrawals above as you can, we will come back to this.

      • Kolby

        Thanks Chris. I might be free in 5 months! Back to normal.

  • Mike

    Thank you for this information. I think the sleep issue is the biggest one for me. I drink NO coffee and have a drink only two or three times a year. I know I tend to stay up way to late and often get so tired I cannt get to sleep. When I am home (Itravel for work sporadically) I walk to and from work every day – just over a mile each way.
    I will review your website to see what you describe as a clean diet. I think I do fairly well and I stay away from any kind of sugar and eat almopst nothing with additives sticking to unpackaged meals each night. Generally a veg, some protein (steak or chicken) and a half a patotoe. I do need to work on regular meals as I tend to skip both breakfast and lunch. So lets see if this helps – I am tired of the extra 50 pounds!

    • Anonymous

      Hey Mike. Good comment. I think getting the diet in compliance for a very solid stretch would be an outstandingly good idea. If cortisol an issue, and if you have difficulty sleeping it is very likely the case, get a breakfast in early. Having left overs from the dinner the night before is a very easy and effective way of doing this.

  • Guest

    Very interesting…It certainly explains my lack of losing (sadly gaining instead) belly fat :-(

    • Anonymous

      Hey mate. VERY VERY common. The lifestyle sleep angle is so important, that i rate it only fractionally behind diet in terms of health outcomes, and overall ahead of GASP exercise. Go after it aggressively.

  • danab78

    Great read!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks mate!

  • Dross

    Excellent post Chris! Glad to have you back! I need to definetly walk more.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Dross! Good to be back. You and me both mate, got out for a good 50 minute spell today, sun was out, air was crisp, was excellent.

  • Jamie

    Happy to see the new blog! As a parent of 4 kids under the age of 5, I’ll read about sleep quantity and quality… maybe I’ll actually get some in the next decade.

    • http://WhiteCollarMarketing.com Sarah

      Jamie, I feel for you. I had five kids close together. Look up “polyphasic sleep” and try getting 20 minute power naps full of REM sleep in addition to the several hours of core sleep you probably get at night. I learned this trick AFTER two years of sleep deprivation from the habits of my last child. Ugh. But it works well now. While it is perhaps less helpful than 9-10 hours of sleep, it’s much better than short nights only. Can you put the kids in their room/cribs safely for 20-30 min at least twice a day, and put a pillow over your head if you have to? (That’s something else I learned — I now prefer to fall asleep with a pillow over my exposed ear. Funny.)

      • Anonymous

        Great stuff Sarah, just the type of feedback and input I am hoping to generate here. Keep them coming mate

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Jamie! Great comments by Sarah below….. get what you can mate, even if you have to schedule it in pretty aggressively. And congrats on the family!

  • justin

    I dig using scents to trigger relaxation and awareness times along with herbal teas. Great relaxing non-synthetic essential oils like lavender, ylang ylang, and chamomile both as scents and teas.

    • Anonymous

      Good tip Justin. I like chamomile tea, will go check out ylang ylang, as have never heard of it

  • Rosco

    It was a long read, but the information was well laid out and informative~ Awesome stuff!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Rosco!

  • Joe

    Really great info. Thanks for taking the time to post this!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Joe! Appreciate it!

  • dianan

    Thanks for this post. Very interesting. Giving up endurance exercise is going to be a big challenge though…

    • Anonymous

      Hey Dianan. It is not necessarily for life. If cortisol levels are an issue, you really need to back down on the endurance side of things. Going forward, while I don’t think endurance exercise is particularly good for us at all, if you love it, and it makes you happy, go for it. Although I recommend shorter workouts for most endurance folks, almost all of whom completely overtrain….. but that conversation can occur AFTER you get your cortisol levels sorted out.

  • 16bce

    Great Stuff. Keep it coming.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks mate!

  • Randell Vest

    I’ve read about & have practiced intermittent fasting & it supposedly burns fat because it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system & therefore gives greater energy levels & burns fat, which is more similar to our ancestors’ lifestyles & our genetics… your blog above is conflicting of that viewpoint. I’d be interested in hearing why you think so… btw, love the athletic greens

    • Anonymous

      Hey Randell. A good question. IF has its place, and its moments. I will post up on this in the future. It is not, however, the be all and end all that some try to make it out as. If you are under duress and have stress or sleep issues, or have a heavy metabolic component to your performance goals, forget about it. Right time, right goals, right place, it is very useful however. We will come back to this one. Glad you love the Athletic Greens!

  • Kevin

    This seems valuable and informative. Not at all sure how “No alarm- sleep until your body is ready to wake up” will fly with my boss, however.

    • Anonymous

      Cheers Kevin. Simple solution there, since your boss doesn’t tell you when to go to bed, just set an alarm for bedtime and adhere to it. Won’t take long for your body to move over to the earlier bed time

  • Sheena

    Thank you for taking the time to make this post!

    Everything here makes a lot of sense. I haven’t been eating properly for the most part (just starting to eat a proper diet again), but even still, considering that I make more withdrawals than deposits and end up feeling too sluggish to take care of myself properly, it can be a rather negative spiral downwards.

    What I have been attempting to do to relax is to not bring as much work home with me. I’m a workaholic in the IT field, working for a career college that has been making a great many changes as of late. I’m learning more and more that I need to not be such an overbearing perfectionist, and ask for feedback on the projects I work on from some of the other IT staff. That no one expects me to shoulder the burden alone. Knowing this helps me loosen the grip on the reins, so to speak.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Sheena. Getting the lifestyle and sleep part sorted is just as important as diet, and more important than exercise in my opinion. Try to bring a balanced approach to the whole thing, and i think you will do great

  • http://blog.bradrourke.com Brad Rourke

    Chris, what an important blog post. Thank you for your brutal self-honesty, and sharing your solutions so freely. You’re a class act.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Brad. I appreciate it mate.

  • Lexi Dogon

    not sure about replacing my cardio for walking, hahah NOT happening! lol…but i have been doing too much high intensity met con style training… time to lower that and focus on the weights…definitely need to implement more sleep, no back lit screens, alarms, lights etc….

    • Anonymous

      Lexi, trust me on this one, if cortisol levels are a big issue, backing right off for a week or two will make you feel superhuman.

  • matt

    Awesome post

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Matt!

  • Laprimus

    What happens when you find out you are way too low in cortisol, eat well, exercise and are still chubby? Good info either way.

    • Anonymous

      First you go at least 30 days with 100% diet compliance. No grains/cereals, nothing processed, no dairy, no legumes, no “cheat days”, limit fruit. Basically eat dead animal and vegetables, and drink tea or water. Then if you don’t feel remarkable better run off to a decent doc for a battery of testing, starting with some adrenal testing, then thyroid, then look at viral panels.

      • Alex

        Hi Kiwi, I am new to your blog. For the past 3 days I have read all of it. I started the “Fat Loss And The ATM Approach to Cortisol Management”. Right now I feel a little dizzy, may be because I am still not running on ketones and my body is shifting trough the use of carbs or fat. Anyway, my question is how should I excersize. In your post you mentioned that for those with cortisol issues, we should train for pure strenght. But I aim for some muscle on my shoulders and arms, in other words I should train for the X body shape. What should I do? You have a lot said about cortisol and nutrition but very little for workouts.Thanks!

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