How Stress Affects Your Metabolism

Let’s face it, we’re all going through a very stressful and unpredictable time at the moment. With the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s possible and completely normal to be experiencing heightened stress levels.

However, stress itself has been shown to cause a number of negative effects on your body – specifically your metabolism as well as your immune system. If you think these are two separate issues, you might be surprised to find out that your immune cell function and your metabolism are closely related. Therefore, to give your body everything it needs to combat a virus attack, it’s important that we understand just how stress affects your metabolism. 

Addressing Your Adrenal Glands: Even without the added stress of a pandemic, we live in a culture where doing more is always seen as the better route. We’re programmed to be “go-getters” and power our way through any hardship. Which is why it’s not particularly surprising that when we’re faced with stress and exhaustion, we’re not very good at taking care of ourselves and giving our body the necessary break that it needs to recharge.

When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands release a chemical called cortisol, which has the primary function of raising your blood sugar levels. In an immediate response, your pancreas kicks in to release extra insulin into your bloodstream resulting in a sudden crash in your blood sugar levels. This is why it’s common to crave simple carbohydrates and sugars during a stressful time – hence the term “comfort food.” As you may have already guessed, these types of foods only make you feel better for a minimal amount of time, after which your body goes through yet another energy crash, prompting the whole cycle all over again. 

The problem is, since we’re not taking the necessary measures to reduce the original cause of stress, many of us end up getting stuck in this cycle, which inevitably leads to a complete depletion of your adrenal glands. Because they are also the primary source of your metabolism, this is essentially the equivalent of driving a car on empty for an extended amount of time. Not only does your metabolism crash, but along with it, your immune system. 

Sleep and Caffeine: The most effective way to recharge your adrenal glands is by getting plenty of sleep and rest. But because of our “do more” mentality, we’re much more likely to reach for a caffeine boost to temporarily raise our energy. Since caffeine has – what’s referred to as – a half-life, it can stay and accumulate in your body for hours and hours after consumption. This, in turn, leads to a disruption of your sleep patterns. A lack of sleep is no small issue, and puts an even greater strain on your adrenals. 

Exercise: While exercise is extremely important and a great way to release stress, there should be a balance between work out days and rest days depending on the intensity of your workout regimen – especially if your adrenals are overstressed and running on empty. If you’ve on a stringent workout regiment without any rest days programmed in, it might be adding to your exhaustion and further depleting your body’s energy supply. This is why people with drained adrenals and chronic sleep deprivation may not experience the desired results they are expecting from exercise. In these cases, it’s extremely important to do less and let your body rest. 

Whether we like to admit it or not, our bodies have a limited amount of energy. The last thing you want at a time like this is to undermine your body’s natural ability to fight off diseases and germs. That is why it’s especially important to tend to your adrenal system by:


  • Prioritizing exercise.
  • Getting a quality 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • Drinking plenty of water.
  • Getting in your daily amount of fruits and veggies. 

And don’t forget to REST! It may seem counterintuitive in our society, but making time to decompress and do less is essential to your wellbeing. This will not only reset and boost your body’s metabolism, but also your immune system, which work in close congruence. Why not take advantage of the downtime forced on us by social distancing requirements and address your body’s underlying needs? The benefits you’ll experience will likely carry over well past the outbreak, and give you newfound energy reserves you may not have known existed! 

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