Im trying to understand how belly fat relates to cortisol. I have been doing paleo for about 10 days now in an effort to feel better and look better. My mood seems to be getting slightly better but no progress so far on the spare tire. Are there certain things that help more than others when looking to burn off fat?
The relationship between cortisol and (belly) fat is this: When the human being encounters a sudden stressful situation (some danger, for example), body will release cortisol. It's effect is, that the glucose from the liver will be released into the bloodstream - since the hormonal mechanism "expect", that to handle the stressful situation, one needs a quick supply of additional energy, for example for sprinting away from the danger.
But this mechanism doesn't work that great under constant, chronic stress. Cortisol will be released to the body => glucose (sugar) will be release to the bloodstream, BUT, the additional energy is not spent, since there wasn't any imminent danger requiring a lot of energy to burn. As a consequence, insulin will be released to store the surplus glucose as a fat.
For this reason, paleo lifestyle suggest several different means intended to prevent one from being in stress, since stress promotes weight-gain and is also unhealthy (when it is chronic). I suggest to read The Paleo Solution or The Primal Blueprint book for more detailed description.
Cortisol is okay in acute stress situations like sprints when all else like sleep and food are in order. But, when lifestyle stress compounds with dietary and exercise stresses this causes chronic cortisol elevation.
Some cortisol is beneficial. Actually our bodies are made to be "anti-fragile" as Nassim Taleb says. This means we thrive on sporadic, acute stresses. But when stress is constant and is not mitigated in some other way, the body responds by stopping digestion, fertility, fat burning and a host of other reproductive and repair processes. When this happens, a signal is sent to the body to store and retain fat in order to survive the stress. Many cortisol receptors are in the visceral area - the inner abdominal area, which is the most dangerous area to store fat.
I don't know if this is the kind of information you were looking for. I think this cartoon sums it up nicely!
My limited understanding is that optimal mean cortisol, under most conditions, would be low-normal, from both a "leanness" a general health perspective...
Ten days is a very short period of time in which to see noticeable body composition changes...
The best form of exercise for body comp is weight training, done correctly. A good site:
Here is some information about fat loss. Sleep is critical in reducing cortisol.
Cortisol plays a major role in our stress response. Just google allostatic load and you can get a good overview of how our bodies are effected by chronic stresses (stress can be physical, chemical, and emotional).
Have you read Mark Sisson's book? (Primal Blueprint) Or anything by Jack Kruse (see his blog http://jackkruse.com/jacks-blog/)?
Cut your carb intake. 50 to 100 grams per day.
Move slowly 3 to 5 hours per week.
Strength train 2 to 3 times per week (3 to 20 minutes)
Sprint every 7 to 10 days (< 10 minutes).
Cortisol and low-carbs 7 Answers
How can I diagnose/treat adrenal fatigue? 10 Answers
Can someone help me? 3 Answers