If you’ve been going crazy with the protein supplements in the pursuit of gaining more muscle mass, you may actually be hindering your efforts at making any gains. A recent study has shown that eating too much protein does not only alter the secretion of satiety hormones and the way our metabolism burns fat and blood sugar, but leads to elevated cortisol levels as well.
Eating Too Much Protein Increases Cortisol Levels
Cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” or the “death hormone” (you’ll understand why it’s called that shortly) is a hormone secreted by your adrenal gland in your kidney as a natural response to stress. In the short term, it increases focus, your immune system, dulls pain and increases glucose levels in the blood. After about half an hour though, any benefits wear off, leaving you with the adverse effects of an increased catabolic metabolism (which leads to skin, muscle and bone degeneration) as well as an increased tolerance to insulin.
The study concluded that people who eat high levels of protein (more than 30 grams per meal) had lower testosterone and estrogen as well as higher cortisone levels than those who ate less protein with more carbohydrates. Lower testosterone leads to reduced gains in muscle mass, and cortisone leads to degeneration of muscle mass, making protein an ironic double edged sword of weight gain for those whom are ingesting too much.
However, there are a few ways to help combat this. In addition to keeping your protein intake moderate (a good way to find out your minimum protein requirement is to multiply your weight by .37), incorporating high quality proteins found in plants and using anxiety reducing therapy are good ways to keep your testosterone and estrogen up and your cortisol down.
Eating protein-rich seeds like Quinoa and Buckwheat may lack the carnitine and zinc that meat carries, but the level of protein itself is better, leaving you less prone to spikes in cortisol. Also, anxiety therapy like meditation and self-hypnosis can teach you to rewrite your subconscious into handling stress better, thus reducing your secretion of cortisol as well as your body fat level.
So next time you’re waiting in line at GNC with a 5 lb bottle of protein powder, remember that sometimes less is more.
About the author: This was a guest post by Charlie Swahili