My program is about as perfect as it can be for a busy human.  Strict diet, consistent workouts, strength gains and then loses.  I lift as heavy as I can for the reps I intend to do and I use a stop watch to time the rest periods between sets.  I’ve set personal lifting records every week until three weeks ago when I started this cutting phase.  But I lost lean body mass since June – a lot of it.  So the analysis begins…

I’m researching the stress hormone cortisol.  I’m confident that this is a good starting place for the “What the f*** is going on?” analysis.

Cortisol is the hormone that triggers the “fight or flight” response.  I suppose it has a good purpose, but the negative effects of too much cortisol can be dangerous.  The two that I’m most concerned with are the catabolic effects (lose of muscle) and the inhibition of fat release.  Cortisol has been blamed for abdominal fat.

Cortisol levels are reduced with adequate rest.  I don’t get enough rest.  I work too much.  I don’t have much down time.  Ever.  I also feel stress response for hours after an event.  I can tell whatever hormones are released are not disappating.  I have the physical response to stress long after my emotional self has moved on.  Something can happen at 5 pm and I’ll be up most of the night.

Granted, research can be disputed, but what’s happening with my body is pretty clear.  It’s not theoretical.

#1 The fasting morning cardios have been a big mistake for me.   I was told to do this to burn fat.  The rationale was that the fat loss would be greater if there were no carbs in my system to use for energy.  However this is misguided thinking because exercising on an empty stomach first thing in the morning has been shown to actually intensify cortisol’s effects thus resulting in further muscle loss, and consequently metabolic resistance to body fat loss.”

I was taking two BCAA pills before and after each morning cardio to protect the muscles.  It must not have worked.  Awesome.  I’ve been doing those cardios for…two months.  That’s enough time to burn some hard earned quad muscle.  And I’ve been too jammed for time to properly work the abs and calves with all this cardio.  Double awesome.

#2  Coffee raises cortisol levels by as much as 30%.  I was off coffee most of the summer and started drinking it again in August.  Teaching without coffee is just a miserable thing to do.

OK.  Cortisol reduction…

1) No more fasting cardio workouts.
2) Eat first thing in the morning.
3) No coffee.
4) Learn some breathing techniques I can do fast whenever I feel the stress spike coming on.
5) Keep the massages consistent.
6) Go back and look at everything I’m doing and look for other things that could be increasing cortisol levels.
7) Look for a nutritional way to combat cortisol.  Food or supplement.

Cortisol linked to stress, and my stress has been linked to being worried about my program for months.  I got a some fast advice from someone who doesn’t even know me.  People I trust said she was smarter than everyone else, so I took it.  Dumb, dumb, DUMB.  I’ve learned.  I will ALWAYS research something before I do it.  Some things she suggested were right on, but these two things were harmful.  A year ago, when I was fat middle-aged woman, it was OK to do what everyone else did to burn fat and build a little muscle.  Cookie cutter, probably.  But cookie cutter isn’t cutting it anymore.  I don’t care if Arnold himself shows up in the gym to give me advice.  I’ll research first.  Twice now I’ve followed directions blindly and that was a mistake.  I’ve lost months of progress.

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