Even though exercise is one of the best ways to improve your ability to deal with stress, exercise itself is stressful. Or at least it should be. That’s the paradox.
There are many different health benefits to all sorts of exercise and movement.
But to enjoy the cardio-protective effects of exercise, or to build muscle and improve your metabolism, you’ve got to push your body to perform close to its limits. Then your body will adapt by building more muscle, strengthening the heart, and releasing beneficial hormones.
In other words, you have to undergo bodily stress in order to reap the rewards of exercise. If your exercise protocol never gets your heart pumping to high levels, or never challenges your muscles near to their failure point, you’re just not getting all of the benefits of working out.
Whenever you experience stress, your adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is your friend. But too much cortisol is your enemy. When your body releases cortisol, it diverts energy away from repairing injured tissues and rebuilding muscle. Persistently high levels of circulating cortisol will keep you mired in a chemical state of activation and a neurological posture of hyper-vigilance, never allowing you to take a physiological break to repair and rebuild.
Athletes who over-train or who don’t allow enough rest between workouts risk this scenario. Overtraining will cause your performance to suffer, and ultimately lead to injury, burnout, and poor training results. Even if you’re not exercising much, you’ve still got to be alert to this risk. The same negative cortisol response can occur in sedentary people who suddenly get over-zealous in their quest to get in shape.
There will never be a substitute for recuperation, sleep, and good nutrition for those who want to improve their exercise capacity. Varying the types of exercise you do helps too.
But, in addition, there’s a nutrition supplement that helps.
Research shows that the supplement phosphatidylserine, a natural constituent of the cell membrane, reduces post-exercise cortisol. That allows you to work out harder, recover more quickly, and make more rapid athletic gains. It’s even been shown to improve your golf game.
Here’s a link to the underlying research: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1997116
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