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How Cortisol Can Affect Muscle Building Gains

Updated on October 13, 2011

Having too much cortisol can be bad for building and maintaining muscle. Cortisol is important for keeping the body healthy, however, too much of it can be unhealthy, especially for gaining muscle. Cortisol is responsible for keeping your blood pressure normal, immune system healthy, proper glucose metabolism, and other essential body maintenance functions. When there are high levels of cortisol present in the body, it will be difficult to gain muscle, and in some cases, you can lose muscle mass. Cortisol is caused by having too much stress in your life. This includes physical and emotional stress.

You need to be in an anabolic state to build muscle. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone. Being in a catabolic state is not good because this is when your body uses your muscle as energy. You need to keep your cortisol levels normal, otherwise, your body will go into a catabolic state where it will break down your muscle.

What causes excess cortisol levels in the body?

  • Over training - spending too much time in the gym or training the same muscle groups every day
  • Too much stress at work
  • Lack of Sleep
  • Poor Diet (not enough fats, carbs, protein, calories)
  • Family problems such as arguments, disputes etc.
  • Relationship issues
  • Getting sick
  • General Stress (too much) Worrying about exams, homework overload, too much stress at school/college etc.

Muscle Building Tip: Keep Cortisol Levels Normal

While some cortisol is needed for essential body maintenance functions, too much can severely affect gaining muscle, and can even result in losing muscle and strength. You need to keep your body in an anabolic state to build muscle. If there is too much stress in your life, then you may have excess cortisol in your body. Cortisol levels need to be lowered so your body stays out of a catabolic state, which is something you do not want when trying to build muscle.

Evaluate how much stress is in your life. Once you can get rid of some stress, your cortisol levels should go back to healthy levels. If your girlfriend is causing you way too much stress, dump her! If your job is causing you a lot of stress, get a new one, or solve the problem to alleviate stress. Find out what is stressing you out and solve the problem(s).

Keep in mind, though, some minor stress is normal, but too much is unhealthy. Excess cortisol can actually cause heart disease and various other health problems if you have it for a long time.

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