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5 Ways Stress Can Impact Your Training Results

For many of us, hitting the gym to relieve stress, blow off steam and boost those feel-good endorphins is a self-care no-brainer. Increased energy, improved health, and mobility, as well as overall wellness, are just a few of the well-known benefits of physical activity… but what happens when you're too stressed even to set foot in the gym? What happens to your progress when stress levels are getting in the way of quality rest and recovery? Our stress levels can peak to a point where our fitness is no longer at the top of our priorities. Still, will losing one of the most effective stress management tools really help you through those stressful periods? Keep reading to find out more.

When working towards those personal body goals, allocating time for physical activity like regular gym sessions, outdoor walks, or group classes is a proactive way to set yourself up to reach your goals. But how regularly is time allocated towards stress management and rest during increased mental and physical fatigue? Let's take a further look into what can happen to your training results when you aren't taking the time your body needs to manage stress.

1. Stress Increases Muscle Tension

When experiencing mental stress, our bodies tend to go into fight or flight mode, which often increases muscle tension. Unfortunately, feeling 'tense' while training increases the risk of injury due to how stress impacts motor control, movement coordination, and the nervous system. This can slow down the recovery speed for muscle tissue, resulting in longer recovery times.

Muscle tension without injury is uncomfortable, but add an injury and longer recovery times to the mix, and you'll find yourself a little further away from your goals and likely a little unhappy about it. If you're feeling a little stiff, manage muscle tension with a quality warm-up and cool down before and after training and take extra care in preparing for your training sessions.

2. Stress Causes You to Fatigue Easier

It's known that stress makes us more tired, less vigilant and decreases energy levels significantly over prolonged periods of stress. It's even harder to put in your best efforts during your training sessions when you start your workout with a half-empty tank. 

Stress and fatigue play a considerable role in the quality of your performance not only during training sessions but outside of the gym as well. Fatigue contributes to feeling distracted quickly, insufficient concentration levels, memory deficiencies, slower reaction times, and you may find you're making a few more mistakes than usual as well. Fatigue can also significantly increase the risk of injury, which may compromise your recovery and hinder your body goal progress. You can only run on low fuel until your tank is empty... So, top up your energy stores with nutritious food, quality sleep, and if needed, throw in an extra rest day or two to ensure when you are back on your feet again, you can give it everything you've got!

3. Stress can Interfere with Quality Sleep

When it comes to performance, we know that nutrition and physical conditioning play a massive role in achieving training results... But did you know quality sleep is just as important? The lack of or poor quality sleep can significantly affect concentration, reaction times, metabolism functioning, immunity, focus, and motivation, to name a few, and, again, increase the risk of sustaining an injury. 

Shorter periods of sleep can impede your body's recovery as you have less time to repair and regenerate new cells before it's put under stress again during training. Quality sleep can enhance recovery rate, decrease the production of brain chemicals associated with stress, and naturally increase growth hormone levels, so there is no denying sleep is an absolute must for your body composition goals. Research indicates that 7-8 hours of quality sleep is recommended for optimal regeneration and 8-9 hours for those who train with high intensity. Prioritising your sleep is prioritising your results and body goals!

4. Stress can Interfere with Weight Loss

Research suggests there's a strong link between weight gain and stress. From heightened cortisol levels (stress hormone), emotional eating, lack of sleep, and other not-so-healthy stress-induced behaviours, stress may have consequential impacts on your weight maintenance or weight loss goals.

Let's talk about cortisol. During peak times of stress, your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol, resulting in the release of the primary energy source, glucose, into the bloodstream. Also known as a fight or flight response, this is your body's natural way of supporting you through a stressful or risky situation. Your blood sugar spike will drop once the adrenaline wears off, and this is when the cortisol kicks in to refuel your energy supply quickly.

What is the first thing you reach for when you're feeling stressed out? Let us take a guess... something sugary? Your body thinks it needs sugar because it supplies the body with quick energy; however, during stressful periods, in particular, excessive sugar consumption can trigger your body to store sugar as fat instead of burning it for fuel. This is where the vicious and unhealthy cycle of increased stress, elevated cortisol, stress eating, and weight gain begins.

Reaching for healthier comfort foods during periods of stress will healthily support your body and stress and aid with your weight loss goals.

5. Stress Can Slow Down Recovery Rates

There are many factors to consider when it comes to recovering from a challenging sweat sesh. Genetics, immunity, age, and nutrition, for example; however, mental and emotional stress can also limit how well your muscles recover from a workout while also increasing the risk of injury. There's no way to get around it really, mental and emotional stress can cause physical stress by compromising your physiology and sabotaging your workouts. Stress slows down your body's adaptation and ability to recover from training sessions, whether you can physically feel it at the time or not. Periods of increased or chronic stress are cause for additional recovery times. Listen to your body and avoid heavy compound exercises if you're finding it challenging to navigate through periods of stress. By altering your training style during these times, you are less likely to sustain an injury, and you're giving your muscles the opportunity for more optimal recovery!

While we know working out can help manage stress, it can also contribute to additional stress when injured. Listening to your body is essential, especially during those times of increased stress and fatigue. Chasing results when you aren't feeling your best may send you a few steps back instead of keeping you in line with achieving your goals. Taking care of your mental and physical health during challenging times is, without a doubt, essential for your progress!

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