Stress is an inevitable part of life. We are under a constant barrage of deadlines, errands, family emergencies, and everyday life minutiae.
While normal and expected, too much stress can impact us on many levels. One such example is how stress can hinder our fat loss efforts. The impact is two-fold because stress affects our hormones and decision-making.
So, let’s discuss how stress impacts us and go over five ways to stay on track despite that.
How Stress Impacts Decision-Making And Fat Loss
Stress is interesting. On the one hand, stress is beneficial because it kicks us into action, allowing us to deal with threats, maintain a clear head, meet deadlines, and more. After all, stress is one physiological response that’s allowed our ancestors to survive tough times.
But stress isn’t all good because it can have severe adverse effects on the body and mind. For example, stress impacts frontal lobe activity, which means that it affects decision-making, emotional health, planning, and much more.
Fat loss is largely about making good choices, which is why chronic stress presents issues. Feeling stressed can shift a person’s thoughts from being goal-oriented to seeking instant gratification. Instead of working toward a goal and handling discomfort, we forsake our objectives and instead look for a way to feel good.
Five Ways To Stay On Track (Even Under Chronic Stress)
1. Maintain a Calorie Deficit
Maintaining a calorie deficit is essential for fat loss, regardless of stress. Placing yourself in an energy deficit forces your body to break down fat and lean tissues, so it can get the remaining energy it needs to function.
You might choose to use a smaller deficit of 200 to 350 calories if you’re under more stress because eating fewer calories itself is a form of stress for the body. You might also decide to have more frequent re-feed days or full diet breaks for every five to six weeks of being in a deficit.
2. Consume Plenty of Protein
Eating enough protein is also essential for optimal fat loss, post-workout recovery, and muscle retention. Guidelines suggest consuming around 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. But you can bump the intake to about a gram per pound. If you weigh 180 pounds, eat 180 grams of protein.
Great foods include:
- Cottage cheese
Supplementing with protein powder can also help you reach your daily goals.
3. Train Consistently
Aside from staying on track with our nutrition, training consistently will play a considerable role in our fat loss success. For one, training burns calories, which helps create a calorie deficit for fat loss. Second, resistance training produces a strong stimulus, which allows us to maintain our muscle mass during energy restriction.
The best part is that you don’t have to do a ton of training to stay on track. As little as three resistance training sessions per week should be more than enough for you to hold onto your muscle and possibly improve your performance. You can also include a bit of cardio into the equation.
4. Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress is essential because it provides you with actionable data and keeps you accountable and motivated to keep pushing forward. Keeping track of your progress is even more critical when under more stress because elevated cortisol can lead to water retention, which often masks weight loss on the scale.
Using tactics like progress photos and circumference measurements can help you keep better track of your fat loss, even if you’re not losing any weight. For example, if your visual appearance improves, you know you’re on the right track. Similarly, if your upper arm, thigh, and chest measurements go down, that’s also a sign that you’re getting leaner.
5. Sleep As Best As You Can
Getting adequate sleep is one of the best ways to manage stress and improve your well-being. In contrast, sleep deprivation further contributes to stress, leads to poor decision-making, and makes us feel guilty and frustrated. Plus, research suggests that good sleep allows us to burn fat more effectively and hold onto our muscle tissue better during fat loss.
Experts recommend sleeping for seven hours per night, but you might even shoot for eight when you can.