How Do Cortisol and Stress Affect Weight Loss?

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Have you ever wondered how Cortisol and Stress Affect Weight Loss? 

Do you live your life feeling stressed to the max all the time? 

Feeling tired but wired? Dealing with fat gain in your face and stomach? 

Just generally not feeling your best? 

Today’s blog is all about explaining the relationship between Cortisol, Stress, and Weight Loss. AND as a bonus we’ll go over how to reduce stress.

Here is exactly what we’ll be covering:

1) What is Cortisol and What Does it Do?

2) Symptoms of High Cortisol

3) Can you Lose Weight With High Cortisol?

4) Why Reduce Stress Levels?

5) How to Lower Stress Levels

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What is Cortisol and What Does it Do?

“Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone that your adrenal glands produce and release.”

And your adrenal glands sit right on top of your kidneys. Two very small, but very important parts of your body.

As for the definition- I pulled it straight from the Cleveland Clinic website. 

Before I tell you what Cortisol does, I want to just say that so many things in the health and fitness world are talked about in all or none terms. It’s horribly unhelpful. 

One example of this is the discussion around cortisol. People are so worried about high cholesterol, they forget to look at just how important cholesterol is and how having very low cholesterol is extremely dangerous. We don’t have time to dive into that one today.

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But the point remains. 

I do NOT want to demonize cortisol.

Cortisol plays such an important part of us living our happiest, healthiest, and best life. 

So while we don’t want cortisol levels that are too high, we also don’t want low cortisol levels either. Low cortisol is extremely dangerous and can be life threatening. 

Now, here are just a few of the things Cortisol does:

  • Helps with energy production
  • Maintains Blood Sugar Levels
  • Maintains Blood Pressure Levels
  • Reduces Inflammation
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What Are the Symptoms of High Cortisol

Before I tell you the symptoms of high cortisol, let me just say this isn’t medical advice. If you think you have an issue with your cortisol levels, go see your doctor. There are tests you can have done to track your cortisol levels throughout the day. 

I want to break this down into 2 stages. This is just how I’m choosing to explain it- it’s not some official medical model. 

Stage 1- The High

  • In the beginning, elevated cortisol levels can feel good
  • Your body is healthy and handling the stress like a champ
  • Because of the increased cortisol, you are more energized than normal
  • It’s your body’s way of helping you ward off the stress
  • So early on, there may not seem to be a problem
  • But when this goes on for too long…
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Stage 2- The Crash

  • Your body can start fighting back
  • Slowing your metabolism to conserve energy and nutrients
  • Leaving you feeling sluggish and unmotivated
  • Also elevated cortisol levels promote fat storage specifically in the face and stomach. So you might notice your face looking puffier and a disproportionate amount fat being stored in your stomach 
  • Prolonged elevated cortisol levels can also leads to muscle loss 

Past this point, I want to start using stress instead of high cortisol. Because the point of this post is NOT to diagnose you. It’s to help you see your body’s response to stress (increased cortisol) and why that is a good thing BUT also why we should work to reduce our stress moving forward. 

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Can You Lose Weight With High Stress?

Yes. But it’s going to be difficult to achieve, and even more difficult to maintain. 

How do you lose weight? By creating a calorie deficit. 

Some people want to deny this but they’re simply wrong. They want to say hormones are what matter. And they do. They matter a LOT!

BUT if you create a calorie deficit (eat less than you burn throughout the day), you’ll lose weight 100% of the time.

Now the thing is, the calorie counting crowd wants to say hormones don’t matter. And that it’s just calories in, calories out. It is calories in, calories out. BUT hormones affect the signals driving what and how much you eat, and they affect how much you burn each day. 

When you’re healthy and stress levels are in check, your hunger, blood sugar, energy, metabolism, and mood will be regulated.

All of this will make creating a calorie deficit much easier. It will also be much easier to maintain your new bodyweight. 

But when you’re super stress, your hunger, blood sugar, energy, metabolism, and/or mood can get dysregulated. And can you still lose weight and maintain that weight loss in these circumstance? Sure, but it’s going to be very difficult. 

That’s why I recommend getting healthy and fit first, THEN pursuing fat loss. 

Now if you can clean up your diet, sleep, exercise, stress, etc. and lose weight as a byproduct. Heck yes! That’s awesome! 

But if you have to pick getting healthy or losing weight, choose getting healthy first. Health and feeling good matters most, and it’ll make losing weight so much easier. 

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Why Reduce Stress Levels?

I’m not sure I actually need to answer this for you- I’m sure everyone wants to reduce their stress levels! 

But I’ll give you a few reasons you should reduce stress:

  • Being stressed all the time sucks, and it’s not a fun way to live
  • It’s good for your physical health
  • It’s good for your mental health
  • It will give you more energy
  • You’ll be healthier
  • It will be easier to maintain a lean, strong, and healthy body
How to Lower Stress?

After working with clients for 9 years, and being on my own health and fitness journey for 15 years, I’ve found the items on the following  list extremely effective at reducing stress levels. I’m saying each one of these almost always had a very strong, obvious effect on stress levels.

Don’t believe me? 

Try one or more out then let me know the results! 

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  • Eat plenty of protein (Especially red meat)
  • Eat plenty of meat, fish, fruits, and veggies so you get all your vitamins and minerals
  • Vitamin C
  • Electrolytes (more salt, potassium rich foods, magnesium)
    • My favorite ways to get sodium, potassium, and magnesium are…
      • Magnesium- Epsom Salt Baths (1-2 cups, soak for 20-30 minutes)
      • Sodium- Salt your food more! Salt to taste- your body knows what it needs 
      • Potassium- High potassium foods like… Orange Juice (Also high in Vitamin C! Orange Juice is a superfood), Avocados, Bananas, etc
  • Strength Training, Short but Intense Cardio, Lots of Walking
  • Lots of Sunshine
  • Lots of High Quality Sleep 
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  • Journal Your thoughts and feelings
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  • Pray
  • Singing
  • Spend time with family and friends

Seriously, I dare you to try one and see how it works. If it helps, try another. And if both of those work- try them all! 

If you’re ready to change your body, health, and lifestyle in 2024 but you know you’ll do so much better with a coach we’d love to help!

Click one of the links below, fill out the form, and we’ll contact you within 24 hours to schedule a consultation to discuss your goals and the details of the program. 

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