Cortisol Levels – Growth Factor

Cortisol levels and the stress response system

Define Cortisol Hormone:

  • Cortisol is a glucocorticoid, which is also called hydrocortisone.
  • Cortisol is produced in the adrenal cortex and is produced and released in response to physical, mental and emotional stress.
  • Cortisol is also produced in alignment with our natural circadian rhythm.
  • Made from cholesterol, cortisol’s synthesis and release are controlled by adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
  • Cortisol is known to be the most catabolic hormone in your body.

Cortisol is a hormone that gets produced by cholesterol.

Cholesterol certainly isn’t as bad as one first thought. In fact, cholesterol is vital within the body. Every cell residing inside the body needs cholesterol, and ALL steroid hormones get synthesised from cholesterol, including sex hormones and the adrenal hormones.

Cortisol Levels – Peak early morning

Cortisol finds itself aligned with the circadian rhythm or sleep cycle we are governed by as humans. In the morning, cortisol rises to wake us out of sleep and get a move on with the day. Cortisol peaks around 8:00 am, wearing off to its lowest levels at 3-4am.

Cortisol is known as “the stress hormone” for it is produced and released in response to physical, mental and emotional stress.

How cortisol sabotages your ability to grow lean muscle mass 

When an individual is exposed to prolonged stress, this creates an environment in the body whereby cortisol levels stop the release of Growth hormone. Along with this is also a reduction in the release of testosterone and luteinizing hormone. Supplementation with the appropriate peptides can correct these hormonal deficiencies so that you can get back on track building muscle and experiencing wellness.

Testosterone is a vital growth factor in muscle growth, therefore keeping cortisol levels in check will ensure healthy hormone production continues. 

As a stress response, the body must preserve energy so that we are equipped to deal with the danger it has detected. Naturally, messages start to get sent out to areas of the body that are not critical at this time. Reproduction is one such area; the body deems unnecessary in a stressful situation. This shutdown results in a dramatic decrease in testosterone in males. Since testosterone is a vital growth factor determining muscle growth, halting its productivity provides adverse outcomes.

Cortisol and Glucose Metabolism

New glucose production is called gluconeogenesis. Cortisol stimulates gluconeogenesis in the liver. It uses amino acids, glycerol, lactate, and propionate. Cortisol also has involvement in glycogenolysis which is the breakdown of glycogen stored in the liver and muscle cells. Glycogenesis is a necessary function which activates glycogen phosphorylase, an enzyme needed to complete the entire process.

Cortisol also stops insulin from transporting glucose into cells by decreasing the translocation of glucose transporters to the cell surface.

Cortisol and its relationship to bones and muscle

Cortisol prevents bone formation and minimises calcium absorption within the intestine. Bone and muscle growth is halted when cortisol levels are elevated.

The effects of Cortisol on the body
  • Get a quality 8-hrs of sleep per evening. Without sufficient rest, cortisol levels increase.
  • Training should be no longer than 45 minutes maximum, not including the warm up time. Working out over 45 minutes causes cortisol levels to rise steadily. Even 30 minutes would be a safe and ideal timeframe for training.
  • Engaging in high set workouts with short resting periods is another way to hike up the cortisol levels
  • DO NOT train for more than two days in a row.
  • Do your best to minimise personal, mental and physical stress.
  • Refrain from severe restriction in calories.
  • Ensure the food you eat does not lack in essential micro-nutrients and macro nutrients. Take a high-quality multivitamin supplement.
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1. The Institute of Functional Medicine, Textbook of Functional Medicine, (Gig Harbor, WA: 2010).