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It?s Best to De-stress

Nutrition and exercise can help banish anxiety.

Given the recent terrorist attacks and economic doldrums, many people must deal with stress. According to one noted nutrition researcher, Dr. Carolyn Berdanier, judicious eating and exercise can offset the effects of stress, which may include muscle loss and fat gain.

Berdanier is professor emerita of foods and nutrition at the University of Georgia and the author of many nutrition texts. Unlike many of the know-it-all Ph.D.s who show up in bodybuilding mags’usually with an ulterior motive, such as selling something’Berdanier is a true expert on nutrition. She says that increased stress elicits an elevated release of cortisol, the adrenal hormone that breaks down muscle while promoting fat synthesis, especially in the torso and face.

She suggests eating more protein to offset loss of amino acids from muscle incurred by the heightened cortisol release. Berdanier also says that consuming good fats, such as polyunsaturated fats (especially omega-3 fats found in fish and flaxseed), will dampen the fat-synthesis effect.

Berdanier notes that under increased stress, people with a genetic predisposition to diabetes may face increased insulin resistance, since cortisol also interferes with insulin activity. For those people she suggests reducing total calories while cutting down on simple sugars. They should also increase complex-carb and fiber intake.

Exercise, especially weight training, helps to preserve muscle tissue and offsets the effects of cortisol. It may also mitigate stress by upgrading the release of calming brain chemicals, such as serotonin, which is stimulated by carbohydrate intake that’s not accompanied by protein. If all that sounds familar, it’s because the diet suggestions discussed here, such as a focus on high-protein intake and eating good fats, are commonly used by bodybuilders year-round. Both techniques are associated with promoting anabolic reactions in the body when combined with intense exercise. IM

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