How Stress Affects Your Metabolism

Plus game-changing stress-busting tips.

By: Lexy Parsons

Overdue deadlines, never-ending to-do lists, and emotional turmoil can lead to one thing: stress. While stress can be a normal and healthy emotion, too much stress can harm the body in more ways than one. Oftentimes chronic stress and metabolism are directly related. Depending on the person, stress could result in unwanted weight gain or weight loss, and according to research published in Cell Metabolism, chronic stress can lead to the creation of new fat cells. 

While we can’t avoid stress completely, we can keep our stress levels in check by utilizing stress management techniques! Find out how stress affects metabolism function and the best ways to reduce stress to support weight loss goals. 

How Stress Affects Metabolism 

Cortisol & Metabolism 

If you’re wondering how stress affects metabolism, take a look at hormone levels — especially cortisol. Chronic stress can impair the function of our stress hormone cortisol, which can seemingly wreak havoc on the body and significantly impact weight management. 

Elevated cortisol levels can increase appetite, promote weight gain and fat storage, and impair sleep, leading to a lower metabolic rate. Managing cortisol levels through stress management techniques is key to regulating metabolic function and maintaining a healthy weight. 

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Self-Care & Stress Reduction 

Stress & Insulin 

Poor diet and lifestyle factors aren’t the only factors impacting insulin — elevated stress may be a culprit too. Research suggests chronic stress is associated with insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing certain chronic health issues. 

When our body is in a constant state of fight or flight, blood sugar levels rise to provide the body with immediate fuel as a means of protection. If stress levels stay elevated, so does this insulin-resistant state. 

When it comes to stress and metabolism, reducing stress is key to balancing your blood sugar and keeping insulin levels in check. 

Stress & Food Cravings 

Oh, stress eating. We’ve all been there. When you’re feeling stressed, reaching for a bag of chips or chocolate may feel comforting, but it can be a slippery slope when it comes to your health and fitness goals.

If you take a look at high-stress food cravings, you will see how stress affects metabolism. Research suggests elevated stress changes eating patterns, increasing our cravings for hyper-palatable foods (foods high in salt, sugar, and fat). Not only are these foods calorie-dense, but they can also be highly addictive. Consuming high volumes of high-calorie foods can lead to weight gain, slow your metabolism, and lead to unhealthy behaviors. 

As you can see, this can easily become a vicious and dangerous cycle in regards to both weight loss and health. 

How to Reduce Stress & Support Weight Loss Goals 

Now that you understand how stress affects metabolism, here are some tips on how to reduce stress to support your weight loss efforts! 

Don’t Restrict

Restriction isn’t a long-term solution. Plus, it can often lead to unhealthy eating habits like binging. When stress cravings occur, instead of restricting, swap unhealthy options for healthier choices. Opt for healthy comfort foods like roasted chickpeas in place of chips, or reach for healthier sugar swaps like a handful of almonds with a piece of unsweetened dark chocolate. 

Schedule in Your Exercise Each Week

Support stress reduction and metabolism by prioritizing your weekly workout! Exercise can help reduce stress while accelerating weight loss goals. Join our FitOn community by signing up for free and get access to unlimited free workouts you can do anywhere, anytime. 

Get Started With Meditation

Find your inner Zen. Research suggests meditation can lower cortisol, helping to reduce stress and aid your weight loss efforts. New to meditation? Here’s everything you need to get started.  

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated can benefit mood, fight cravings, and even boost your metabolism. Before you reach for snacks out of comfort, try drinking some water!  

Add one Stress-Busting Technique Into Your Morning Routine

Release your stress with a sweaty HIIT workout, enjoy a walk in nature, or spend some time journaling. Incorporating mood boosters into your morning routine can help you set your day up for success. 

RELATED: These 5 Morning Mood Boosters Will Transform Your Day 

Bust Stress & Keep Your Metabolism Firing 

We all experience stress from time to time, but it doesn’t need to stand between you and your fitness goals! Understanding how stress affects metabolism can help you can make healthy choices to support your weight loss efforts. 

Sign up for FitOn and gain access to free workouts, healthy recipes, and more stress-busting techniques!