How Does Toned Muscle Morph to Blobs of Blubber?
Turning lead into gold was the ultimate challenge for any alchemist. As far as we know none of them ever succeeded. There is, however, an alchemy that is effortless, effective, and extremely disconcerting: the transformation of muscle tissue into fat deposits. It happens right before our eyes and requires no conscious exertion or plan. Often to our dismay, this metabolic magic occurs in the midst of great effort to go the other direction.
Even for those who stay active, muscular volume and strength is increasingly difficult to maintain. A man’s pumped up pectoral muscles eventually become soft breast tissue that sags onto a bulging belly and could even warrant wearing a bra. A woman’s once-flat belly becomes a soft, squeezable paunch as her upper arms become flabby and undefined.
The secret to reversing this process does not necessarily mean more exercise. In fact, exercise can even be one of the catalysts that convert muscle into blood sugar (glucose), which inevitably leads to the unwanted deposition of fat. Learning how this happens provides the key to stopping the process.
Cortisol: The Stress Hormone
As mentioned in the last chapter, the “Fight or Flight” emergency stress response stimulates the release of several hormones including cortisol. Although it is present at other times in small amounts, cortisol’s predominant release into the blood occurs as part of the stress response.
In conjunction with adrenalin and other hormones that are released during a stress response, cortisol moves the body to a state of heightened arousal by changing many physiological parameters. These changes include increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, slowed digestion, and decreased blood flow to the extremities.
During the stress-inducing event, cortisol diverts glucose away from low-priority metabolic activities and to the brain and nervous system to provide increased alertness and speed needed to respond to a real or perceived danger.
At the same time it increases pain tolerance and reduces inflammation. In fact, hydrocortisone (another name for cortisol) is so effective are reducing inflammation it is often prescribed for that purpose.
When increased cortisol levels are followed by a corresponding burst of physical “fight or flight” activity, the cortisol is quickly used up and the body is set to enter a “rest and digest” state.
Cortisol: The Muscle-to-Fat Alchemist
Since your body needs all the energy it can get to quickly evaluate and respond to the imminent threat, all unnecessary bodily functions are put on pause and all available glucose in the body is rushed to all the systems that will be needed to fight or flee. This instant demand for glucose results in a state of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Definitions Immanent: remaining within; indwelling; inherent. Imminent: 1. likely to occur at any moment; impending: Her death is imminent. 2. projecting or leaning forward; overhanging. Which do we mean?