How to lose weight with high cortisol levels

Understanding Cortisol

Cortisol is a hormone produced in our bodies as part of our stress response. While it is necessary and beneficial for our bodies in small amounts, too much cortisol can lead to weight gain, fatigue, and other health issues. It’s important to understand how cortisol works and how to manage it in order to lose weight and stay healthy.

In this article, we’ll discuss what cortisol is, how it affects the body, and how you can manage your cortisol levels to reach your weight-loss goals.

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands and is released into the bloodstream in response to stress. It can also regulate other bodily processes such as the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats, blood pressure, the inflammatory response, and its production is closely linked to the body’s circadian rhythm. Cortisol levels rise soon after waking up in the morning, peak early afternoon, and gradually decrease throughout the day until reaching its lowest point late at night.

When faced with a continual stressor–such as a demanding job or an unhealthy lifestyle–the body begins to produce higher than normal levels of cortisol. This state of “hypercortisolemia” creates an imbalance within the system which can lead to many health problems such as weight gain, insomnia, mood swings, and impaired immune function. Unfortunately this type of condition is becoming more and more common in today’s society due to people’s desire for quick fixes and extreme diets that cause disruption in cortisol levels.

By understanding how cortisol works within your body–as well as how it affects weight loss–you may be able to avoid potential health problems associated with high cortisol production. To stay on top of your cortisol levels you should incorporate approaches that reduce stress such as:

  • Regular physical activity (including resistance exercise)
  • Healthy eating habits that address each macronutrient adequality (i.e., carbohydrates, proteins and fats)
  • Relaxation techniques (meditation/yoga)
  • Adequate restorative sleep each night.

How does Cortisol affect weight loss?

Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands. It is often referred to as the “stress hormone” because it is produced when we are under stress. While cortisol is important in helping our bodies cope with stress, it can also lead to weight gain and other unwanted health conditions when released in excess due to chronic and ongoing stress.

When our bodies perceive stress, whether from a physical or emotional source, the body produces cortisol to help you cope. In these situations, cortisol helps your body increase metabolism and break down stored energy so that you have the strength and energy needed for whatever challenge or situation is at hand. Cortisol triggers your brain to use extra glucose for quick energy needs. This can also lead to a craving for high-sugar and high-fat foods which can cause a caloric surplus that leads to weight-gain over time.

In addition, chronically elevated levels of cortisol can increase fat storage – especially around the abdomen –making it harder for short-term diet changes alone to produce effective weight loss results. To be successful with weight loss while dealing with high levels of cortisol, both exercise and relaxation techniques are important components in managing cortisol better along with eating right and reducing calorie intake as needed.

Lifestyle Changes

Cortisol is a stress hormone and having too much of it in your body can cause weight gain and difficulty losing it. Making lifestyle changes is one of the most effective ways to reduce your cortisol levels and lose weight.

In this article, we’ll discuss various lifestyle changes that can help to lower cortisol levels and aid in weight loss:

Reduce Stress

Stress is an inevitable part of modern life and can play a major role in weight gain or loss. Stress hormones, specifically cortisol, are released when we experience physical or psychological stressors. High levels of cortisol can influence our energy balance and lead to weight gain. In order to reverse this process, it’s important to actively work on reducing stress.

One of the best ways to reduce stress is by creating a healthy lifestyle routine that works for you and sticks with it. Scheduling regular workouts and eating healthy meals will help minimize inflammation in the body and naturally decrease cortisol levels. Additionally, staying on top of your sleep hygiene with an early bedtime and having an unplugged minute or two free from technology before bedtime will help keep your stress levels down during the day.

Finally, make sure you include relaxation activities into your routine as well! Taking deep breaths when overwhelmed, spending time outdoors in nature, participating in calming hobbies such as yoga or journaling are all great ways to lower levels of cortisol in the body naturally so you can maintain your overall health and better regulate your weight loss goals.

Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is incredibly important to make sure you have enough energy and mental clarity during your day. Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night to feel their best, while children need closer to 10-12 hours.

If you are having trouble falling asleep, try avoiding caffeine after 2pm and establish a nightly routine before bed that is calming such as reading or taking a warm bath. Additionally, make sure your bedroom is conducive to rest with minimal light and noise and optimal temperature.

If you are still having difficulty sleeping, talk to your primary care physician about other lifestyle changes or medications that might be appropriate for short-term use.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercising has been proven to help effectively lower cortisol levels. While it is beneficial to perform both cardio and strength training exercises, studies have shown that HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is especially effective for reducing cortisol levels. HIIT involves engaging in an intense period of activity followed by a rest period, and it can be done through a variety of different exercises such as running, jumping rope or doing any other activity that increases your heart rate. Even just 20-30 minutes of HIIT exercise each day can help you to decrease your cortisol levels and better manage your stress.

Additionally, consider low impact activities like yoga and stretching, which both offer calming effects while helping maintain muscle and fitness.


If you’re dealing with high cortisol levels, you’re likely dealing with a high-stress lifestyle, and that often leads to weight gain. The right diet can help you reach your weight loss goals and reduce your cortisol levels. In this article, we’ll discuss how to effectively diet to reduce cortisol levels while dropping pounds.

Eat a balanced diet

Numerous studies have highlighted the importance of a balanced diet in maintaining healthy cortisol levels. Eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet that includes all of the essential nutrients can help to manage these hormones and keep them in balance. This includes eating foods such as lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Avoiding processed and refined carbohydrates is also important, as they can cause sharp spikes and dips in your cortisol levels.

It’s also important to pay attention to portion sizes when eating a healthy diet, as overeating can cause an increase in your cortisol levels. Eat small portions throughout the day with sufficient nutrients including protein, fat and carbohydrates for individual meals as well as snacks. Regularly consuming meals rich in fiber will also help to more steadily release glucose into your bloodstream over time instead of producing drastic spikes or falls in your blood sugar level.

Avoid processed and sugary foods

Eating foods that are natural, unprocessed, and nutrient-rich will help reduce cortisol levels and make it easier to maintain or lose weight. Focus on adding colorful fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, squash, apples and oranges. Choose lean proteins like eggs, beans, fish and poultry. Include whole-grain carbs such as quinoa and brown rice. Avoid processed carbohydrates including white breads and pasta. Limit your intake of added sugars from candy bars or sweetened beverages such as soda or juice drinks.

On top of better food choices, be sure to spread meals throughout the day in order to avoid a concentration of cortisol due to hunger signals. Sufficient hydration is also important for resetting the cortisol cycle in the body; focus on water consumption in order to remain hydrated throughout the day.

Increase fiber intake

It is important to increase fiber intake if you want to lose weight with high cortisol levels. While it may be tempting to resort to “quick fixes” like crash diets or extremely restrictive eating plans, this approach typically backfires in the long run due to elevated cortisol levels. Instead, focus on making small, gradual changes that are sustainable and healthy.

Increasing fiber intake is a great starting point for any diet plan because it helps regulate digestion and boosts feelings of fullness after meals. Try adding more beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables into your diet for maximum benefit. Additionally, consider replacing some refined carbohydrate snacks with high-fiber options such as:

  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Whole-wheat toast with nut butter

for a healthier option that will keep you feeling satiated throughout the day.


When trying to lose weight with high cortisol levels, supplementation can be a great way to help balance your hormones and reduce stress. Supplements can help to increase energy, reduce appetite, and reduce inflammation. In this section, we will discuss the types of supplements that are beneficial for weight loss. Additionally, we’ll go over how to identify if a supplement is safe for you to take.


Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine due to its beneficial effects on physical and mental health. Recent studies have found it to be helpful for mitigating elevated cortisol levels and decreasing body fat, making it one of the supplements shown to help with improving cortisol levels and losing weight.

Ashwagandha works primarily by influencing the Hypothalamus-Pituitary Adrenocortical Axis (HPA Axis), which is responsible for your body’s hormonal response to stress. Taking ashwagandha can help reduce your body’s production of cortisol. It may also lower your blood sugar while increasing insulin sensitivity and can potentially decrease inflammation that often goes hand-in-hand with elevated cortisol levels.

The recommended dosage of ashwagandha depends on the form you choose. Powdered forms are typically taken in dosages of 1-2 grams up to three times a day, while capsules containing extract are usually taken as one 500 mg capsule daily or twice per day as advised by your doctor. For targeted useage, speak with a professional nutritionist or naturopath to determine the proper dosage before starting any regimen with ashwagandha.


Magnesium is an essential mineral in the body and it is often used to help those with high levels of cortisol. It is involved in a wide range of metabolic activities, from energy production and protein synthesis to nerve transmission and muscle contraction. Magnesium may reduce stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and help support healthy thyroid function.

Studies have shown that magnesium may improve weight loss when taken with other nutrients such as zinc, iron, chromium, and vitamin B6. Magnesium supplements can be taken orally or topically applied. When purchasing magnesium supplements, make sure to look for magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate which are highly absorbable forms of this mineral. The recommended daily dose is between 200-400mg per day divided into two doses; one before breakfast and one in the evening before bedtime.

For those who are dealing with high cortisol levels it is important to note that taking too much magnesium can cause fatigue so it’s important to be careful when taking any kind of supplement regime for weight loss or any health issue for that matter.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, flaxseed oil and other sources, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. While inflammation is a necessary and normal immune response, excess cortisol produced in response to chronic stress causes excessive inflammation.

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil supplements have been shown to reduce cortisol levels by preventing the body from releasing too much cortisol in response to triggers. Studies have also shown that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids increases serotonin levels and helps the body produce more anti-inflammatory hormones while reducing cortisol production. Additionally, adding omega-3s can increase energy levels and help reduce feelings of stress throughout the day, both leading to better weight loss outcomes.

It’s important to remember that quality of source matters when it comes to supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids. Make sure you’re buying an oil made by a reputable company that focuses on safe sourcing practices and clearly discloses the type of oil used (EPA/DHA). It’s also beneficial for most people consuming high doses of fish oils (over 3 grams daily) to consider toxin levels when selecting sources of their supplements. Taking fish oil capsules made from wild caught fish from clean sources is a good way to get your recommended daily dose without dealing with potential contamination.


Losing weight when you have high cortisol levels can be difficult but it is possible. To achieve lasting results, you need to focus on diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.

  • Eating balanced meals and drinking plenty of water is essential for maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Regular physical activity, stress management techniques, and adequate sleep are also important for managing cortisol levels while losing weight.

By consistently following these strategies, you will be able to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Summary of tips for weight loss with high cortisol levels

High cortisol levels can make it more difficult to lose weight. Luckily, there are some tips and steps that can help reduce cortisol levels and facilitate a healthy and effective weight loss.

To get started, you should make sure you are eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of healthy fats, lean proteins, bright fruits, and dark leafy greens. Keeping processed sugars and refined carbs to a minimum is also recommended for reducing cortisol levels.

In addition to diet changes, other strategies may be beneficial for reducing cortisol levels such as reducing stress with activities like yoga or meditation, getting enough sleep (7-9 hours each night) and regular exercise.

The most important thing is to keep in mind the importance of being patient while trying to lose weight. It’s not always easy but with dedication, consistency and the right strategies in place it is possible to achieve success!

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