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The Connection Between Insulin and Cortisol

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/25/2024

While most people understand that their body uses hormones to regulate its functions, the interplay between two hormones is sometimes less understood.

Learn about cortisol and insulin, how these hormones affect the body, and their relationship to one another.

The Role of Cortisol in the Body

Cortisol, sometimes known as the 'hormone of stress,' is essential to our physical systems. Cortisol functions catabolically by converting proteins into simpler molecules that can be used for energy in cells.

But what happens when there's too much cortisol? That's where matters become complicated. Studies show that excess cortisol can block the protein from entering your muscles. And no protein means less muscle growth.

The Impact of Excess Cortisol on Muscle Growth

If you want to bulk up or maintain your current muscle mass, you need to monitor your cortisol levels. Too much of this stress hormone could damage your fitness goals.

Research suggests it may decrease muscle growth and strength over time due to its inhibitory effect on protein synthesis within muscle cells. So next time you're feeling stressed out and reach for that tub of ice cream, think again.

Cortisol illustration

Cortisol's Influence on Carbohydrate Production

Let's break down cortisol's fascinating role in carbohydrate production. When you're stressed or fasting, cortisol kicks into high gear.

Cortisol reroutes amino acids (protein parts) from muscle tissues to your liver. Once amino acids reach the liver, gluconeogenesis is initiated to convert proteins into sugar.

Gluconeogenesis and Its Implications for Health

Gluconeogenesis is where protein transforms into sugar. It's an essential process that ensures we always have enough glucose, even when food is scarce.

Studies show, however, that excessive gluconeogenesis can contribute to higher blood sugar levels. For individuals struggling with conditions like diabetes or insulin resistance, understanding this connection could be a game-changer.

Cortisol, Insulin, and Metabolic Disorders

Cortisol and insulin are integral to our metabolic processes.

Cortisol has been known to stimulate insulin production. This reaction can lead to conditions such as diabetes or insulin resistance.

The Connection Between Cortisol and Belly Fat Accumulation

Belly fat is affected by hormones, specifically cortisol. Excess cortisol could be the reason for the stubborn accumulation of belly fat.

When you're in a state of stress, your body releases more cortisol as a response. This stress hormone signals increased insulin production - creating unwanted belly fat and promoting other metabolic disorders. Research shows a strong correlation between belly fat and cortisol.

The Effects of Synthetic Cortisone on Insulin and Glucose Metabolism

Many folks have heard about cortisone shots. They're often given to help reduce inflammation, especially in joints. But did you know synthetic cortisone can also impact your insulin and glucose metabolism?

It behaves similarly to cortisol, a hormone naturally produced by the body.

Synthetic cortisones like prednisone work much like our own cortisol when metabolizing sugars. Just as cortisol stimulates gluconeogenesis, these drugs encourage your liver to make more sugar from amino acids.

This surplus sugar can lead to a rise in insulin output. The problem here is that too much insulin over time could lead us down the road toward metabolic disorders such as diabetes or even insulin resistance.

Now, don't panic if you've been prescribed synthetic cortisones. Understanding how these medications interact with your body gives you power over potential side effects.

Managing Cortisol Levels for Healthier Metabolism

Our body's primary stress hormone, cortisol, has a pronounced effect on metabolism. When we're under constant stress, cortisol levels rise and can cause various health issues like weight gain.

The link between high cortisol and increased belly fat is well-documented. High cortisol signals the body to store more fat in your abdomen region. This stored fat produces more cortisol, creating a vicious cycle of weight gain and elevated stress hormones.

But there are ways to manage this tricky relationship between insulin production, excess belly fat, and raised cortisol levels. The first step? Understand what triggers an increase in your personal stress levels.

The diet also plays a significant role; foods rich in magnesium or omega-3 fatty acids can help regulate insulin response and inflammation associated with chronic stress.

Getting enough regular physical activity also helps keep blood sugar levels balanced while reducing tension.

Tips for Keeping Your Stress Hormones at Bay

Maintaining steady sleeping habits can do wonders for managing the adrenal glands responsible for releasing cortisol.

According to Harvard Medical School, sleep deprivation messes up our bodies' natural rhythms, leading to disrupted sleep and overproduction of the cortisol hormone.

Avoiding caffeine after lunchtime will help you get better quality rest at night because it stimulates adrenaline release, leading to higher production of cortisol.

It's essential to recognize that eliminating stress is not always feasible, but learning how to manage your body's response to it is crucial.

These tips can help you effectively handle stress, promote a healthier metabolism, and lower cortisol levels.


The intricate relationship between cortisol and insulin highlights their significant impact on metabolic health.

Excessive cortisol, often associated with stress, can disrupt muscle growth, promote gluconeogenesis, and contribute to conditions like diabetes and insulin resistance.

Managing cortisol levels through stress management, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and consistent sleep habits is crucial for promoting a healthier metabolism.

Understanding and addressing the interplay between cortisol and insulin empowers individuals to make informed lifestyle choices for better metabolic health and overall well-being.

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