How Stress Impacts Your Waistline

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Here is a piece from todays Runner’s World (in honor of Stress Awareness Day), where I provide a few of my tips to balance stress (particularly as they relate to weight gain) – but one area that the writer neglected to include is proper Supplementation. 

We know that properly supplementing the Gut-Brain-Axis can reduce stress, lower cortisol, improve weight loss efforts, and enhance overall mental wellness (which I write about a lot on this blog and in my new book on Mental Fitness).

Read the text of the article below – or the original on the RW website at =

How Stress Impacts Your Waistline

It’s National Stress Awareness Day (November 3). Here’s why runners need to be more aware than most of the ‘S’ word’s impact on physical and mental wellbeing



Modern life is stressful. A 2021 study found that one in 5 UK workers feel stressed more than 50 per cent of the time, while seven per cent feel stressed every day. Such levels of tension are particularly bad news if you’re also looking to improve as a runner.

From a physiological perspective, stress can not only affect how many calories you consume, but also hinder your ability to burn them. Stress can affect sleep, cause fatigue, compromise your form and endurance, and even put you at risk of injury.

Stress can dampen the immune system, too. In a study published in the journal Neuroimmunomodulation, the higher marathon trainees scored for factors such as anxiety and worry a month before their races, the worse off their immune systems were.

Your body under stress

When we’re stressed, our bodies perceive an imminent threat. In response, our glands release adrenaline and cortisol so we can fight or flee (hence the so-called fight-or-flight response). Cortisol tells the body to stockpile calories to contend with that threat and to store those calories where they’re most likely to stick: deep within the belly.

That’s why stress can rev up your appetite for sugary, fatty comfort foods – which deliver the biggest calorie punch per gram.

What’s more, overexposure to cortisol can cause your muscles to break down at a faster rate than they do when you’re not feeling stressed, according to Shawn Talbott, a nutritional biochemist who has completed more than 100 marathons and triathlons. When muscle breakdown is added to increased appetite and greater deposits of visceral belly fat, stress creates a ‘triple whammy’ for anyone looking to lose weight through running, Talbott says.

Recent research suggests that stress seems to worsen the effects of junk food. In a study published in 2014 in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, researchers found that highly stressed people who eat a lot of fatty, sugary foods were more prone to health risks than unstressed people who ate the same food. Another study indicates – according to the lead author Kirstin Aschbacher from the department of psychiatry at UCSF – that when people are stressed, fat cells might grow faster in response to junk food than when they’re not.

Here are some proven strategies you can use to stress less and protect your body from its most harmful effects.

Eat your fruit and vegetables

‘The more stress you’re under, the more varied your phytonutrient intake should be,’ says Talbott. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are known to have huge health benefits, but there’s also emerging evidence that they can help shield your body from stress-related damage, he adds. ‘The more you get, the more you’re going to protect yourself.’


It’s been proven to lower cortisol levels. Lack of sleep is ‘probably one of the most underappreciated stress triggers out there’, says Talbott. If you’re working out hard, trying to lose weight and hitting a plateau, one of the problems may be that you’re only getting six hours of sleep every night.

Be mindful

Research is now proving that mindfulness-based interventions for stress eating reduce both cortisol and visceral fat. A study published in Journal of Obesity found that increasing mindfulness and responsiveness to bodily sensations reduced anxiety, eating in response to external food cues and emotional eating. In the study, those who had the greatest reduction in stress lost the most fat.

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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