A fascinating study published in Biological Psychiatry sheds some light on how stressful events can lead to weight gain over time.
Researchers questioned 58 healthy women regarding any stressors experienced during the previous day. Stressors included arguments with family or coworkers, disagreements, work-related pressure, or trouble with children. Then, subjects received a high-fat meal of 930 calories and 60 grams of fat. Their metabolic rate (how long it took to burn the calories and fat), blood sugar levels, insulin levels, and and triglycerides were closely examined before and after consuming the high-fat meal. Results show that the more the stressors, the slower the metabolism. Women who reported one or more stressful events the day before eating a single high-fat meal had slower metabolism and higher insulin levels. On average, women with one or more stressors during the previous day burned 104 fewer calories than women who didn't report any stressors. The extra 100 calorie difference translates to a weight gain of about 11 lbs per year. Women with a history of diagnosed depression had the extra metabolic burden of higher triglycerides after the meal.
What does this mean for us?
Under stress, we typically make decisions more quickly than usual - even our dietary choices. This can set us up for disaster. In general, our first response to stress triggers is to chow down on the wrong foods. As seen in study participants, fewer calories are burned after a meal when a stressor occurs just a single day before the meal. The combined effect of stress and the wrong foods, however, can lead to unwanted weight gain because of a slower metabolism. Higher insulin levels also contribute to fat storage and less fat burning (less fat burned means more fat stored). Expect the unexpected. Stressful events are inevitable. The best thing we can do is prepare ourselves (and our pantries/refrigerators) for when they do show up. Have a plan set in place. This way we can avoid gaining weight with every stressor that comes about. This way we can avoid gaining weight with every stressor that comes about. How do you plan on combating the tendency toward unhealthy foods during stressful events in life? Stock up on healthy foods in your fridge, cabinets, and pantry. Make sure you have plenty of vegetables and fruits available. Keep whole grains, beans, and leaner meats around. If you're time-crunched, make a quick and easy high-protein shake with EnergyFirst's whey protein isolate. It can help promote fat loss and keep you satisfied, thus preventing overeating. Indulge in our Choco-Banana Nut Recipe. Throw in an optional scoop of Greenergy for an extra boost of anti-stress antioxidants. Choco-Banana Nut Shake:
- 1 to 2 scoops of ProEnergy Chocolate Whey Protein Powder
- 1-1 1/2 cups of pure water or skim milk
- 1/2 frozen banana
- 1 tablespoon of raw cashew butter
- Add ice for extra thickness
- Optional: 1 scoop Greenergy
- Optional: 1/4 cup of OmegaEnergy Mix or 1 tbsp of OmegaEnergy Oil
If time doesn't even permit you to prepare a quick shake, grab a high-protein, low-carb, low-sugar Permalean protein bar. We can't stress it enough: when under stress, you need high-quality ingredients, not empty calories!
Biological Psychiatry, 77 (7) , art. no. 12226 , pp. 653-660