Firstly, I would like to say how proud I am of this girl. Over the 3 years I’ve been training Mina she has shown me nothing but consistency, dedication and hard work. Mina is also a high stress individual with a high stress job. To make matters worse, Mina is also a high achiever whose workplace requires her to hit targets and meet deadlines.
How high stress lifestyles can impact training
Some of you reading this can probably relate. High levels of stress can make building muscle quite a challenge!
Why? Mina’s personality and work cause her to release a lot of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) which creates a greater demand for recovery. Why? Being in constant sympathetic state (fight or flight) means you churn through more energy, because of the anxiety and higher stress, therefore recovery also increases. Mina’s philosophy and her workplace are variables that I’ve had to simply work with over the years of coaching her. Her training and nutrition are centered around stress management because she’s someone who can easily run into a plateau.
Essentially, sympathetic dominated people will not be able to tolerate absurd amounts of training volume. These individuals already release a lot of stress hormones and driving up volume also drives up cortisol. Minas program over the years has been built around moderate volume to allow us to drive up intensity. There have been times when Mina’s work schedule is so busy (which affects her appetite, flexibility and sleep) that I’ve had to reduce her volume even further until her recovery reaches a point that I can drive up her training load. So far it has worked well – Mina deadlifts 127.5kg and does sets of 8 at 100kg.
How to manage stress with nutrition
In terms of nutrition, sympathetic dominated people require higher calories, especially carbs, because when blood sugar increases cortisol decreases. This is a good thing; Mina really enjoys gaining phases because we drive up calories and we drive up the intensity.
Enjoyment is important for Mina because it helps manage anxiety. This is another good thing because less anxiety = less stress hormones which equals more gains!
Things get challenging when it’s time to cut. We work with longer cutting phases because the less aggressive and slower the cut, the better result for Mina. We try to keep calories higher and only implement cardio towards the end of her cutting phase. Crash dieting and making Mina do hours of cardio won’t result in a great outcome. The outcome we want in a fat loss phase is to retain as much muscle as possible because we work so hard to build it.
Other factors which help reduce stress
To help Mina with recovery we employ some deep breathing exercises (headspace app) before bed. Deep breathing is a gate way to the autonomic nervous system (rest and digest state). This improves her sleep which once again manages cortisol.
It’s important to read your client and adjust the variables they present to the table. As you can see from Mina’s photo, we still manage to get her great results. She understands the process and enjoys every minute of it!
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
Understanding how both our external factors, like work, life and relationships, and internal factors, such as hormones, can impact our training is vital for both getting results and making sure we’re doing so in a healthy way. Factors like this can always be worked around and this is why there’s not one single training and nutrition program which works well for everyone.
This is why it’s important to also find a coach who understands yourself and your lifestyle, and is willing to listen and create and adjust the best training plan for you. If you’d like to read more about the autonomic nervous system you can check out our post by clicking here, otherwise if you’d like to chat about how you can achieve the best results possible for you please feel free to contact us. Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more about the services and training and nutrition programs we provide, please find more information here.
You can also read more about Mina and her journey in this post here.