Rage Against the Machine
By Anthony Ricciuto
Controlling the Cortisol Beast
In the first part of this series, I went over what Cortisol was and the devastating effects that it can have on the body when overproduced. I hope that in the first part you took notice of the drastic effects that his catabolic hormone can have not only on your performance but your health as well. Cortisol is one of those hormones that you have to carefully monitor otherwise you will be a victim of its many pitfalls. As I have said time and time again if you want to maximize your performance and keep your health in check, excess Cortisol must be controlled or you will find yourself on the wrong side of a sharp sword’s wrath! In this final installment of this series, I will cover some lifestyle and nutritional methods to help control the Cortisol Beast from taking your lifting results and health hostage.
Lower Cortisol for Optimal Health and Performance!
Methods to Help Reduce Excess Cortisol Production
Don’t Over Train
This here is a big no-no! Overtraining causes your body to produce an abundant amount of Cortisol. During intense training, your body is producing enough Cortisol to take down an army so you have to make sure that your time in the gym is hard but short. Why do you think the Westside Crew keeps their workouts between 45 minutes to an hour? It’s because after an hour the body’s level of testosterone decrease and your Cortisol production goes through the roof. This is a major mistake especially for teens and new lifters. They think that if an hour is good then three hours must be three times better. The beginner is all jacked up and motivated and at the beginning, he will make results on just about any program. It is the seasoned veteran that knows that you can’t train hard and long in the gym. Recovery from your workouts is essential not only for your progress but also for keeping yourself injury-free.
Over Training causes Elevated Cortisol Levels!
Take Time off from Training
This is another thing that more powerlifters need to do. After a contest and every 12-16 weeks take a week off from the gym. This way it will give your body a break along with your adrenal glands and nervous system from your intense workouts. The drug-free athlete needs this even more than those that are Chemically Enhanced. Steroids and other anabolic agents can improve recovery and reduce Cortisol levels. The drug-free athlete has to be more concerned about elevated Cortisol levels as it will cause even more havoc on your performance. This means that you should take off a full week 3-4 times per year. You will be amazed at how much better you will feel and you will have a newfound desire to hit the weights hard again.
Rest and Recovery is a Must!
Follow a Proper Nutrition Program
Well, you knew this was coming especially in this column. It is very important that you follow the right type of nutrition plan not only to optimize your strength but also to keep the body healthy. Constant high levels of Cortisol in your bloodstream will cause a slew of health problems. It is no doubt one of the most toxic hormones around if it is overproduced and not dealt with. Following a customized nutrition plan will play a major role in suppressing your Cortisol and keeping it in line with healthy levels that are needed for the daily function of your body. A proper nutrition plan will take full advantage of your anabolic hormones to maximize them to your full advantage. At the same time, it will help control those hormones that are less desirable and cause decrements in your powerlifting performance and health problems down the road. The Nutrition XP3 customized nutrition system focuses not only on getting your stronger, more muscular, and leaner, but it also plays a major role in balancing the many different hormones in the body. When your hormones are balanced you will see an improved rate of performance due to the fact that your body’s internal mechanics are now working like a fine-tuned machine. The food that you put in your mouth plays a major role in the release of different hormones in your body. Then in turn these hormones play a role in your performance and long-term health. There is a distinct science behind the theories present in the Nutrition XP3 System and this is why numerous World Champions no matter what their age, gender or weight class have seen huge improvements in their performance and their health.
Consume Nutrient-Dense Foods in Your Plan!
Don’t Get Stressed Out
I know the scenario I gave you in the last issue was no doubt funny, but it is the reality of a lot of people. Yes, you may not have the problems of the gentleman that I mentioned earlier but your raging temper and your ability to want to rip someone’s head off for the slightest thing is a powerlifting trait for sure. I tried to provide a scenario that everyone could relate to. For those living in a big city like New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, or Chicago I am sure that you may have experienced something similar or witnessed it. I will tell you that I have on many occasions. Just the everyday hustle and bustle in a big city can sometimes drive you over the edge. But the main point to always remember is that stress will kill you. Yes, that’s right! Too much stress too often will cause your health to deteriorate like you couldn’t imagine. Stress will take a healthy person and make them sick inside and out. I know it’s hard to handle the bullshit of everyday life sometimes because not everyone has the luxury to live the “Life of Riley”. The continuous ear-splitting yappity yap from the old lady, the disrespectful attitude of the teenage son who thinks he is the next Eminem, the nonstop aggravation from your boss, and enough bills to bankrupt a small country can sometimes make you feel like Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down. The main thing to remember is that “Going Postal” is not going to make any of these problems go away so you have to do your best to control your stress level. Did you ever notice that during your times of great stress you felt physically horrible? Your energy was low, your mood was either depressed or annoyed, your joints ached and your focus on your work was not in tune. Stress is the enemy so we have to know how to control it otherwise it will control us. In a time that is fast-paced and more hectic than we would like, we have to learn to control our stress and deal with it. So instead take out all that pent-up rage on the good old box squat the next time some idiot pushes your buttons.
Falling Down was an Awesome Movie!
Take Vitamin C
I have mentioned this time and time again. I know at the time of reading it many of you probably didn’t have a comprehensive understanding of the hormone Cortisol and how it affected your performance and health. If you go back and reread some of my articles from years past you will see that I have pushed the Vitamin C angle for many reasons and one of them was for Cortisol suppression. Vitamin C can keep a positive balance between your Testosterone and Cortisol ratio. This is very important for many reasons, which includes increasing that total and making sure you live a long and healthy life. For the serious powerlifter, you should take at least 1000mg 3 times per day to help keep the Cortisol Monster at bay. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin so don’t take it all at once otherwise you will lose most of it in your urine. Break up the dose every 4 hours that way your body will better absorb it and use it most efficiently.
Vitamin C Keeps Cortisol at Bay!
Keep your Protein Intake High
I have preached the importance of a high protein diet for the powerlifter. It only makes sense that you monitor your daily intake of protein by calculating your total grams per meal and day. Protein is one of the most valuable nutrients for a powerlifter’s success so overlooking this is a big mistake in the least. I have always recommended at least 1 gram of protein per pound of weight. Now there are those “Holistic” nutritionists out there that would disagree with me but I could care less. When dealing with powerlifters and strength athletes what works in a textbook setting isn’t necessarily going to work with a 400-pound athlete who squats over 1000 pounds week after week. What works for the general public or athletes of different sports will not work for you the hardcore powerlifter…I guarantee it! The large majority of powerlifters do not take in enough protein for their needs. I have pushed this heavily with my athletes and their results speak for themselves. I can’t put enough emphasis on this because it is that important for your success. This is the base from which I work with as any less than this will not get the job done for a hardcore intense powerlifter. Maybe a golfer or belly dancer, but not for a powerlifter.
Get in that Protein!
Sleep at least 8-9 hours per night
Sleep is another very important part of your plan on reducing your Cortisol level. While you sleep many different physiological processes take place. IT is a time when the body heals itself from the damage that you put upon it during your training. Not getting enough sleep will increase your Cortisol production. The body will consider this as a different form of stress and it will jack up your Cortisol levels. You need a minimum of 8 hours per night. The more you sleep the more you will increase your lean muscle tissue and strength. It is very hard to constantly improve your strength or muscle mass when you are continually sleep-deprived. Naps are another very good option for lifters as even getting 1-2 hours after you train or mid-day can make a huge difference in your recovery and well-being. Remember if you aren’t sleeping you aren’t growing or getting stronger!
Sleep is a Must To Lower Cortisol!
Cut Down on the Coffee, Sugar, and Junk Foods
Oh boy, am I going to get a lot of hate mail for this one? Well, I hate to let you know this but the big three that you see above can increase Cortisol production. Yes I know coffee, sugar, and junk food are three of powerlifter’ most beloved things after beer, thong bikinis, and winning the lottery but they are not the best things for you. For you hardcore coffee drinkers out there you should realize that too much coffee can jack up Cortisol production and keep them going strong for close to 20 hours. Yes, that is right. To make things worse the fact that a lot of the powerlifters that I have reviewed actually add sugar to their coffee (and quite a bit I might add to that fact) will increase Cortisol release even more. This is one of the reasons why I recommend powerlifters ditch their coffee for Green Tea. The way that powerlifters inhale (notice I said inhale not eat or chew) junk food is another factor that will have a negative effect on Cortisol levels in the body. I know this is like sticking a dagger in the hearts of all you lifters but the truth needs to be known and applied so that you don’t suffer the horrible health problems that excess Cortisol can have on your body. So cut back on the coffee, watch your sugar intake, and for goodness sake leave the potato chips and ice cream where they belong…on the shelf of the grocery store!
Limit Your Junk Food!
Get Enough Vitamin A in your Plan
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that has been shown in different studies to help control Cortisol levels. Taking a comprehensive multivitamin should give you a decent dosage of this Cortisol buster so don’t forget to take your vitamins every morning. Most people don’t know this but 90% of your Vitamin A stored in the body is in the liver with the remaining being dispersed in the lungs, kidneys, and fatty tissue. Vitamin A doesn’t only help control your Cortisol level but it has many other benefits as well. It is also crucial for such things as regenerating the cells of your body and keeping your vision on the up and up. Let’s not forget Vitamin A’s role in your immune function and cell regulation, which includes cell synthesis and reproduction. So all in all get in an adequate dose of Vitamin A in your plan but don’t overdo it because since it is a fat-soluble vitamin you can cause a toxic effect in your body if you mega dose.
Vitamin A is Often Overlooked in Nutrition Plans!
Take Glutamine Peptides
This isn’t the first time that I have talked about the benefits of Glutamine in my column. It is one of the supplements that I have my private clients, as well as my elite athletes, use in their nutrition and supplementation plan. Glutamine has numerous benefits and is an article series in itself. One important study showed that Glutamine is responsible for preventing muscle protein degradation that is directly caused by increased Cortisol levels. This is just one of the benefits of this wonder supplement. The dosage used is based on many variables including your intensity of training, weight, stress level, current immune situation, and more. Glutamine has many benefits for the powerlifter as well. It helps to release Growth Hormone, is a potent cell volumizer, and protects the body from catabolism and much more. The minimum one should take is around 20 grams per day. This will work for women and men. For my larger athletes, I have used as high as 50 grams per day during a pre-contest cycle. Now if you are new to the sport don’t go and do something stupid like trying to take in 50 grams of Glutamine right away. Like I said this is for an elite athlete who weighs over 300 pounds, not some teenager weighing in at a buck fifty. For most 20 grams will be a good start to be taken in 4 doses of 5 grams every 3-4 hours. If you have not used Glutamine peptides in the past then it is now the time to give it try. Remember Glutamine peptides and L-Glutamine is different so make sure you get the proper form.
Glutamine Peptides are Amazing for Recovery!
Take Phosphatidylserine in Your Supplement Plan
This is a supplement that I haven’t discussed before. Phosphatidylserine (PS) is known to be a specific form of phospholipids, which is a component of the membranes of all the cells in your body. It has been shown in different studies to reduce Cortisol levels in athletes involved in resistance training at high-intensity levels. It will help reduce Cortisol levels when they are elevated but it has been shown not to reduce them to below normal levels in athletes. PS has also been shown to stimulate a brain neurotransmitter called Dopamine. You all should be somewhat familiar with this. Dopamine is known to elevate positive moods and improve sensations in the body. PS also increases brain glucose uptake which is very important since glucose is the major fuel source for the brain. I would recommend 1000mg two to three times per day to help combat the Cortisol Monster. This is not a super popular supplement by any means but it has been shown to have a positive effect when dealing with an increased Cortisol level. Give it a shot and see how it can help you tame the beast!
Phosphtidylserine Helps Lower Excess Cortisol Fast!
Create a Cortisol Suppressed Environment Postworkout
Now what most of you don’t know is that the most catabolic time of the day is after your workout. Cortisol is at an all-time high post-workout so you must set up the proper environment to crush the Cortisol surge before it kicks you where the sun doesn’t shine. One way to stop Cortisol in its tracks is to spike your Insulin level hard after you train. Now you might be wondering why the hell would you want to do that? The answer is that by doing this, Cortisol will be stopped dead in its tracks thereby preventing the evil Cortisol Monster from ravaging away all your valuable muscle mass and thereby decreasing your strength. One of the purposes of my unique “Post Workout Formula” is to create an optimal environment for recovery, growth, cell volumization, Cortisol suppression, Insulin manipulation, increased protein synthesis, and much more. The topic of Post Workout nutrition is a very complex one that is for sure. I will be doing an in-depth series in the near future on the science behind this most important meal of the day.
Include Relora in Your Plan
Many of you probably have no clue what Relora is. It is a blend of extracts from magnolia Officinalis and Phellodendron amurense. Relora binds to neurotransmitter receptors in the central nervous system that is specific for enhancing your mood and promoting a calming effect. Human trials have shown that Relora helps control stress-related anxiety and irritability, emotional mood swings, restlessness, and interrupted sleep. All of the above can have a drastic effect on increasing your Cortisol production in the body. It usually comes in 250-mg capsules and the average dose for an adult is 2-3 caps per day. One company that makes a very good Relora product is called Natures Harmony. They can be located on the web at www.naturesharmony.com For those that find themselves stressed out and cranky all the time give Relora a try as it will help control your irritability and help you reduce your overproduction of Cortisol.
Relora Helps Reduce Stress and Cortisol!
Use NO2 in your Plan
Now for those of you who don’t know what NO2 is, it stands for Nitric Oxide. Now don’t go out there and suck on the end of the exhaust pipe of your supped-up Nitro Car that you race every Sunday night to impress the ladies. NO2 is a new supplement that has many benefits for the powerlifter. I am not going to go super in-depth here as this is an article in itself but I will scrape the surface to let you know its benefits. NO2 has been shown to increase nutrient uptake in muscles, increase lean muscle tissue, prevent muscle breakdown, increase hemodialation, prevent muscle inflammation, increase cell signaling, increasing protein synthesis, and much more. As you can see it can counteract some of the negative effects of excess Cortisol production so it can be of benefit for those who are trying to reduce them. I have incorporated this supplement in some of my athlete’s nutrition plans with positive results. In the near future, I will give you a series on this supplement and how to incorporate it in your Power Nutrition plan.
Lower Cortisol from New Angles!
Now another thing that most of you probably don’t know is those elite athletes that do use Pharmaceuticals to enhance their performance keep Cortisol at bay through this area as well. Anabolic steroids do reduce Cortisol levels and this is why those who are ”Cranked Up” so to speak can train longer and harder without getting overtrained. The “Chemical Wizards” out there understand that there are many different drugs that can reduce Cortisol levels from a more direct route. Some athletes use a drug called Cytadren also known as Aminoglutethimide to reduce their Cortisol level. This drug is used by individuals that suffer from Cushing’s Disease. This is a disorder where your adrenals produce abnormal amounts of Cortisol. This is highly popular with bodybuilders and other World Class athletes of numerous sports but I don’t think that at the current time most powerlifters who are “Enhanced” have gotten this deep into the “Pharmaceutical Realm”. Now don’t think that I am recommending that you go out there and load up on anabolics and Cytadren because I mentioned it in my column because I am not! These are dangerous drugs and if they are used improperly they can lead to serious side effects. Not to mention for those living in North America they are illegal! The purpose here was to just to shed some light on a topic that most of you haven’t heard of and educate you on how elite athletes control their excess Cortisol production. Since most of you don’t understand the science behind their application in a Pharmaceutical Program they should not be played with because they can have dire consequences.
Cytraden is Used By Elite Athletes in Many Circles!
Here are some very good ways to keep the Cortisol Monster from taking over your performance and health. Most powerlifters don’t understand hormonal physiology and how important a role your nutrition plan plays in maximizing the good and minimizing the bad. From this info that I presented to you, I hope that I opened your eyes to a different area to improve your performance and that is to take advantage of the natural hormonal cascade that is present in your body. Ignoring your personal hormonal physiology whether it’s Testosterone, Insulin, Cortisol, Growth Hormone, Thyroid, IGF-1, Prostaglandins, Estrogen and much more can cause you a major decrement in your powerlifting performance but even more importantly how it will negatively affect your health. You see there is a science behind improving your strength and I am not just talking about the strength sciences involved in your training program. Knowing how your body works and applying proper scientific methodology from a proper nutrition and supplementation program can produce results that you never thought possible. I am here to educate the powerlifter and take his performance to new heights that were never thought possible. The technology for powerlifting gear with suits, shirts, and wraps has made it possible for bigger lifts. The nutritional sciences are another area that has just been unveiled since my time here at PL USA and believe me I haven’t even scraped the surface yet from what you will see from me. Follow me young grasshopper and you will see that I am not blowing smoke, but I am producing results from angles that you never thought existed!
For those of you interested in the Nutrition XP3 customized Nutrition System please feel free to contact me for availability at