STORY AT-A-GLANCE
Cortisol is primarily a rescue hormone. It’s a glucocorticoid, so it increases your glucose level by shredding your muscle protein to produce glucose. Cortisol also accelerates the aging process and is implicated in most chronic diseases. It also uses your brain tissue to use amino acids to make glucose which contributes to brain atrophy and subsequent depression
Your mitochondria can only burn one fuel at a time — either fat or glucose — and there’s a stealth switch that controls which of these fuels your mitochondria will burn. This switch is known as the Randle cycle
Ideally, you want to metabolize (burn) glucose in your mitochondria, as this only generates 0.1% reactive oxygen species (ROS). This route also generates energy most efficiently, creating 36 to 38 adenosine triphosphates (ATP) for every molecule of glucose that is metabolized. For this to occur, you need to consume less than 30% of your calories as fat
When you consume significantly more than 30% fat, the switch changes to burn fat in your mitochondria. As a result, glucose then backs up into your bloodstream, raising your blood sugar. This is a major contributor to diabetes
When you lose muscle, your basal metabolic rate goes down, so it’s important to maintain muscle mass, because your muscle will burn fat even when you’re resting

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