Stress looms everywhere and is both inescapable and indispensable to a bodybuilder's life. Stress comes from anything that interferes
with the smooth and efficient operation of your cells. Stimuli that produce stress for a bodybuilder are called stressors and vary in
intensity duration and nature. Stressors can be physiological, psychological, environmental, nutritional or a combination of any of
There are two types of stress that confront bodybuilders: positive stress and negative stress (often known as distress). The first type motivates and stimulates creativity and successful workouts. Distress, however, is destructive to the body and, if prolonged, can lead to physical deterioration. Distress is what everyone is concerned about. Since bodybuilders can't avoid stress, looking for ways to lessen the effects of that stress is essential. Nutrition may hold the key!
You must keep in mind that a predisposition to develop stress-related disorders depends greatly on genetic and constitutional factors, past medical history, lifestyle and habits. Stress response is very individual. Every bodybuilder is different and so is each thought and feeling. What may be a great workout for one person may cause distress to another. The best training routine will only be as good as your body can respond.
A complex relationship exists between nutrition and stress because stress affects nutrition and nutrition affects stress. Both nutrition and stress are involved in metabolism, neuro-endocrine functions, immune functions and peak performance.
The nutritional solution to stress takes more than just sufficient protein and calories. Here is an explanation. Stress triggers three significant stages or reactions. The first of these stages is the alarm stage. Your body prepares for what it perceives as stress, whether it be real or imaginary. Just thinking about a stressful situation, with its ensuing worry and anxiety is the same as if the real stress condition had actually occurred.
Preparation by your body to meet stress begins with metabolic changes. There is an increased cellular uptake of amino acids. Proteins are broken down to form the necessary sugar for immediate energy. The blood sugar level increases. If more sugar is needed to maintain a high blood sugar level when stress is longstanding, the adrenals trigger the liver to release sugar that had been stored there in the form of glycogen for just such an emergency Glycogen converts to glucose in an instant when necessary. When that happens, blood pressure increases, calcium and magnesium are drawn from the bone reserves (which is under the control of the adrenals) and an abnormal amount of sodium is retained. This explains the reason for most cases of uncomplicated high blood pressure (a hyperfunctioning of the adrenals). 'When a bodybuilder has long-term stress, the adrenals can remain in a hyper functioning stage. The possible ensuing results are high blood pressure, dizziness, headaches, hot flashes, excessive hair growth on the face or body (for women) or excessive sugar in the urine (but not diabetes).
The second stage of reaction is called the resistance stage, which is the stage from which your body will rebuild itself by using nutrients supplied by your diet and supplementation. If your diet is inadequate and cannot meet the demands of the stress encountered, your body will try to repair to the best of its ability by robbing nutrients from vital reserve areas until it has exhausted them.
As the stress is brought under control, increased stimulation of the neuroendocrine system abates, tissue repair takes place and normal functioning returns (recovery), If your body stays in a chronic resistance stage of stress, exhaustion will eventually occurs.
The exhaustion stage is the third stage of reaction to stress. This is the point at which the raw materials for repair are not being supplied by your diet in adequate amounts and your body reserves are insufficient to meet the needs to rebuild. The majority of illnesses will develop during this stage when repair can no longer take place. This is why a bodybuilder's immune system must be strong.
It is the small stresses, day after day, week after week, that are continuously repeated until the body is constantly living in either the alarm or resistance stage 24 hours a day. The lifestyle of a bodybuilder, which includes high-intensity training, competition and often "experimental" dieting, can eventually lead to exhaustion if the necessary nutrients are lacking.
Since every bodybuilder has uniquely individual needs, you must experiment to find what works best for you. You should keep a diary of your meals and supplementation (include the times, amounts and types of substances ingested, as well as a statement indicating how you feel) on a daily basis. The variables in your log can be adjusted according to your degree of training, aerobic activity competition preparation and types of foods you are adding or deleting.
The stress response places a high demand on certain vitamins and minerals. Conversely, the lack of any important nutrient is in itself a stress factor. A carefully chosen diet along with a good nutritional supplementation program can significantly enhance a bodybuilder's ability to manage stress in both workouts and life in general.
Vitamins assist the chemical changes that take place in your body. Minerals (such as iron or calcium) help the vitamins as do protein and amino acids. This collection of vitamins, minerals and protein makes up the enzyme system. Enzymes make possible the chemical changes. Remember that since every bodybuilder is endowed with a slightly different enzyme system, it is impossible to recommend specific amounts.