T Nation

Coffee = Elevated Cortisol


I had a question. I was reading the biosignature material out there and the one thing that struck me was people who tend to store fat in the Umbilical area indicates cortisol problems. Meaning too much cortisol.

The things I read to lower cortisol is to eliminate stress and get to bed earlier. Since coffee elevates cortisol should that be eliminated as well? It just that I read more the one time(using the almighty google) coffee is fine. That just seems counterproductive?

The only thing I read which might indicate coffee/caffeine is bad -

Those who store excess body fat in the upper hip region tend to have a degree of insulin resistance, as well as sub-optimal growth hormone (GH) levels. This hormonal pair makes absolute sense, as elevated insulin can impede the pulsatile release of GH.

Insulin resistance means that your body isn't using glucose efficiently, which causes a host of insulin related problems ultimately leading to decreased energy, increased fat storage, decreased cognitive function, etc. How to solve it:

Eliminate Stimulants: Time to loose the caffeine, ephedrine, etc. These compounds have a negative impact on insulin sensitivity, and need to be avoided until you improve your body's tolerance. Switch to Green Tea, which can have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity.

You may also want to consider some nootropic compounds to keep the mental edge if you are used to stimulants to keep you going. Click here for a rundown on these cognitive enhancing compounds.


The body naturally produces cortisol AND YOU NEED IT. Suppose you quit drinking coffee because you believe it elevates cortisol. Then you have an argument with your spouse. That'll elevate cortisol and epinephrine orders of magnitude more than the coffee would have.

Then you get in your car and commute to work; the traffic, stupidity of other drivers, and avoiding that ladder in the middle of your lane will all produce WAY more cortisol and epinephrine than the coffee you gave up.

Then, at work, you have constant tension and irritation with your boss, coworkers, etc., crises that shouldn't be happening if everyone were competent, etc. That all produces way more cortisol and epinephrine than the coffee you gave up.

Not everyone has relationship stress, a commute, or a stressful job, but the point is, the stresses of life elevate cortisol much more than coffee.

It's bad to overuse stimulants, but it's pretty easy to tell when you've reached this point if you have any common sense at all.

Think about this a little more. Dieting (calorie restriction) probably elevates cortisol because cortisol is needed to mobilize stored energy...yet DIETING is what gets the fat off that umbilical area.


Exactly. People are being too one-dimensional when attempting to apply research findings to a multi-dimensional problem.


Yes -- and completely ignoring the MAGNITUDE of the effects of things.

This is like worrying about saving 10 cents on something while wasting hundreds of dollars each month on something else.

Or like my friend who's worrying about whether krill oil would be better than the Flameout I have him on, meanwhile eating donuts and candy regularly and not exercising.


Totally right. I hate what the fitness industry has become. More specifically, what the media spews out about current trends in the fitness industry. As Jim Wendler put it, its like a pendulum. Fats bad, now its not. Carbs are bad, now its not. Cortisol is bad, but now its not. Every nutrient/hormone/tissue/God knows what else that makes up the human body is not bad in any way, shape or form. Its when there is an excess or deficiency is something that causes a problem.


Thanks for the replies :slight_smile:

I wasn't trying to make too much out of it but I thought it was something interesting to get more clarification on.

I was aware its very important to get a handle on the major things like stress/sleep but wasn't sure what drinking coffee would have on the grand scheme of things.

I guess one could say though that consuming coffee later in the day could in turn have negative effect on your sleep which in turn would be a more major thing.