There are times when it’s particularly important to have plenty of energy. In an emergency, when your fight or flight response is kicking in, that’s the time when an energy boost could be the thing that saves your life.

That’s when your stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline/epinephrine, come into play. These little chemical messengers, released by the glands just above the kidneys, tell your body it’s time to go into emergency mode. Cortisol orders the release of the glucose that’ll give you that necessary energy spike.

You might think that insulin is the hormone in charge of blood sugar, and that’s mostly true. There’s an interesting relationship between insulin and cortisol, though. Insulin lowers blood sugar, but cortisol can raise it, meaning the two hormones help counterbalance each other.

When cortisol thinks you need an emergency energy boost, it tells your liver. The glucose stored in your fat for just this kind of occasion is released. That’s what gives you the energy surge to run away or to hit back, depending on the actual danger you’re facing. It doesn’t even have to be a danger; it could just be that you’re exercising particularly hard.

This links to a larger part of cortisol’s role, which is helping regulate your metabolism. Fats, carbohydrates and proteins can all be used for energy, and cortisol suggests to the body when and how to do this.

When protein (and to a lesser extent, fat) are turned into energy, it’s through a process called gluconeogenesis. Specifically, it’s the amino acids in the protein that are turned into glucose. One set of hormones involved in this glucose metabolism are glucocorticoids, which include cortisol. The name’s a bit of a giveaway.

Obviously, cortisol alone doesn’t singlehandedly control any of the body’s systems, but the importance of its role shouldn’t be understated. The full list of jobs for cortisol is impressively long, including sleeping, regulating blood pressure and reducing inflammation.

If your cortisol levels are chronically too high, you may end up with elevated blood sugar in the long term, which can contribute to type 2 diabetes. If it’s too low, one of the symptoms is fatigue. There are medical conditions that can interfere with your cortisol, but for most people, things like getting enough exercise and enough sleep should help maintain them at a healthy level.

Related Posts

Menopause Education

It’s fair to say that women’s health has rarely been treated as a priority by the medical establishment. Not only is it underfunded, but there are a lot of people, both medical professionals and women on the street, who don’t have access to the right information to make educated decisions about it. We can see

Read More »

Adrenaline Rush

There are a lot of physiological processes involved in our fight or flight response, and more than one hormone has a part to play. If you ask most people, however, the one they’ll know about is adrenaline. The adrenaline rush is one of the most recognizable parts of our response to stress, and it has

Read More »

Hormones And Histamine

If you know anything about histamine (and you’re not a doctor or scientist who studies the stuff), it’s probably because of allergies. You need histamine for your immune response, but sometimes it gets carried away trying to battle things that aren’t actually threats. That’s an allergic reaction. A less talked-about aspect of histamine is how

Read More »
Scroll to Top