How Your Mental Health is Killing Your Gains: Your Guide to Mental and Physical Fitness

For years, researchers have agreed that an effective way to boost your mood and improve your overall mental health is to exercise. In fact, I have worked with several men in the counseling setting who say that going to the gym is like another form of therapy for them. When you exercise, your body releases a glorious cocktail of “feel good” chemicals that make you feel as if you can take on the world.

What we don’t hear about as often is how this equation works in reverse. While exercise promotes better mental health. Does bad mental health inhibit muscular growth? In other words, is your mental state keeping you from seeing the results you want from the gym? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Fortunately, there is something you can do about it to make sure your mind and your body are both healthy.


Stress and Anxiety could be Affecting Muscle Gain

The short version, according to this article, is that if you are stressed, then you are likely not getting the muscle mass increase that you are working so hard for in the Gym.


The long (scientific) version is that when you are stressed, your body releases cortisol into your system as part of the stress response. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone. Anabolic hormones are what promote muscle growth and catabolic hormones (like cortisol) actually suppress it. This means that you can do all the reps in the gym you want, but if there is too much cortisol in your system due to stress, your body is actually working against muscle growth instead of helping you achieve it.


Depression Can Also Adversely Impact Muscle Growth.

Similar to stress and anxiety inhibiting muscle growth. One study suggested a similar outcome from people who struggle with depressive symptoms. The overall basis of the study, once you navigate all of the technical jargon, is that the participants who suffered from depressive symptoms showed less lean muscle gain compared to the participants without the depressive symptoms. So all in all, your mental health does affect your physical health.


What Can You Do About This?

While we all understand that exercise is good for our minds and bodies, we also want to make sure that we are getting the most out of the blood, sweat, and tears we are leaving in the gym. The following are a few things you can do to improve your mental health and thereby maximize your results in the gym:

  1. Get enough rest. Sleep is a great way to promote muscle recover after a workout. While cortisol may inhibit recovery, getting enough rest can counteract this. Turn off your phone and go to bed.

  2. Breathe. I know it seems obvious, but research has shown that oxygen reduces cortisol in the body. Focus on deep breathing and count your breaths to help you counter the stress response.

  3. Find a Counselor. There is a huge chance that your are feeling the full effects of stress, anxiety, or depression simply because you are incorrectly interpreting the world around you. Counseling can help you rewire your mind to have a healthier outlook on life thereby reducing the impact of your mental distress which can help you get the most out of your exercise routine.

At Mind Works Counseling Services in Lubbock, TX we specialize in Men’s Counseling. Our therapists are uniquely suited to help you work through mental distress in an environment that was designed with you in mind. We understand you don’t want to spend your life in therapy. So, we are committed to evidence based practices to help you reach your goals in a timely manner.


Learn more about the Men’s Counseling Services we offer.


Contact us to make an appointment or to let us answer any questions you may have.

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