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This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Dan Hensley.

One of my newer clients I am currently coaching has been my hardest case yet. This individual was low carbohydrate for as long as he could remember, on top of that, he had just ended a three-day fast!

Needless to say, I have/had my work cut out for me…

We tried a lot of different methods, to isolate the problem. Once we fixed the core issues, there was this lingering answer that I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

It finally came down to stress being one of the biggest concerns.

Periods of prolonged chronic stress increases both cortisol & insulin levels, and in combination, this will send a strong signal to fat cells to store as much fatty tissue as possible. This "fat" signal tells cells to hold on to their fat stores while the stress can prevent the ability of our body to release fat from its stores.

Cortisol & epinephrine are adrenal stress hormones. Cortisol increases our metabolism, but it also increases hunger cravings. So while our body may be burning more calories when we're stressed, we eat more anyway.

Insulin issues and diabetes come up a lot because of this hormone's role in balancing blood sugar levels. This hormone is also responsible for storing fatty tissue in the fat cells called the adipose tissue. Insulin transforms sugar stored in our liver & muscle cells into glycogen while absorbing amino acids as a by-product of protein synthesis.

Because of its versatility, insulin can be thought of as a storage hormone in that it helps our body put all these various energy sources and translocate them into their rightful place and stored for later use.

However, the opposite of insulin's versatility happens when our body experiences a stress response, and our heart & muscles are in dire need of quick energy. Think of fat as a slower-burning fuel and muscles as a faster-burning fuel. Our body will use either of the two given the situation. If it's in a bind, bye bye muscle tissue; if it's relaxed, it will burn fat. Stress can artificially cause muscle loss simply from increased heart rate.

The body produces cortisol during periods of excess stress. Significant amounts of cortisol will slow down the responsiveness of cells to the storage effects of insulin.

Making our cells ignore insulin too often can lead to insulin resistance and eventually will cause diabetes. Stress reduces Testosterone, Human Growth Hormone (HGH), Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Combine this with the fact that we're highly catabolic via excess cortisol & reduced anabolic hormones; this wills straight up cause our body to not only store fat but also lose muscle, slows our metabolic rate, while artificially increasing our appetite!

Once we were able to diagnose the problem like stress, then we took steps to fix this issue. This individual packed on nice muscle and the fat started to come off like never before. Meditation played a huge role in lowering his overall mental fatigue.

You can be doing everything right, but sometimes it's the forces we can't see that trip us up the most.

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