Cortisol is a hormone that is part of a group of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids and is produced by your adrenal glands in response to various stimuli.
The thing we most commonly associate cortisol with is stress, and this association has led to it being somewhat demonized in the media and branded as entirely bad for health and body composition.
Although cortisol does need to be controlled or regulated through nutritional means and lifestyle maintenance in general, it is not necessary the body composition boogie man that it has been made out to be.
In fact, learning how to effectively attenuate your body’s cortisol levels could help you to make great strides in your own fitness endeavors.
How to Hack Your Cortisol Levels
The simplest way to understand one of the basic mechanisms of cortisol is that it breaks down proteins into amino acids.
If there are no available proteins or free-form amino acids in your bloodstream then your body will begin breaking down the only available source of proteins: your muscle tissues.
With this in mind we can see how inadequate nutrition could quickly lead to muscle wastage, or at the very least a severe reduction in the amount of progress you’ll be able to make in the gym.
Your cortisol levels are at their highest when you are training, so you might be wondering how it is we can control the hormone to get the most out of our sessions; this is where workout supplementation comes into play.
A 2006 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed how supplementing with a mixture of liquid carbohydrates and essential amino acids (EAA) while training helped to reduce the post-workout cortisol spike that might be holding you back. 
Another hormone within the body that is effectively antithetical to cortisol is insulin, so drinking liquid carbs while you train is a fantastic way of keeping insulin high. By the way, insulin is one of the most anabolic hormones in the human body, so don’t be afraid of carbs!
In this same study, the group who consumed carbs and EAA lost about the same amount of fat as those taking a placebo or only EAA.
The same carbs + EAA group gained almost twice as much muscle!
Is This Relevant to Me?
If you are a complete beginner or you’ve only been training for a couple of years then your novice status will make it far easier for you to gain muscle simply because you are nowhere near reaching the maximum amount of muscular development that your genetics will allow.
In the early days of bodybuilding or physique training it is important to build your foundation by adopting sound nutritional habits and ensuring that the 23 hours of the day you spend outside of the gym are optimal.
Once your diet, sleep, and training setup are where they need to be then adding a combination of amino acids – especially BCAA – and liquid carbs to your workout water could be just what you need to send your gains into the stratosphere!