Does Stress Burn Calories?

Stress is an unfortunate by-product of our lives, whether it is mundane, or something exceptional that normally doesn’t happen to us.

Does Stress Burn Calories?

Whatever the reason behind it, stress can have several effects on your body, both in the short and long term.

This has led to many people wondering how it affects your weight. More specifically, how it can affect the calories that you eat. 

Many people want to know if being in a stressed state of mind can cause you to burn more calories than you otherwise might, or if it can go in the opposite direction, and make it even harder for you to lose calories.

For many people who often struggle with regulating their weight, this is a frustrating issue that needs to have an answer found for it.

However, as we will see in this article, the effects of stress on the body are as complex as they are numerous.

And what may be the case for some people may not be universal that everyone experiences.

Calories, Stress & Your Metabolism

Before we go any further into this topic, we should probably first explain what exactly the relationship between your body and calories is.

Generally speaking, your brain, is responsible for helping regulate the many bodily functions around the body, including the release of hormones into your body and bloodstream.

When you are stressed, whether due to emotional reasons, or physical causes, your body will react by flooding the body with a variety of hormones.

Some of the most important hormones that are released into the body in moments of stress are cortisol and epinephrine


Cortisol is a vital hormone that the brain releases during moments of stress and are often considered the primary hormone that is tied to stress and the body.

Cortisol has the effect of increasing the amount of glucose (or sugars) there is in your bloodstream in moments of stress.

This allows your brain to use the higher amount of sugars to assist in that moment, where your body is in a state of heightened awareness, and also needs the increase in glucose to repair tissues.

In short bursts of stress, this can affect the number of sugars, and therefore calories, that are being burned in a given moment.


Epinephrine, also known more commonly as adrenaline, is another hormone that is part of the fight-or-flight response. It triggers the fight-or-flight response in humans.

The dumping of a large amount of epinephrine in the bloodstream as a result of the adrenal gland releasing it into the bloodstream will also cause an increase in temperature, which will also cause the body to burn more calories at that moment than it normally would.

Long-Term Effects of Constant Hormonal Releases

Long-Term Effects of Constant Hormonal Releases

So, with the effects of these two hormones being released into the body clear to us, this might imply that releasing them into the body regularly could allow you to reliably burn more calories.

However, this isn’t necessarily the case.

Whilst these hormones do have the short-term effect of burning calories to supply the body with more energy in a moment, they are also body and brain-altering biochemicals that will have long-term effects on the body, many of which are negative.

Cortisol, for example, is a catabolic hormone, meaning that it will break down muscle material to provide the body with more energy.

This can have the effect of increasing your calorie usage. This will also leave you with a loss of muscle afterward.

Moreover, the long-term effects of both cortisol and epinephrine have been documented to cause several adverse effects, including increased anxiety and depression, frequent headaches, insomnia, as well as weight gain.

It can even cause you to have an increased chance of suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease, and even heart attacks.

So, whilst there may be a few effects of stress that briefly cause you to consume more calories, the effects are very brief, and can often lead to much more severe consequences further down the line.

Other Effects Of Stress On The Body

Of course, as many of us have experienced, stress can have more of an effect on us than simply changing how our body responds to caloric intake.

The following are just some of the effects that stress, whether short or long-term, can have on the human body.

Stress & Eating

Stress can have the short-term effect of making you lose your appetite, thanks to the epinephrine reducing your level of hunger, this will eventually give way to an increase in the cortisol in your body, which will encourage your metabolism to increase.

This might sound like a good thing at face value, but it is eventually likely to cause you to want to eat more than your body requires.

Stress & Encouraging Bad Diets

Similar to the last point, the higher the amount of cortisol in your body, the more hungry you are likely to feel, as the body tries t desperately find as many energy-rich calories as it can.

This can lead to you craving foods that are high in fats and sugars, foods that are often locked in empty calories that provide no real nutritional benefits

Stress & Diabetes

High levels of cortisol are also tied to higher levels of insulin resistance in the body, which can lead to a cascading effect of higher levels of sugar being circulated through the body, which can eventually lead to a person developing type 2 diabetes.

Final Thoughts

So, as you can see, whilst there are some very brief and slight benefits to stress increasing your caloric intake, the long-term effects far outweigh any good they do.

If you want to try and encourage your metabolism to increase healthily, try to do more physical exercise.

Jenna Priestly