By DR. TRACY McALVANAH
Mary was a mother of two who began a vigorous exercise program of weight lifting and running, one to two hours a day, six days a week. Not only did she fail to lose weight, she actually gained weight, and found herself battling fatigue, irritability, and constant colds and flus. As it turns out, Mary was exercising too much.
Overtraining weakens the body
While regular exercise is vital to good health, studies show overtraining can actually deplete hormones, depress immunity, lead to bone loss, increase the risk of injuries, slow healing, increase inflammation, and cause a general feeling of burn-out.
Sufficient recovery between exercise sessions and exercising at an appropriate intensity will get you fitter faster without compromising health.
Overtraining and high cortisol
Overtraining causes your body to pump out extra cortisol, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands that helps us cope with stress. High cortisol can cause bone loss, and muscle breakdown, create belly fat, increase sugar cravings, and lead to insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition that causes high blood sugar.
Overtraining and low cortisol
Some people who overtrain suffer from low cortisol, which can lead to weight gain, fatigue, low blood sugar (with dizziness, light-headedness, and irritability), muscle weakness, difficulty recovering from workouts, and poor immune strength.
American life is already stressful
Clearly, neither high nor low cortisol produces the desired effects of an exercise regime, and both cause a chronic inflammatory state that ages you quickly. Throw in other factors of modern American life—stressful lifestyles, too little sleep, poor diets, too many sweets and caffeine—and overtraining can be the tipping point into cortisol-driven disorders.
Symptoms of overtraining
How much exercise is too much? This varies from person to person. Overtraining for one person can be another person’s warm up. An adrenal salivary panel will show you your cortisol levels, but it’s especially important to pay attention to signals from your body, which is harder than it sounds for the driven athlete accustomed to pushing the envelope.
Symptoms of overtraining include persistent tiredness, worsening strength and stamina, sleep disturbances, slow recovery, aching joints or limbs, injuries, and frequent illness, to name a few.
Exercise should boost energy, not drain it
Appropriate exercise boosts your energy and your sense of well-being. And while some muscle soreness is normal, you should experience energy, mental focus, and a good mood during recovery periods between workouts.
Ask us about an adrenal cortisol panel to help you establish and appropriate intensity level for your workouts.