Overtraining: Is it Doing You More Harm Than Good?
If you’re into health and fitness, chances are you’ve heard the term ‘adrenal fatigue.’ Sure, we’ve all got our life stressors – work, family, relationships – but one thing we tend not to think about (at least here in #ReflexNation) is working out too much. You heard us right – working out is a stressor on the body, and overtraining can have a real impact on the health of your adrenal glands.
Let’s dive into exactly what our adrenal glands are, what can cause them to ‘burn out,’ and how to support them to keep your hormones in check.
What are your adrenal glands?
Your adrenal glands are two triangular shaped glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They consist of an outer cortex and an inner medulla.
What hormones do they produce?
Good question! Each part plays its own role. The inner medulla produces epinephrine (adrenaline, a fast-acting hormone), norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and a small amount of dopamine.
The outer cortex is responsible for producing steroid hormones, one, in particular, that might be of interest – cortisol.
Cortisol – the good.
Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to any type of stress. It helps kick your body into ‘fight or flight’ mode, which in turn helps to keep you safe and get you out of harm’s way when danger appears.
When cortisol is released, it will spike our blood sugar levels, suppress our immune and digestive systems, and increase our metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
Cortisol – the bad and ugly.
All of the effects above are great in the short term. Say for example, if you were running away from a bear in the woods, increase blood sugar means more energy to get away. But in the long term, high cortisol levels have been linked to decrease recovery post-workout/injury, increased abdominal fat, inability to lose weight, impaired sleep, and reduced ability to recall memories, concentrate or learn new things.
So where does ‘overtraining’ come in?
Exercise is great for the body and actually helps you become more resilient to stress. But just like too little exercise is bad for you, so it too much of it.
Overtraining for a big competition, event or race, can keep cortisol levels elevated longer than they should, and precipitate those negative health consequences we mentioned earlier.
Signs You May Be Overtraining:
- Are you feeling tired or rundown?
- Working harder but going slower?
- Finding yourself feeling moody, or irritable?
- Getting sick often, or recovering more slowly from workouts?
- Losing muscle, but gaining fat?
You Think You Might Be Overtraining – Now What?
1. Train smarter, not harder – make sure your training plan has space for down time between workouts to allow for proper recovery and includes restorative activities like walking and gentle forms of yoga like yin or restorative
2. Manage stress outside the gym – find ways to better manage any stress that comes from work, family or relationships like taking time to unwind after a hard day at work, practicing gratitude, or scheduling time for fun with family and friends
3. Sleep – prioritize good, quality, restful sleep. Enough said.
4. Nourish Your Body – reduce intake of stimulants like sugar and caffeine. Focus the diet on quality whole foods, with lots of healthy fats and protein, avoiding any overly processed, nutrient-void foods. After a hard training session, be sure to fuel up on a recovery drink that includes a quality protein powder (we’re fans of Magnum Quattro), BCAAs, and an easy to digest carbohydrate like a bit of tart cherry juice, or a banana.
5. Supplement Smart – when your adrenal glands are working over time, your body needs more Vitamin C and B-vitamins to help them keep up. Adaptogenic herbs like Rhodiola, Schisandra, and Ashwagandha (which you can find in a product like AdrenaSmart) help the body adapt and better cope with stress, while helping to normalize cortisol levels
Have a training or health question you want us to tackle? Have some tips of your own to prevent overtraining? Hit us up on social and leave us a comment. You can find us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. We are #ReflexNation.
- The Real Deal on Adrenal Fatigue. Robb Wolfe. Accessed Online: https://robbwolf.com/2012/04/09/real-deal-adrenal-fatigue/
- 10 Ways Stress Can Mess with Your Workout. Mercola.com. Accessed Online: https://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2014/11/07/10-ways-stress-affects-workouts.aspx
- Cortisol and Over Training Syndrome. 1st Endurance. Accessed Online: https://firstendurance.com/cortisol-and-overtraining-syndrome-why-an-athlete-should-care/