While doing my research about post-workout fatigue, I came across what’s being called “adrenal fatigue.” It’s supposedly the reason why you feel exhausted even days after a workout. I’m no stranger to feeling tired after a run. So, of course, I had to look it up. I needed to know if it’s something I should worry about.
So what is adrenal fatigue? And should we all worry that we may have it?
First things first, do you feel tired after working out? Actually, do you feel too tired to go to the gym even? Are you so weary you cannot even muster the energy to get up and tie your shoelaces? According to the experts, you can blame that on depleted cortisol levels.
The adrenal glands, located on top of the kidneys and shaped like small triangles, secrete the hormone cortisol. What’s cortisol for? Well, it’s been called the “stress hormone.” It functions to mobilize how the body responds to stresses, whether they are physical, emotional or psychological in nature. Whether you had a bad day at work, had an awful commute or leering from an injury, how your body reacts is influenced by cortisol.
Now here’s where you need to pay attention. When you’re always stressed, the adrenal glands start working overtime to produce more cortisol to handle the stress. However, when that happens, it upsets the balance of other hormones. Your body may end up not producing enough of the hormones you need to digest food or heal injuries.
That’s not the worst part. If your cortisol levels are always high, you may end up with a whole variety of ailments over time, including weight gain and a compromised immune system.
To make things simple really simple:
You feel stressed = The body’s adrenal glands produce cortisol to help you
You’re always stressed = Cortisol levels always high = overtaxed adrenal glands = no chance to rest and recuperate = fatigue. VERY VERY FATIGUED.
With me so far? Awesome. Let’s move on.
The (Non-Existent?) Problem
Why is the science community up in arms over adrenal fatigue? Because it’s not considered an official health condition. In fact, there’s a very big chance that you’ll draw a blank stare from your physician if you bring it up. That or he’ll tell you adrenal fatigue “doesn’t exist.”
As the author of Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, Dr. James Wilson said, “Adrenal fatigue isn’t a disease. It’s a sub functioning of the adrenal glands.” That’s why conventional medicine, which largely follows a disease-based model, is largely unaware of it.
The thing is, when the adrenal glands fail completely, you’d be diagnosed with Addison’s disease. Treatment usually entails the administration of synthetic cortisol. But your adrenals will need to be at a level where it’s almost incapable of functioning to be diagnosed with Addison’s. If your adrenals are just weak, or just “overtaxed”, you will likely be tagged as normal. Ergo, no disease. And no disease means no need for treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Just because conventional medicine can’t make its mind up about the condition doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay attention. Adrenal fatigue has a whole host of symptoms. And they can be disruptive.
- chronic fatigue
- low sex drive
- low blood sugar or hypoglycemia
- increased susceptibility to infections (due to a weakened immune system)
Thankfully, preventive methods are becoming more accepted. So there is research being done to observe chronic low cortisol levels, especially in patients with a lot of stress-related ailments.
The Link Between Adrenal Fatigue and Exercise
Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc on your fitness regimen. Ironically, the best way to fight adrenal fatigue is also exercise.
Yes, it’s a bit confusing. But moderate exercise can-
- stimulate the immune system
- ease stress
- improve mood
All those three things combined, therefore, can also help strengthen your weakened adrenal glands.
So how do you combat chronic post-workout fatigue that’s possibly due to adrenal fatigue?
Simple. Follow a moderate exercise program. One that balances cardio and strength training is best.
Working out when tired is a killer. It’s even worse if you suffer from adrenal fatigue. So on top of all the things you’re already doing to overcome your lethargy and have more energy, consider altering your regimen to support the health of your adrenal glands. It really can’t hurt to pay extra attention to it, right?