When I was doing bodybuilding competitions, I didn’t just have a lot on my plate…it was overflowing. I was working 3 jobs, 7 days a week, going to school part time, and finding time to train 5-6 days a week PLUS cardio (in addition to teaching a group exercise class for an hour 2-3 times a week). Near the end of my prep, I had gotten so deadly sick from just a cold. I was in bed, unable to even get up at all for about 12 hours. I had to call in to my gym and get them to cancel my clients for me because I could barely talk, let alone call a handful of people!
Out of all the stuff I was doing, the shame is I was spreading myself short on all counts. I didn’t give my school the attention it deserved, I didn’t have time or energy to work on getting more clients at my gym, and I certainly didn’t have the juice in the tank needed to train how I would like. Actually, I tried so incredibly hard to train. I felt like I never got results. My muscles were constantly tight, sore, achy. I never increased my weights, my recovery was very bad. I felt like such a failure because I saw my fellow trainers working out so hard and feeling good, and here I was with bags under my eyes not knowing why I couldn’t get past my squat weight for the last couple months. At the end, I lost a lot of fat but I still hung on to cellulite and fat that would not go away, even if I was a lot smaller.
Am I suffering from adrenal fatigue?
Does any of this resonate with you? Are you suffering from muscle weakness, lack of energy, poor recovery and plateauing in your workouts? You could be suffering from adrenal fatigue.
The adrenal glands are involved in our response to stress. When we are under a lot of physical or emotional stress, the hormone adrenocorticol is release into the blood stream, and our body perceives this as being in “fight or flight”. From constantly fluctuating from fight or flight mode to becoming overexhausted, the adrenal glands become fatigued – just think about all the work they do in these ups and downs! As a result, you can experience some of the following symptoms:
- Inability to lose fat/weight
- Constant fatigue, no matter how much rest you get
- Poor recovery after workouts
- Muscle weakness; especially legs (walking up stairs is difficult)
- Brain fog
- Dependency on caffeine to “make it through the day”
These could indicate other issues too of course, and it is important to note the adrenals are closely related to the thyroid and pituitary glands. When one is “off”, chances are the others suffer as well.
What do I do about it?
There are several adrenal-supporting supplements out there. However remember that they are “supplements”, meaning they work only in conjunction with the necessary lifestyle and diet changes. Here are a few things to do to combat adrenal fatigue:
- Lighten your load. Seriously, working day and night and killing your health is NOT worth it. Been there, done that!
- Give up stimulants – all of them. Coffee, black tea, and even green tea while you are still healing.
- Cut sugar completely
- Enjoy good quality animal foods. The adrenals need cholesterol to make hormones, so you would greatly benefit from things like eggs, fish, good quality meats in the diet.
- Healthy fats
- Himalayan salt/salty foods (such as olives, raw kimchi)
- Practice daily meditation
- Reduce your workouts or take a break from the gym completely. I mean it – if you need to heal, your body does not need to be kicked when it’s down.
Only now that I have a baby do I realize how beneficial taking more downtime is to my health. I now train up to 4-5 days a week (which includes my group exercise classes) and my workouts are never longer than an hour including the warm up and cool down. I don’t do any additional cardio besides my classes. I am totally okay with a gym session being cancelled because I want to take my son somewhere last minute on a nice day. I am totally happy and guilt-free taking self care days to stay in bed (as much as possible with a baby!).
And you know what? I’ve been making better progress now that I did when I was training like crazy and burning myself out! Remember that recovery is where you make your gains, and it’s not better to work harder, but rather to work smarter.