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Apr 20 2012

Adrenal Fatigue – A Little Known Syndrome That Could Be Affecting You!

If you read my last article you’ll already know a little about me about 5 years or so ago – if you haven’t already read it you can catch it here…. Rest and Recovery – Are You Getting Enough?

Back then I wasn’t a trainer so didn’t really know what I was doing, most of my exercise and nutrition knowledge came from the likes of Men’s Health and Muscle and Fitness Magazines and I’d be in the gym pretty much every day – I was a gym addict!

Well here’s a little more about me, I used to get up around 7.30am but it was a REAL struggle I mean once I dragged myself out of bed I had to start the morning with a strong cup of tea just to try and ‘wake up’. But even then it would take till about 10am and a few more cups of tea before I’d actually ‘wake up’ properly! Thing is I’d then hit a low again in the afternoon before getting a burst of energy around 6pm. If you read my last article you’ll also know how much I used to over-train in the gym too and to get through these workouts guess what I used to use? Yep caffeine or some other stimulant drink – my drink of choice was a one called T2, in fact the tag line on the posters advertising it around the gym was ‘sleep when ya dead’ so this was good stuff right? It got me through my workouts anyway.

So after my training session I’d start to feel tired around 9pm – but this was too early to go to bed right? So I’d  resist sleep staying up till I got a ‘second wind’ around 11pm when I used to switch on the X-Box and play Halo 3 on X-Box live till around 1 – 2am when I’d feel tired enough for sleep.

Sleep and fatigue wasn’t my only problems though, my training would suffer and from time to time I’d feel weak, I caught coughs and colds that I couldn’t shift for weeks, feel down, crave sugary foods, get stressed easily. You see what I didn’t realise at the time was all of these are classic symptoms of a syndrome called Adrenal Fatigue – now I never REALLY understood what this was all about until I became a trainer and started reading about nutrition, exercise, anatomy and physiology, endocrinology etc.

So what is Adrenal Fatigue?  Believe it or not a large proportion of the population suffer from Adrenal Fatigue to some degree or other. The biggest cause of this usually caused by some form of stress, be it physical (e.g. over training in my case), emotional, psychological, environmental or more commonly a combination of these.

Adrenal Fatigue occurs when the amount of stress experienced by the body over-exceeds its ability to compensate and recover from it. Let’s imagine you have a “stress bucket” in your body and every time something happens that causes you some form of stress be it training in the gym, a stressful day at work, an argument with a partner or something similar your stress bucket fills up a little bit more. Now if that stress bucket fills quicker than it can be emptied guess what happens – yep you got it, it overflows! And when you hit this stress overflow all hell breaks loose!

So how does this cause Adrenal Fatigue?  well the primary role of your adrenal glands is to control your energy levels and to keep your body’s reactions to stress in balance, which they do by regulating a number of hormones including adrenaline, noradrenaline, testosterone, estrogen, DHEA and cortisol amongst others. These hormones modulate the utilisation of carbohydrates and fats, control the conversion of fats and proteins into energy, the distribution of stored fat – especially around your ‘love handles’, modulate blood sugar regulation, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal function as well as being a major source of the sex hormones circulating throughout the body. They have a whole host of physical, emotional and psychological effects, from the level of your sex drive to the tendency to gain weight and where you’ll actually store that fat!

Adrenal fatigue occurs when your adrenal glands cannot meet the demands of these stresses that are applied to your body, whether they are physical, emotional or psychological – so going back to our stress bucket, your adrenal glands basically cannot ‘empty’ it fast enough so it over-flows right?! Your adrenal glands continue to function; they just don’t function well enough to maintain an optimal balance (homeostasis) because their ability to secrete these hormones has diminished as a result of over-stimulation! If this is the case you’re likely to experience some degree of adrenal fatigue.

So how did I resolve it?  A big factor that can cause adrenal fatigue is diet. Tea, coffee, coke plus those energy drinks are all stimulants that wreak havoc with your adrenal glands. Add that together with processed foods, wheat, gluten, dairy etc. that are not only toxins but also put a great deal of stress on your digestive system and your body. Remove these substances from your body and you remove those stresses – Simples!!

I took advice from a personal trainer, in fact I didn’t just pick any trainer, I picked one who was at the top of his game – an expert! And  by eating ‘clean’ and following a nutrition plan and eliminating toxins and stimulants from my diet I went on to remove stresses from my body! By attending training sessions and following a weights program prescribed to me by my trainer, I also reduced the stresses on by body I’d created by my over-training BUT also by attending early morning training sessions I’d also inadvertently corrected something else important to resolving adrenal fatigue – SLEEP!!

I’m not going to talk in any detail about sleep – that’s for another time, except to say that it’s really important for full adrenal recovery – how and when you sleep will affect your level of adrenal fatigue and your ability to recover from it. If you suffer from adrenal fatigue you’ll get that ‘second wind’ at around 10.30 – 11.00pm that I mentioned earlier, so you need to be in bed and on your way to sleep before 10.30pm and this ‘second wind’ kicks in and pushes your adrenal glands into overtime! Attending early morning training sessions is what sorted that for me – not only was it my trainers instructions to be in bed and asleep by 10.30pm but also essential if I was to train at 6.15am!! My body clock soon got used to it, yours will too!!

By spending less time over-training I the gym I was also able to spend more time relaxing and ‘chilling out’ rather than constantly rushing from one thing to another. I didn’t realise it at the time, but by correcting all these small factors in my life I was able to resolve my adrenal fatigue.

So what can YOU do to resolve it? Quite simple really, in fact here are my top 5 tips to overcoming adrenal fatigue!

  1. Remove ALL stimulating drinks from your diet, tea, coffee, coke, energy drinks etc.
  2. Clean up your diet! Cut out ALL processed foods, wheat, gluten , dairy, sugar, alcohol
  3. Drink LOTS of water, you’re looking to consume at LEAST 1 litre for every 50lbs bodyweight
  4. Get to bed by 10.30pm at the LATEST!
  5. Finally, look at ways to remove other stresses from your life, and find more ways to RELAX more!

So that’s pretty much it – follow my 5 top tips and you’ll also be well on your way to reducing and hopefully eliminating any adrenal fatigue you’re currently experiencing!

Stay healthy,

Martin

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1 comment

  1. Rachal Gilstrap

    Adrenal fatigue is a term applied to a collection of nonspecific symptoms, such as body aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances and digestive problems. The term often shows up in popular health books and on alternative medicine websites, but it isn’t an accepted medical diagnosis.

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