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  • sarahjanefehlberg

Are you Overtraining?

Are you eating “well”?

Working out - Everyday?

Not able to connect the dots as to why you feel the way you do even though you are doing everything you think you should? Groggy when getting up? Hard to get to sleep? Exhausted and have a constant feeling of being “run down”?

Have you ever considered the concept of Overtraining?

As a Personal trainer and Naturopath these are some of the themes that can come up with clients I see who fall into the trap of overtraining

Common themes

· Inability to shift weight especially in the abdominal area even though you may think you are exercising correctly and eating well

· Thinking training means you can eat anything

· Under eating and over exercising, especially restricting carbohydrates

· Personality – not being able to say no to commitments, over scheduling, the need to feel busy and always doing something, never resting.

· Perfectionism – constantly having to tick off the to do lists

· History of emotional or physical trauma

· Shift workers

· Overtraining – over exercising and not allowing rest, recovery and restoration

· Hours at Job – satisfaction of one self at work

· Poor diet or current dietary habits are shifting for example reaching for snacks or packaged goods you wouldn’t usually have all the time, increased need for Caffeine and consumption of chocolate or sugars

Common Symptoms

· Fatigue – unrelenting – sudden, need for more sleep but more sleep doesn’t help

· Waking unrefreshed

· Loss of libido

· Loss of energy and drive, ambition

· Increased fear and anxiety – racing heart upon waking

· Foggy thinking, concentration and memory problems

· Snappy, short fuse, angry for no reason

· Hormonal dysregulation – for women changes in period, for men changes in mood

· Hypoglycaemia syndrome or as I like to call it “hangry”, feeling angry when you haven’t eaten.

· Sugar and salt cravings

· Immune system taking a dive

· Nausea – unable to eat in the morning

· Need for too many stimulants to get you through the day

· Stimulants no longer working – needing more and more Caffeine

· Feeling better in the evenings – more energy at night

· Sudden allergies

· Changes in bowel movements, reflux, constipation, diarrhoea

· Infertility – hormone changes, premenstrual syndrome worsening

· Inability to loose weight even when “eating right”

· Weight Loss

Everyone knows that exercise has long been prescribed and has positive effects for our health.

It Lowers blood pressure, increases cardiac output, reduces stress, helps keep that extra weight off and so on.

There is a point however of training where I often see people get to when it starts to become detrimental.

That’s right detrimental. Stressful & Damaging to one’s health.

I get it, you are now saying – how can exercise do this? …

Firstly, let's talk about how the body perceives stress.

Stress comes in all shapes and sizes in today’s modern world. Whether that be emotional (trauma, dealing with negative people around you, work stress), situational (traffic, relationships, circumstances, lifestyle) the list goes on. Believe it or not exercise is perceived by your body as the same stress, whether you like it or not, the body biochemically goes under load and stress when you exercise, the same as when you are under emotional stress. Chronic stress states occur with overtraining (and often under eating, but more on this later) this can be common in runners and be linked to problems via the hypothalamic pituitary axis altering the nervous system which then goes on to effect sleep, mood, libido, the immune system and hormones, to name a few!

Over a long period of time if someone already has a stressful life, job, worries, busyness, and adds in overtraining to their schedule this can cause a physical depletion creating a cascade on the endocrine system (The system involved in regulating metabolism, hormones and the like). This is often gets named adrenal insufficiency – most of the time this is when people can reach for pre-workout mixes high in caffeine or supplements to try and boost their energy to be able train some more. (AHHHH!) The reduction in proper hormone synthesis can cause the individual over time to reduce their ability to cope with said stress….

Nerdy Tips

Cortisol slows the immune systems inflammatory responses and balances insulin which is important for the metabolism of glucose for energy (you won’t have enough glucose for energy if you are on a low carb diet, carbohydrates are needed for your first line energy fuel and even more so if you are doing high intensity exercise.

I’m not talking about Bread and Pasta, I’m talking about complex carbohydrates, Low glycaemic index foods to sustain you and balance your blood sugars.

Thinking about your Macro counts all the time? Did you know if you deplete your cortisol you are messing with the metabolism of said Macros? Metabolism of Proteins, Fats, Carbohydrates, this metabolism you speak of heavily relies on Cortisol’s healthy balance. Cortisol stimulates the liver to raise blood sugar as we need it, often in response to metabolic demand such as exercise and you guessed it…. STRESS.

If you are not having enough Carbohydrates for Training you deplete Cortisol and therefore the body responds by HOLDING ONTO FATS as it automatically goes into safety mode and will not budge as it thinks its in trouble – true story!

So many patients will have high blood sugar or perhaps even leaning toward insulin resistance BECAUSE OF STRESS… for this very reason.

Overtraining is a Syndrome and can result in or be described as Chronic Fatigue and/or Burnout. An imbalance between competing and training versus recovery is the main culprit.

Training alone is not the primary cause rather the amount of stress the person feels exceeding the capacity to “cope”. A triggering of stressful events or series of them, or even “no time to rest” followed by excessive periods of overtraining and lack of sleep pushes individuals into the development of symptoms as listed below

Adrenal Insufficiency – Further Nerdy Tips

Long term, chronic overtraining, leads to serious health problems including adrenal insufficiency. Proper hormone levels become unable to be maintained causing performance in all areas of life to be compromised.

Evidence suggests prolonged overtraining causes autonomic imbalance which reduces the adrenal response to Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (Known as ACTH). Compensated by an increased pituitary ACTH release. During early stages of over training despite the increase ACTH released by the pituitary the decreased adrenal response is no longer compensated because its been overworked and the cortisol response that usually occurs goes into sudden decline. In advanced stages the pituitary ACTH release will also be effected. It is plain and simple, continue to overtrain and have incomplete regeneration then continue to chronically effect your hormones, immune function and ability to deal with stress! Wonder why you always feeling run down? Its probably because you quite literally are!

Epinephrine and nor epinephrine are released during fight or flight response to stress.

Again this reaction happens with all types of stress whether it be physical, mental, emotional or even perceived. The way stress effects our bodies has the same chemical reaction in that the release of hormones is decreased.

Aldosterone, cortisol and cortisone are regulated within the adrenal cortex, which originates from our HPA axis as mentioned earlier.

Aldosterone helps the kidneys excrete potassium and retain sodium, when this production is shunted by stress the kidneys stop regulating salt and water balance causing changes to blood pressure. Changes in blood pressure may be why you sometimes can see low blood pressure when someone is dehydrated and high blood pressure when someone is “under the pump”, both are forms of stress.

Cortisol is a commonly heard hormone however often misunderstood. It has so many functions! Cortisol production is regulated by Adreno Cortico Trophic Hormone (ACTH) – this is made only in the pituitary gland. The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA)

Is involved in our response to stress. In early stages of depletion hormones can be in short supply or they can be found to be abnormally high.

The HPA axis maintains hormone levels by balancing hormones at each level of the axis, in the simplest explanation, it happens like this

· The Hypothalamus Releases Corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH)

· This causes the pituitary to release Adreno Cortico Trophic Hormone (ACTH)

· ACTH causes the outer cortex of the adrenal gland to increase in size to be able to produce cortisol

· ACTH can sometimes present as low when Cortisol may be at a normal level

· Depletion overall involves the entire HPA axis, and the earlier we resolve the issue of excess stress on our bodies the easier the damage can be reversed and the less the axis will be effected.

So yes now I’ve provided you with the WHY’s – now the HOW’s

I’m not saying don’t exercise. I’m saying – look after yourself when and if you do.

Don’t over stress your body, listen to yourself, consider self care and down time in between your high intensity days such as long slow walks, time in nature, bathing, reading, listening to music and if its for you some form of meditation – for some people this may mean colouring in or dancing, whatever works for you.

Overall prevention, proper nutrition, balancing the recovery and training, stress management – are so important to consider for the general public who go to intense classes everyday as well as athletes who push themselves without adequate rest and recovery and most of the time without proper dietary guidance.

Know how to read the signs of your body, your personal and perceived adaption to stress, fatigue levels, libido, hormone changes, sleep patterns, eating habits and time to recover will aid in the intervention and prevention of complete exhaustion and fatigue.

If you’d like the know further or need help with your training plan, dietary intake or overall health in general feel free to get in contact, I’d be happy to guide you on a more holistic path to wellness.

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