Why am I ex­hausted after ex­er­cis­ing?

Central Otago Mirror - - CONVERSATIONS - Q: I should be the fittest, health­i­est ver­sion of my­self – I’m do­ing four to five high­in­ten­sity ex­er­cise ses­sions a week, but I’m ab­so­lutely ex­hausted. Other peo­ple I train with are com­pletely en­er­gised. What’s wrong with me? Thanks, Tay­lor A: Dr Libby is

We all know that physical ac­tiv­ity is good for us, how­ever, long-term, stren­u­ous, high­in­ten­sity ex­er­cise can not only ex­haust our en­ergy sup­ply but also im­pact our im­mune sys­tem, leav­ing us feel­ing to­tally run down. Com­bine this in­tense ex­er­cise with our of­ten fran­tic mod­ern life­style and we can be left feel­ing tired but wired.

The adrenal glands are part of the en­docrine sys­tem, and they sit just on top of the kid­neys. They pro­duce an ar­ray of hor­mones (chem­i­cal mes­sen­gers), which in­clude our stress hor­mones, adrenalin and cor­ti­sol, sex hor­mones such as pro­ges­terone, hor­mones that help con­trol blood pres­sure, fluid bal­ance and salt re­ten­tion in the body, just to name a few. When it comes to our

vi­tal­ity, they pack a ma­jor punch in help­ing to cre­ate this.

Ini­tially dur­ing a short-term stress re­sponse such as in­tense ex­er­cise, the adrenals re­lease cor­ti­sol and adren­a­line which acts to in­crease the heart rate, blood pres­sure and blood su­gar lev­els, the ner­vous sys­tem re­sponse known as ‘‘fight or flight’’.

When this short-term stress be­comes long term (from in­ten­sive ex­er­cise or even stress from chronic ill­ness, work or re­la­tion­ships) the adrenal glands can no longer cope and hor­mone lev­els can drop. The ‘‘fight or flight’’ re­sponse that his­tor­i­cally pro­tected us from preda­tors, was not de­signed to pro­tect us from this con­stant low-grade stress we are of­ten ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in to­day’s world.

Symp­toms such as low li­bido, hor­monal im­bal­ances, com­pro­mised im­mu­nity, fa­tigue (even after eight hours’ sleep), su­gar crav­ings, weight plateau or weight gain and the in­abil­ity to con­cen­trate be­come ev­i­dent.

More so than ever be­fore it is es­sen­tial to lis­ten to your body. Choose your move­ment options wisely, not out of guilt or for calo­rie ex­pen­di­ture. A walk on the beach with a close friend or a stroll through a park tak­ing no­tice of the sights, smells and sounds. You might find that em­brac­ing a breath-fo­cused yoga prac­tice is more en­er­gis­ing for you at the mo­ment. Adap­to­genic and adrenal herbs can also be won­der­fully sup­port­ive and pro­vide much needed nour­ish­ment. Herbs such as with­a­nia, rho­di­ola and licorice can help to sup­port the adrenal glands and mod­u­late the im­mune sys­tem.

Vi­ta­min C, B vi­ta­mins and mag­ne­sium are also es­sen­tial for op­ti­mal adrenal gland func­tion and more are of­ten re­quired with pe­ri­ods of pro­longed stress or to help com­bat the ef­fects of in­tense ex­er­cise. If this res­onates for you I would en­cour­age you to speak to a health pro­fes­sional, as there may also be un­der­ly­ing bio­chem­i­cal is­sues at play.


In­tense ex­er­cise com­bined with our hec­tic lifestyles can leave us feel­ing tired.

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