Can run­ning stress the body?

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - 2016 IN PICTURES -

Q:Can you ex­plain how run­ning can be a stress to the body? I’ve heard you say this and I al­ways thought ex­er­cise was good for the body! Jen.


Hi Jen, re­search and com­mon sense tells us a seden­tary life­style takes years off our lives, not to men­tion neg­a­tively af­fect­ing the qual­ity of our lives. But do you think even 100 years ago peo­ple woke up and thought ‘‘Off for a 20 kilo­me­tre run to­day!’’ Not likely.

I be­lieve that for peo­ple in the west, when the calo­rie equa­tion was pre­sented as be­ing the only mech­a­nism through which we burn or store fat (a myth), the con­cept of run­ning long dis­tances to burn calo­ries was born.

There is nothing wrong with some run­ning, or bursts of in­tense ex­er­cise – for a body that is not stressed. The trou­ble is, many peo­ple now live con­stantly from what I call the ‘‘red zone’’, al­ways en­gaged in fight-or-flight, our body’s stress re­sponse.

When you run long dis­tances, you gen­er­ate a huge amount of free rad­i­cals. This means you need huge num­bers of an­tiox­i­dants to mop these up so that your tis­sues aren’t dam­aged, and so that age­ing and de­gen­er­a­tion pro­cesses aren’t over-stim­u­lated. Plus, you need to em­brace mus­cle-build­ing ex­er­cise as well, be­cause run­ning long dis­tances is catabolic (mean­ing you break down mus­cles for en­ergy) which does not sup­port your meta­bolic rate in the long term.

Now, I am­not say­ing don’t run if you love it. If you feel en­er­gised and up­lifted at the end of it, that’s won­der­ful. Just make sure you’re sup­port­ing your body with loads of an­tiox­i­dants to ensure you’re giv­ing back to it what it needs or try internal train­ing – short bursts of run­ning in­stead. And if you don’t en­joy run­ning or come to the end of a run feel­ing com­pletely wiped out, you may be do­ing more harm than good.

Q: I have re­cently cut out car­bo­hy­drates (not fully) but mostly and have no­ticed that at times I feel quite light-headed/ faint. Is this nor­mal? Thanks, Chloe.


Hi Chloe, firstly, I would em­pha­sise that our body doesn’t have a voice so it gives us feed­back via symp­toms – for ex­am­ple headaches, lethargy and feel­ing light-headed can sig­nal there’s some­thing you’re do­ing that it doesn’t like (pro­vided other med­i­cal rea­sons have been ruled out). The rem­edy may be as sim­ple as drink­ing more wa­ter, eat­ing more fre­quently or look­ing at your diet as a whole, but it’s cer­tainly worth pay­ing at­ten­tion to.

Sec­ond, often when we make di­etary change we change other parts of our life­style as well. For ex­am­ple, you may have taken up run­ning or weight train­ing and it’s all of these fac­tors com­bined, which may be im­pact­ing your en­ergy and health.

Many peo­ple feel bet­ter low­er­ing their con­sump­tion of car­bo­hy­drates, if up un­til now, they have con­sumed a lot of pro­cessed, re­fined foods. But for

some peo­ple, they go too low and their body lets them know this, which may be the case for you.

Some peo­ple ben­e­fit from eat­ing a mod­er­ate (in­di­vid­ual for each per­son) amount of qual­ity car­bo­hy­drates from real food sources.

If you’ve cut out car­bo­hy­drates you may have also cut your en­ergy in­take sig­nif­i­cantly, which may be play­ing havoc with your blood glu­cose. In your case, I’d cer­tainly be re­view­ing your diet and whether or not you are ob­tain­ing your macro and mi­cronu­tri­ent re­quire­ments.

Feel­ing light-headed or faint could also indi­cate low blood pres­sure, or many other things so I would en­cour­age you to visit your doc­tor.

Dr Libby is a nu­tri­tional bio­chemist, best-sell­ing au­thor and speaker. The ad­vice con­tained in this col­umn is not in­tended to be a sub­sti­tute for direct, per­son­alised ad­vice from a health pro­fes­sional. Visit dr­


There is nothing wrong with some run­ning, or bursts of in­tense ex­er­cise – for a body that is not stressed.

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