Can running stress the body?
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 drlibby.com.
There is nothing wrong with some running, or bursts of intense exercise – for a body that is not stressed.