Why am I exhausted after exercising?
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
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.
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. Join Dr Libby for her upcoming ‘Sort Your Sleep’ New Zealand tour, for more information or to purchase tickets visit drlibby.com
Intense exercise combined with our hectic lifestyles can leave us feeling tired.