Adrenal fatigue is a collection of symptoms, that result in the adrenal glands functioning below the necessary level. What is the basic function of adrenal glands? They produce much of our body's hormones - epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol - to help us during moments of stress. When we are in a crisis situation, the hormones are released; putting us in a "fight or flight" mode to better help us deal with those situations.
The trouble comes when our crisis situation or stress level is of a prolonged nature. This leaves our glands working overtime - constantly releasing hormones. When we have continued high levels of cortisol dumped into our system, we severely interrupt our bodies ability to process fat, protein and carbohydrates; which, in turn, interrupts our ability and/or desire for fat loss.
That state of fatigue can be present every day with stressful jobs or a difficult boss, air pollution, family quarrels, financial problems, too little sleep, illness, overindulgence in or sensitivities to food, getting too many days of training and not enough days of rest & recovery (i.e., excessive training, particularly metabolic conditioning - metcon - exacerbates the condition).
How do we know if we are in or near the state of adrenal fatigue? Easy.
* Tired for no reason?
* Trouble getting up in the morning; even with reasonable sleep?
* Feeling run-down or overwhelmed?
* Have some struggle bouncing back from stress or illness?
* Crave salty or sweet snacks?
* Zero sex drive?
So, what do we do if we think we might be suffering from adrenal fatigue and/or excessive cortisol levels? This part may not be so easy for some, but realizing you are headed for physical, emotional and physiological disaster may make you re-think your priority levels and force you to readjust lifestyle. The following simple changes can drastically help to manage cortisol levels and reverse adrenal fatigue:
* Eat right - Paleo or Paleo-Zone. At the very least, switch to gluten-free.
* ZZZZZZZ. Get your sleep! This cannot be emphasized enough! Ideally, getting 8 hours of sleep can do wonders to lowering cortisol levels. However, getting appropriate sleep-cycles in a 24-hour period, can also help if you have a hard time getting in all your sleep in a 8 hour sleep cycle. A 75-90 minute nap in the middle of the day is also effective sleep-cycle wise. The key is getting that total number of sleep for the day/night. If you are not getting the 8 hours with day/night combined, you are headed for cortisol-overabundance-havoc.
* If you are going to obssess about anything, do it with your down time. Take time off from everything by doing things that requires little to no effort. Take your dog on a leisurely walk, alphabetize your spices, sit back on your couch and stare at the cobwebs on your ceiling (but don't dust!!). When was the last time you had a 1 WEEK rest cycle regarding wods (that's right, one week off!). If the answer to that question is either "never" or "can't remember", your approach to optimal health is flawed. The top performing athletes in Crossfit know how important that is.
* Perform your wods but reduce intensity (lower metcons, work on strength instead).
* Abstain from caffeine and other stimulants if adrenal fatigue is severe. It has also been suggested that greatly reducing the amount of alcohol one consumes aides towards efficient management of elevated cortisol levels.* A small PWO meal can help reduce cortisol levels post wod (P/C combo)