Body, Lifestyle

Overachievers & the Adrenals

Calling all athletes, over-achievers and ass kissers. Today’s post is for you.

I’m really sick of hearing that more is more. More is better.

More cardio, more weight, more training sessions, longer training sessions. That you should stretch more, do more yoga, mix in a rec league sport, take up a mindfulness practice, move more, stand at work more. All of it. Add it to the schedule.

Always more.

But guess what? More is not always better.

Individually, each of those things above has the potential to make you better. Whether it’s becoming a better athlete, losing weight, gaining muscle, getting more flexible, becoming more mindful – you CAN find success from adding something to your routine. My issue is with this culture of MORE that has been cultivated by our generation. People truly believe that in order to become better you need to become a slave to your schedule. That you need to fill each and every spare second of time in your day with some job, task, class or session and if you don’t, well, you’re pretty much a horrible human who is but a waste of space on this planet known as Earth. That’s a bit harsh, maybe, but don’t pretend like you haven’t felt like this at some point, or known someone else who has. * Raises hand * I’ll point the finger at myself, hell yah I will.

Getting better, being the best, it has become an obsession for many people, but what they’re not realizing is that their body is taking the hit.

Well, this is ironic, isn’t it? Most of the people who have these attitudes are/were athletes, are on fitness journeys or are general overachievers. People who are on that journey to be a better version of themselves. These people are so driven, so motivated, so focused. Traits that are hard to come by. Why do you think these people are often so successful? Not everyone has the discipline to hit that workout harder than the person next to them, to grind harder at work, or to take the time to meditate or journal before bed every night. Mental toughness can’t be taught. It just is. The issue is, these people often don’t have brakes. They live life with both feet on the gas. This sounds kind of bad ass, doesn’t it? Pretty sexy & definitely motivating. Well, let me tell yah. These people are about to drive their cars straight into a fucking tree. If you’re over my analogies, here’s the less colourful version – they’re putting their bodies into a highly stressed state, one that doesn’t heal overnight, and are now at increased risk for injury, illness or deficiency.

Our bodies can only push so hard for so long. I’m going to save you the in-depth explanation because I’m sure 90% of you don’t care, you just want the general idea.  So here’s the quick, very basic, dork dive:

Your adrenals are responsible for releasing important hormones into the blood stream.

They’re involved in producing 50+ hormones necessary for life.

When you are under stress, the gland releases cortisol, the stress hormone, which functions to reduce inflammation & control blood sugar (just to name a few of its jobs).

When you are under constant stress, release becomes inconsistent and suboptimal (think supply < demand)

When they can’t keep up, your stress response becomes less effective, inflammation isn’t mitigated, hormone levels decrease etc.

You stop recovering properly. Your gas tank is no longer filling back up to 100% overnight.

Quick summary: Our adrenals stop working efficiently. They can only mitigate the multiple stressors in our lives for so long before they stop working at optimal levels.

 

Now, you may stop here and think something like, “My life isn’t stressful & exercise is therapeutic, not stress” or you might think about how you love working long hours, being busy and falling asleep before your head even hits the pillow each night. That’s awesome! I’m glad that you’re building a life that you love, but all of those activities that you’re cramming into your life are still stressful to the body, to the mind, to the nervous system. Your body doesn’t understand that you’re doing a high intensity workout, not sprinting away from danger. Working to meet a deadline or building a new project can affect the body just the same. When you burn the candle at both ends, getting burned is inevitable.

Take a step back and view yourself without your ego attached. From the perspective of an outsider or someone close to you. Answer the following questions: Do you feel like you are in perfect health? Are you ever fatigued throughout the day or need coffee to function? Do you get hangry? Is your body always sore from pushing at the gym? Have you added more volume or days of exercise with little to no improvement seen or felt? Do you have nagging injuries or seem to always be getting injured? Trouble falling asleep at night despite being tired? Reflect for a second.

If any of that sounds like you, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re overworking and under-recovering.

To save yourself from an injury or burnout, think about subtracting some things from your life, or at least ‘toning it down’. If you’re super slammed at work, don’t stop working out, but maybe focus more on strength, body building movements or restorative exercises and less on classes that have you leaving a sweat angel on the gym floor. Less stress. If you’re working out and training hard, then make sure you’re making enough time in your schedule for sleep, proper nutrition and recovery.

People have a hard time cutting back on intensity or volume because they think they’re going to lose their precious gains. * insert Gollum meme here *  The reality is, you’re not. It’s mostly in your head. You need to perform and train at a level that is within your current capacity. To be honest, when your body is run down, you’re not making any improvements anyway. Working within capacity allows your body to be able to adapt to stressors appropriately and recover maximally.

 

Things that may cause increased strain on the adrenal glands:

stressful experiences or big life changes

prolonged stress

reliance on caffeine

poor sleep/lack of sleep

pain & injury

poor diet & food sensitivities (that aren’t addressed)

not eating enough/fueling your body properly

emotional trauma or negative self-talk

 

Symptoms of under-functioning adrenals (just a few)

chronic fatigue

caffeine reliance

moodiness/irritability/depression

hair loss

poor sleep, can’t fall asleep, hard to wake up in the AM

weight gain/not able to lose/muscle loss

sweet & salty cravings

fogginess

decreased sex drive

 

Ways to support your adrenal health

decrease caffeine intake

cut sugar & sweeteners

increase healthy fats & veggies

add himalayan sea salt to errythang

take an adrenal support supplement

get more sleep at night, take naps if needed

exercise moderately

enjoy yourself, laugh, cut negative influences

 

As always, if you have any questions. Reach out.

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