She complained that she had started gaining weight a year earlier, and it wouldn’t budge despite her usual cardio routine. She’d gone on a strict low carb, protein and vegetables only diet, but she wasn’t losing weight.
Her main issue, though, wasn’t the weight; it was that recently her energy had “tanked.” When she fell asleep she felt “knocked out,” but still woke up feeling exhausted after eight hours and other times she woke up every 2 hours.
Her brain felt foggy, she was irritable, and she was drinking three cups of coffee a day to get through her afternoon slump. At night she became super mom, cooking and taking care of the kids. Usually she was at her laptop until about midnight, which is when she physically couldn’t keep her eyes open. Everything she described was classic for adrenal fatigue, especially because of the excessive cardio and low carbs contributing to the problem.
But before we get to her plan, we should back up and talk about what it means to have adrenal fatigue.
What is adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a phenomenon characterized by a disruption of your adrenal glands’ ability to make cortisol in the right amounts at the right times in response to stress.
The adrenals are the body’s hormonal powerhouse. Two little glands that sit on top of your kidneys, they’re the linchpin of a feedback loop coordinating nearly every hormone in your body.
The Three Stages Of Adrenal Fatigue
There are three stages of adrenal fatigue. Each one is associated with a different type of cortisol imbalance, and typically people progress from stage 1 to stage 3 sequentially over time.
Stage 1: Wired and tired
This stage is characterized by high cortisol levels, especially at night, leading to insomnia, insulin resistance and abdominal weight gain. People often feel energized but in an edgy “wired” way.
Stage 2: Stressed and tired
In this stage, many people wake up early in the morning (often around 3am) and are unable to fall back asleep. Later in the day some stressor kicks in, and they feel more awake. Their cortisol peaks early, flattens out, but often has midday or early evening rise.
Stage 3: Burnout
This stage is characterized by exhaustion regardless of hours slept, a flat cortisol curve, and in some cases low DHEA and thyroid hormone levels. Stage 3 may be a dangerous place to be because it’s associated with higher risk of autoimmune disease. Typically many people start seeing food sensitivity issues arise.
1. Follow the adrenal diet.
This means getting rid of foods that you are sensitive to and foods that cause inflammation, and eating lots of brightly colored vegetables, lean protein, and whole grain gluten-free carbs.
2. Go bed early.
Getting to bed before 11pm is a must in any stage of adrenal fatigue. Many people get a second cortisol surge after 11pm, which further disrupts sleep patterns.
3. Flood the adrenals with B vitamins.
B vitamins (B5 and B6 in particular) are food for the adrenals and can be low in a high-fat, low-carb diet. B12 and folate also help with energy production. Consume adaptogen herbs such as Rhodiola Rosea, siberian and Korean ginseng, ashwagandha, holy basil and licorice root.
4. Cool inflammation.
Using omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, and vitamin C supplements, can lower systemic inflammation levels allowing the adrenals to recover.
5. Replace important nutrients.
Vitamin D, selenium, magnesium, iodine, chromium and zinc are all important for proper thyroid function and adrenal function.
6. Focus on hydration.
Dehydration is also a hallmark of adrenal fatigue. You can add fresh lemon juice to your water to spruce it up.
7. Build rest into the day.
Lower the amount of high intensity training to 2 full body training sessions, and or 2 HIIT sessions weekly maximum. Instead go for walks outdoors, do some yoga, take a nap where possible.
8. Change your perspective.
Is your definition of success killing you? In many cases, what you perceive as success is driving you into adrenal overload. Helping yourself see and internalize the idea that “it” doesn’t have to be perfect to be great makes a huge difference in your stress levels.
Author of Finding Balance 100 meals to Fit Your Life
CEO of FitNSync and Developer of FIT N FLEXIBLE The Sustainable Body Approach
NCSF Certified Personal Trainer, Nutritional Consultant, Published Fitness Model
Former IFBB World Amateur Natural Fitness Championships Men’s Physique Competitor