Have you heard of adrenal fatigue? It happens when you work out too much, and it can seriously hinder your physical goals, as well as your health itself. "Exercising at a high intensity for an extended period of time, especially in addition to the stress of work, life, relationships, and body image, can throw you into adrenal fatigue," warned personal trainer and injury-prevention specialist Liz Letchford, MS, ATC.
Part of it comes down to cortisol, the stress hormone that makes you retain belly fat; when you keep going past your physical limits, you're messing with cortisol levels. "Your body essentially has exhausted its capacity to fight, but you continue to put it in 'fight or flight' mode by exercising — especially high-intensity, long-duration exercise. This throws your hormones out of balance, causing fatigue, poor performance, fogginess, and weight gain, especially around your middle."
The end result? Weight gain. Exercise "is not just about strong muscles and losing fat," she said. "Your entire central nervous system is regulated by a complicated system of hormones. Throw them out of whack, and you've got some serious issues."
Unfortunately, overtraining is a trend on the rise. "We're seeing it more and more often in fitness enthusiasts. When it comes to exercise, more is just more . . . more is not better. I am a huge advocate for optimizing your workout routine instead of throwing your body through every intense boot camp as often as possible."
How do you fight this — and see results — instead of letting your fitness plan backfire? "Choose a workout routine that supports your goals," said Liz. "Stick to long duration/low intensity, or short duration/high intensity."
She also warned against the ever popular two-a-day workout routine. "Stay away from two-a-days as part of your normal workout regimen, and take those rest days. Your body needs it to recover from all of the breaking down that has been happening during workouts."
Heed her warning . . . she's seen what can happen firsthand. But she's also been able to help those who have gained weight from overtraining lose it. "I've worked with several clients who — through reduction of long-duration high-intensity exercise, stress-reduction techniques, and proper nutrition — were able to finally feel like themselves again, and the inflammation and weight eventually returned to normal."