Debbie Potts Coaching

Sometimes LESS is MORE!

Here is another article to review and discuss on exercise…

What are you thoughts? Do you workout TOO hard, TOO often TOO much?

“Exercise is a major component of a healthy lifestyle, and the benefits of regular physical activity are well established. When adopting a Paleo lifestyle, modifying your fitness routine to include more high intensity exercise can bring great benefits to energy, body composition, and overall fitness.

However, there are many people who take their physique and physical fitness to an extreme level, particularly in the Paleo community.

Certain styles of exercise take the participant to a state of physical exhaustion on a regular basis, which may do more harm than good.

While a consistent, high intensity workout routine may provide some benefits for those people looking to lose body fat and increase their strength and fitness, there is a fine line between training hard and overtraining.

While running fast and lifting heavy may be major components of an active Paleo lifestyle, engaging in these physically demanding activities too regularly or too intensely can contribute to many different symptoms of overtraining.

Overtraining goes beyond just excessive “chronic cardio” or too many hours spent at the gym.

Certain high-intensity exercise routines may push the body’s stress response too far, leading to a cascade of biochemical responses that can cause serious damage to one’s health in both the short and long term.

While short, intense workouts can be great for inducing fat loss, increasing aerobic capacity, and reducing risk for cardiovascular disease, excessively intense exercise can cause a variety of health problems, especially for those dealing with other concurrent stressors such as autoimmune disease, gut dysbiosis, or adrenal fatigue.

Overtraining has been shown to affect blood levels of important neurotransmitters such as glutamine, dopamine and 5-HTP, which can lead to feelings of depression and chronic fatigue.

The stress caused by intense, excessive exercise can negatively affect the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, possibly causing conditions such as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is known to cause depression, weight gain, and digestive disfunction along with a variety of other symptoms. As we know, high stress in general can cause symptoms of hypothyroidism, and the stress caused by excessive, intense exercise is no exception.

Another major effect that extreme exercise has on our bodies is an immediate increase in cortisol, the hormone that is released when the body is under stress.

Heavy-resistance exercises are found to stimulate markedly acute cortisol responses, similar to those responses found in marathon running. Chronically high levels of cortisol can increase your risk for a variety of health issues, such as sleep disturbances, digestive issues, depression, weight gain, and memory impairment. Excess cortisol also encourages fat gain, particularly around the abdomen.

When a goal of exercise is to lose weight or improve energy, overtraining can clearly be a major barrier to achieving those goals.

Overtraining can also have harmful effects on the immune system. Research has shown that the cellular damage that occurs during overtraining can lead to nonspecific, general activation of the immune system, including changes in natural killer cell activity and the increased activation of peripheral blood lymphocytes. This hyperactivity of the immune system following intense overtraining can possibly even contribute to the development of autoimmune conditions.

This type of nonspecific immune response is associated with symptoms such as chronic fatigue, weight loss, decreased appetite, and sleep changes. Altered immune status is also known to affect the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, and may be responsible for the hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction and hypothyroidism known to occur in overtrained athletes.

Mark Sisson talks about the different signs of overtraining, which may be more common in endurance training but is nonetheless possible in high intensity training as well.

Feeling ill or rundown, losing muscle mass, gaining fat, and constant exhaustion can all be signs of excessive exercise of any type. Not only is this counterproductive to most people’s fitness and health goals, but it is also a sign of sickness.

In the path to better health, any activity that makes you more fatigued and more prone to infection is definitely something to be avoided.

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So does this mean you should quit CrossFit, or stop pushing towards your weightlifting goals? Not necessarily.

Here are a few techniques to avoid overtraining while still enjoying high intensity exercise:

  1. Reduce the frequency. While pushing yourself hard at the gym is not inherently problematic, doing it too often during the week is overtraining. High intensity, high stress exercise should be limited to two or three times a week, especially for those who are dealing with other health issues such as autoimmune conditions or digestive troubles. Compounding those stressors with extra stress from your exercise routine will not leave you healthier, and can easily cause you to become more sick.
  2. Get adequate rest. I’ve written before about how important sleep quality is for health. Not only is taking breaks from exercise important, but getting adequate sleep to allow recovery from intense exercise is vital to avoiding the overtraining syndrome. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep, particularly on the days you train. Interestingly, one symptom of overtraining is disturbance of sleep, so if you’re feeling restless and having trouble sleeping through the night, you may want to reconsider the intensity of your training schedule.
  3. Mix it up. While high intensity exercise may be ideal for losing body fat and improving lean muscle mass, we know that high levels of cortisol can cause the body to hold onto fat. For this reason, you may consider trying a type of exercise that can help modulate your cortisol levels. Some may knock yoga as being too easy to affect weight loss, but regular yoga practice is shown to reduce cortisol levels, which may help in reaching your weight and fitness goals. Instead of doing a fourth day of CrossFit, try doing a yoga class instead. You may find that this stress reducing exercise helps you recover more quickly from your more intense exercise schedule.
  4. Eat more carbohydrates. While cutting down carbohydrate consumption is often seen as the best way to decrease body fat, a combination of overtraining and low-carb eating can actually raise cortisol significantly and negatively impact immune function. There is also a possibility that very low carbohydrate (VLC) diets suppress thyroid function, a debate thoroughly discussed by Paul Jaminet on his blog. So if you’re regularly doing high intensity training and want to avoid symptoms of overtraining stress, don’t skimp on the carbs!
High intensity exercise can be a great way to improve body composition and enhance your general health, if done the right way.  As with all components of our lifestyle changes, the key is moderation and listening to your body.

If you choose to participate in these high intensity training programs, always use your best judgment and don’t let coaches or fellow athletes push you past your comfort zone.

How are your hormone levels?  Cortisol?  DHEA?  Thyroiid?

Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to stress. It plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism, immune function, and blood pressure. Over-exercising can cause an increase in cortisol levels, which can lead to a variety of negative health effects, including fatigue, weakened immune function, and even weight gain.

While exercise is generally beneficial for overall health, overdoing it can be detrimental. It’s important to listen to your body and give it adequate rest and recovery time. Consulting a healthcare professional or a certified personal trainer can help you establish a safe and effective exercise routine that suits your individual needs and goals.

Over-exercise, cortisol, and thyroid are interconnected through a complex hormonal system. Over-exercise can lead to an increase in cortisol production, which can interfere with the production and function of thyroid hormones.

Thyroid hormones play a critical role in regulating metabolism, energy production, and body weight. The production of thyroid hormones is regulated by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in the brain. Cortisol, on the other hand, is produced by the adrenal glands and is also regulated by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland.

When cortisol levels are chronically elevated due to over-exercise or other forms of chronic stress, it can interfere with the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis (HPT axis), which can lead to a decrease in thyroid hormone production and function. This can result in symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and depression.

It’s essential to maintain a healthy balance between exercise, stress, and recovery to avoid any negative impact on the hormonal system. Listening to your body, giving it adequate rest and recovery time, and seeking medical advice when necessary can help you maintain a healthy balance and avoid any potential health problems.

High cortisol levels can interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid gland and the production of thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland plays a critical role in regulating metabolism, body weight, and energy levels by producing two primary hormones, T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine).

When cortisol levels are chronically elevated due to stress, it can disrupt the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis (HPT axis). The HPT axis is a complex feedback loop involving the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in the brain, which regulate the production and release of thyroid hormones.

Chronically elevated cortisol levels can lead to a decrease in the production and function of thyroid hormones, as cortisol interferes with the conversion of T4 to T3, which is the active form of thyroid hormone. This can result in symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, depression, and difficulty concentrating.

In addition, high cortisol levels can increase inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, which can damage the thyroid gland and further disrupt the production and function of thyroid hormones.

It’s essential to maintain healthy cortisol levels through stress management techniques, such as exercise, meditation, or therapy, to avoid any negative impact on the thyroid gland and overall health. If you’re experiencing symptoms related to thyroid function, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment

Does your exercise routine add to your stress beaker?

How do you know if you are doing TOO MUCH of everything?

Test and not guess with well chosen functional lab tests.

While I won’t go into the full production, conversion, and uptake process in this article, here’s a quick overview of some of the key players involved:

  • Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH): This hormone is produced in the hypothalamus, and it signals to the pituitary gland how much thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to produce.
  • TSH: Produced by the pituitary gland, TSH stimulates the thyroid to produce the thyroid hormones T4 and T3. Elevated TSH levels could indicate an underfunctioning thyroid. It’s crucial to note that not everyone with hypothyroidism will fit this pattern; low levels of TSH can also indicate a problem if coupled with low levels of thyroid hormones.
  • Thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3): Collectively known as “thyroid hormones,” T4 and T3 are produced by the thyroid. T4, the inactive form of thyroid hormone, must be converted to T3 before the body can use it. In my work, I look at total T4 and T3 (these are bound to a protein carrier and can be circulated in the bloodstream) and free T4 and T3 (these are separated from that carrier and can bind to cell receptors and perform their function).
  • Thyroid-binding globulin (TBG): TBG is the protein carrier that binds to T4 and T3 and transports those hormones through the blood. Too much TBG can lead to lower levels of free T4 and T3.
  • Thyroid antibodies: In cases of autoimmunity, these antibodies attack and damage the thyroid gland. I look at thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies (Ab) and thyroglobulin (Tg) Ab. These antibodies can show up years before clinical hypothyroidism develops, making it especially important to spot them early on.

As I mentioned with TSH, there are several patterns of hypothyroidism that don’t align with the conventional view of these markers. For more on those, check out “5 Thyroid Patterns That Won’t Show up on Standard Lab Tests.”

Does chronic stress impact your adrenals, thyroid and sex hormones?

The Effect of Stress on Your Thyroid

When you’re under constant or chronic stress, your body produces the stress hormone cortisol. But if there’s too much cortisol surging through your body, it can wreak havoc on your thyroid. Too much cortisol makes your thyroid gland work harder to produce enough thyroid hormone. This process can tax the thyroid gland and lead to imbalances of the thyroid hormone in your body.

If you just finished a huge work project only to find yourself sick the following weekend, you probably know that being under stress for long periods of time can compromise your immune system. Researchers have found evidence that links cells in the immune system to the regulation of thyroid hormone activity during normal physiological conditions and when the immune system is stressed and fighting off infection.

So when your body is fighting off an illness, the immune system jumps in to help regulate activity of the thyroid hormone. This may also hinder the immune system from using all of its resources to fight off the infection itself. If your immune system gets thrown out of whack frequently, you’re more likely to be prone to autoimmune diseases.


Adrenal Glands and Hypothyroidism

The adrenal glands are responsible for secreting the stress-response regulating hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. While these glands affect nearly every response in the body, when the adrenals are weak, they can cause hypothyroidism symptoms like those mentioned above. Some research has found inflammatory cytokines, which are released into the body during a stress response, can reduce levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). When you have a thyroid illness or imbalance, you’re more likely to have inflammation in the body, which can lead to other diseases and health problems.

How Stress Can Be Extremely Dangerous

Rarely, people with an underactive thyroid develop myxedema coma. Myxedema is more likely to occur in people who’ve had the thyroid gland removed, either surgically or by radioactive thyroid ablation. Severe, ongoing stress, infections, and surgery can trigger myxedema coma. Symptoms to watch out for include a severe drop in body temperature, difficulty breathing, slow heart rate, constipationseizures, and weight gain due to fluid buildup in the body.

If you have hypothyroidism, talk with your doctor for suggestions on how minimizing stress, vigorous exercise, and relaxation techniques can help you. Also ask about dietary recommendations and possible medication adjustments to help you manage stress and your thyroid imbalance.


7 Common Hypothyroidism Causes


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