Have you ever heard of Adrenal Fatigue? Due to the nature of our society, most of us suffer from the syndrome and it has a huge effect on weight loss and building muscle.
Adrenal fatigue is a condition where there is an abnormal amount of stress hormone in the body.
Our main stress hormone is cortisol and it’s normal for the body to release cortisol, but it’s the prolonged stress that becomes a problem and leads to our adrenal fatigue.
Fight or Flight
In a stressful situation, our sympathetic nervous system becomes excited and adrenalin and noradrenalin are released from the adrenal glands to create an immediate physiological response.
Cortisol is released slightly later if the danger or stress still persists. This mobilises the body ready for the ‘fight or flight’.
If we go back a few thousand years, whether it was predators or enemies, we would need to be ready for this ‘fight or flight’ response in order to survive!
Physiologically our blood vessels constrict causing the blood flow to move away from the internal organs to support the outer muscles and limbs, enabling the body to move quickly when danger is present.
Our brain has two distinct components known as the reptilian brain and the mammalian brain. When we’re stressed, the reptilian brain is engaged to allow for quick and instinctive thinking, which you need when your life is in danger.
For example, if you were being chased by a tiger, it’s not a good idea to focus on digesting your lunch or fighting off a parasite infection…otherwise, you’ll be dead!
The body can deal with that later if you survive the immediate threat from the tiger. This is when the parasympathetic nervous system becomes more dominant.
Breathing goes back to normal, heart rate reduces, blood pressure drops, and the blood supply is diverted back to the internal organs and the mammalian part of the brain.
Our internal organs regenerate and rebuild tissues in the body and strengthen our immune system to stop us feeling run down.
The mammalian brain is used for planning, problem solving and logical thinking thus providing clear and intelligent thoughts.
Stages of adrenal fatigue
There are three recognised stages of adrenal fatigue:
- Stage 1 – This is the initial response to stress. It’s when we’re producing a higher amount of cortisol than normal. The sympathetic nervous system remains dominant and cortisol levels remain high rather than falling back to normal.
- Stage 2 – This occurs when stress continues and adrenal glands become tired. There becomes a point where the adrenal glands simply cannot keep pumping out cortisol, it has to slow down at some stage. They can’t produce enough cortisol to keep up with the chronic stressors. You could go to your Doctor, but at this stage you may not show any symptoms on a blood work level. Typical signs include the following:
- Difficulty to get out of bed
- Run down
- Muscular weakness and/or soreness
- Lack of libido
- Sugar cravings
- Increased menopausal symptoms
- Stage 3 – Cortisol secretion is impaired and the adrenal glands can no longer release enough cortisol to keep up with demand. You will experience signs like needing a coffee and cigarette to wake you up in the morning and going to your Doctor for prescription drugs but this can all simply be caused by too much stress.
Modern day stressors
OK, so tigers are not chasing us and we’re not dodging arrows any longer but we still are exposed to the daily stressors of modern life.
The contemporary versions that create the the ‘fight or flight’ scenario are the following:
This can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a desk all day, exercising too much or too little, lack of rest and going to bed too late or not getting enough sleep.
This includes cigarette smoke, breathing in polluted air, mercury fillings in your mouth, common toiletries and perfumes and even new carpets and paints.
Anything that emits electromagnetic radiation from cell phones and microwaves to over exposure in the sun and bedroom alarm clocks.
Mental stress can include financial stress, arguments with people, being in unhealthy relationships, work deadlines and having no defining life goal.
Anything that can burn you or lower your body temperature from spending too much time in the sun to being freezing cold!
Eating foods that you have a sensitivity towards, over eating, under eating, consuming food that is not right for your Metabolic Type and just choosing food that is low quality.
Quick lesson in hormones
It’s important to understand the role that hormones have to play when it comes down to stress. This may sound a bit technical but it will help illustrate the problems that come with adrenal fatigue.
Our master hormone, Pregnenoline makes the growth hormone DHEA, which is a precursor to testosterone and estrogen. These are our growth and repair hormones.
The stress hormone, cortisol, cannot be made without Progesterone. In adrenal fatigue, Pregnenoline has to make Pregosterone instead of DHEA. Therefore, it stops pumping out as much testosterone and estrogen.
This is known as the ‘Progesterone Steal’.
So what does this all mean?
Low DHEA in the body makes it less able to make growth and repair hormones. So your body will not recover after exercise and you won’t be able to build any lean muscle and tone up.
This has a massive effect on our metabolism as the less muscle we have, the lower our metabolic rate, which means we burn less calories at rest.
The more lean muscle we have, the faster our metabolism will be and the more calories we can burn during and after exercise.
A lack of testosterone and estrogen in the body also reduces our libido which is why Viagra is flying off the shelves. To add to this dilemma, without the birth hormone Pregosterone, women can find it increasingly hard to conceive.
How to get lean
The release of stress hormones is a natural biological action. But we need cortisol and DHEA balanced in harmony so we can adapt to stress and minimise these long term chronic stressors.
It is when our hormones are not in harmony that it leads to immune and metabolic breakdown, which has a direct effect on losing weight and putting on muscle.
It is simply more than calories in versus calories out. Calories do count but they are just a small part of a bigger system, yet it is all people seem to obsess about.
If there were two twins who ate exactly the same diet but one is overexercising, not getting enough sleep, working long hours, sensitive to certain foods, has a parasite infection and bacterial overgrowth and the other twin is perfectly healthy…
Which twin would have more muscle mass?
There are more things to think about that counting calories when it comes to weight loss.
We do need stress. It challenges us mentally, exercising makes us stronger, nutrition nourishes our body but most people are overly stressed and this leads to adrenal fatigue.
As you can probably tell by now, there are lots of areas we can correct to minimise the stress in our lives.
That is why we have created our 8-week online course Beach Body Countdown. It is a comprehensive guide to becoming lean, losing weight and getting swimsuit ready! No fads, no pills, just a deep understanding of how the body works is all you need to succeed.
If you have any questions about our Beach Body Countdown, then please share them in comment box below.