In my previous three posts, I’ve shared about my journey of recovering from adrenal fatigue including reducing stress, improving sleep, and altering my diet (if you missed the previous posts, read part 1, part 2, and part 3 here). Today, I’m talking about exercise and sharing the supplements that have helped me the most.
Exercising the wrong way
Awhile back when I was first starting to notice the weight gain from my adrenal fatigue, one of my immediate reactions was to increase my workouts. I have always been active as an adult and would typically alternate yoga, walking, and weight training. However, as I began gaining weight, I began to question if it was somehow due to not being active enough.
I began increasing the intensity and duration of my weight training sessions and adding in jogging/brisk walking. I was working out for over an hour each evening and immediately began to notice that my weight was spiking up even more. At that point, I was easily gaining about a pound each week and was freaking out because I knew something was really off with my body.
Although exercise is a great way to release stress, too much exercise can actually increase cortisol production. And, if you remember from my last post that people who have high amounts of cortisol in their bodies will gain weight (regardless of diet or activity), it’s pretty clear why this is a vicious and dangerous cycle. In hindsight, this all makes so much sense to me now and I wish I hadn’t kept pushing myself so hard and feeling ashamed about my weight.
Exercising the right way
I’m still currently trying to find my balance with exercise. Earlier this year I was so physically burned out that I began scaling back my workouts and focusing on HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts that were much shorter.
Since discovering I have adrenal fatigue, I’ve continued doing these HIIT workouts a couple of days a week, but keep them short (usually 20 – 30 minutes). My favorite workout is the Killer Body DVD by Jillian Michaels and I wrote a whole post here about why I’m in love with her HIIT workouts. Since the adrenal hormones help to control electrolyte balance, I also supplement with electrolytes on days when I work out and I’ve noticed that I don’t get dizzy or lightheaded during intense workouts anymore.
The other key thing about workouts is the timing. Since exercise can cause cortisol levels to rise for a few hours, if you’re already struggling with high cortisol, this can be a challenge if you’re doing evening workouts. For this reason, it’s recommended that any exercise after 2 pm should be limited to gentle yoga or walking. (source: The Adrenal Reset Diet by Alan Christianson) As a result of this, I’ve moved my HIIT workouts to the mornings and alternate this with afternoon/evening yoga.
And, although it’s important not to overdo it, not enough exercise can also be a problem. Sitting or being sedentary for long periods of time can also impact cortisol so I’ve been trying to incorporate more gentle walking throughout my day. My goal for the summer is to also incorporate a gentle evening walk after dinner as a way to unwind before bedtime.
Let’s talk supplements! If you read part 2, then you already know that supplements have been key for me to help get my cortisol levels back on track and resume sleeping through the night.
Here are the four supplements I’m taking specifically for cortisol/sleep:
- Calm CP: promotes restful sleep and reduces anxiousness
- Calm G: reduces anxiousness by inhibiting glutamate
- Travacor: boosts mood and promotes restful sleep
- Kavinace: boosts GABA to help calm the body and promote restful sleep
I currently take 2 of each supplement about 30 minutes before bed and I’m now able to sleep through the night most of the time.
I’m also taking the following supplements in the morning for adrenal support and general health:
- Adrenal Response (contains ashwagandha which has been shown to lower cortisol levels during stress)
- Fish oil (has been shown to reduce cortisol levels)
- Vitamin D drops
- Probiotics: I like to alternate the brands I use to increase the variety of bacteria. (Bio-Kult is one of the brands I’ve used in the past and I also like Ultimate Flora since it doesn’t contain dairy.)
- Multivitamin (mine also contains chromium and magnesium since these support blood sugar and proper cortisol levels)
Please note that all of these supplements have been prescribed by my naturopath. I am not a medical professional and this blog is not intended as medical advice. I am sharing this information in hopes that it is helpful for those suffering from adrenal fatigue, but please consult with a medical professional to determine the best supplements for your body.
Befriending my body
I think one of the greatest lessons I’m learning through this experience is how to be more gentle with myself. Once I realized that beating myself up with extra workouts or spending tons of time dissecting every single thing I ate was actually counterproductive, it helped me to shift my mindset and realize that I had to start working in conjunction with my body (instead of against it) in order to heal. And, I realize how silly and common sense a lot of this sounds, but it never ceases to amaze me how hard it can be to have a healthy relationship with your body as a woman in today’s culture. (Note: I really loved this book by Marcelle Pick, particularly her chapters on “healing yourself” and “emotional work”.)
There are some of my favorite books and resources on healing from adrenal fatigue:
- Are you Tired and Wired?: Your Proven 30-Day Program for Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue and Feeling Fantastic Again by Marcelle Pick
- Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome by Dr. James L. Wilson
- The Adrenal Reset Diet by Alan Christianson
Do you have any tips for healing from adrenal fatigue? Is there more information you’d like to know? Please share in the comments below!