Exercise, Cortisol & Weight Gain



Exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, and the benefits of regular physical activity are well established, yet certain types of exercise may result in a a state of physical exhaustion on a regular basis, which may do MORE HARM THAN GOOD

Although consistent, high intensity workout routines may provide some benefits for individuals looking to lose body fat and increase their overall strength and fitness, there is a fine line between training hard and overtraining.  Participating in physically demanding activities such as running fast, spin classes and lifting heavy weights 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 exercising.  Many high intensity exercise workouts may push the body's stress response too far, resulting in a cascade of biochemical responses that can have detrimental effects on 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 or endurance exercise can cause a variety of health problems, especially for those predisposed to other co-existing stressors such as auto-immune 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 or excessive exercise can adversely affect the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, with the potential to contribute to conditions such as hypothyroidism.  Symptoms of HYPOTHYROIDISM include depression, weight gain, fatigue, iron deficiency and digestive disturbances  .  Elevated stress in general can cause symptoms of hypothyroidism, and the stress caused by excessive, intense or endurance exercise is no exception.

"Skinny Fat"

Another major effect that extreme exercise has on our bodies is an immediate cortisol increase: cortisol is the hormone that is released when the body is under stress.  Heavy resistance exercises are found to encourage decidedly acute cortisol responses, similar to those responses found in marathon running.  Chronically high levels of cortisol can increase your risk of developing a plethora of health issues, such as sleep disturbances, digestive issues, depression, weight gain, fatigue and memory impairment.  Excess cortisol also encourages fat gain, particularly AROUND THE ABDOMEN.

Overtraining can also have harmful effects on the immune system.  Damage to cells that occurs during overtraining can lead to nonspecific, hyperactivation 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 AUTO-IMMUNE CONDITIONS.  This type of non-specific 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 know to occur in over-trained athletes.

Feeling ill or rundown, losing muscle mass, gaining fat, and constant exhaustion can all be signs of excessive exercises.  Not only is this counterproductive to most people's fitness and health goals, it also is a sign of sickness.  Any activity that makes you more fatigued and more susceptible to infection, is definitely something to be avoided.  The key is moderation and to listen to your body.  Always use your best judgement and don't let coaches or fellow athletes PUSH YOU PAST YOUR COMFORT ZONE. 


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4. Marks' Daily Apple 2010 http://www.marksdailyapple.com/overtraining/#axzz1kKPoSLNL