We know why you’ve come to this blog – you might be struggling to stay concentrated at work. You might be feeling fatigued before your training sessions even start – so much so that it’s impacting your long-term performance. You may be feeling tired all day, yet you cannot sleep at night. You might be getting strong cravings at different times of the day that are affecting your progress.
Fatigue, tiredness, insomnia and cravings are just a few of the symptoms that have been collectively attributed to Adrenal Fatigue.
Adrenal Fatigue is a term now commonly used to refer to underactive adrenal glands. These glands (adrenals) sit nicely on top of the kidneys and release hormones to control important processes in the body. These include blood pressure, metabolism and stress responses.
You may recognise some of the hormones release by the adrenals from what they do in your body:
Noradrenaline and Adrenaline – These are your fight, flight or freeze hormones. They help you react to stressors in your day to day life which includes increasing your heart rate, shifting blood flow to working muscles, increasing your breathing etc
Cortisol – This is your stress hormone and also heavily involved in immune function. We find it particularly interesting due to its role in metabolism and as a key player in blood glucose control.
Aldosterone – Controls fluid levels and blood pressure in the body.
It is thought that following highly stressful periods your adrenal glands fatigue, resulting in a dimmed release of these hormones. This is what has come to be commonly known as Adrenal Fatigue.
However, Adrenal Fatigue is NOT recognised as a medically diagnosed condition. The reason this term has spread so quickly is because it gives a name to experiences that so many of us feel as a result of our stressful lifestyles.
So even though it’s not considered a medical condition, this does not mean it isn’t real. The symptoms and challenges you are experiencing can be significant and impact you in a major way. But labelling everything as Adrenal Fatigue could also mean missing some other diagnosis. So it is important to take note of how your body is reacting and changing to stress.
The symptoms that are commonly associated with Adrenal Fatigue may be associated with a myriad of other conditions. These include depression, sleep disorders, Fibromyalgia, forms of anaemia, symptoms of menopause or peri-menopause, hyper or hypothyroidism or being in an energy deficit.
You can see how this can become quite confusing and overwhelming!
However, there are two areas to consider that are almost universally going to improve your symptoms. These are ensuring an adequate energy intake and getting enough sleep.
An adequate energy intake is easy to identify with the help of an experienced dietitian. It’s important that you’re eating enough to meet your daily needs so that you don’t fall into Low Energy Availability. In addition to this, try to get at least eight hours of sleep, practice good sleep hygiene and manage your caffeine intake. We typically see caffeine becoming part of a vicious cycle – you drink coffee because you’re tired, but then the coffee impacts your ability to sleep so that you’re tired again the following day. Try to keep your caffeine intake exclusively for the morning so that you are reducing its effect on your sleep.
While these two areas may correct a lot of the symptoms you are currently feeling, they may not be the full answer. We recommend looking for a medical professional who understands these symptoms and who is passionate about finding a solution for YOU. You can’t make meaningful changes if you’re only told WHAT to do. You also need to learn about the WHY and the HOW. The last thing we want is for you to spend money on useless supplements that have no evidence.
ALICIA EDGE HEAD SPORTS DIETITIAN
Alicia is the head Advanced Sports Dietitian at Compeat Nutrition. She is also a mum and triathlete, so advice extends beyond the basics and is instead focused on providing effective and achievable nutrition for both training and racing.