Why You May Need To Exercise Less

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.

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.

Now, I’d like to hear your experiences with different exercise programs – did your health improve or suffer after increasing the intensity of your training? Have you been able to find a balance between intensity and adequate recovery?

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  1. says

    I have been a strength coach for 6 years and I am finishing up my grad degree in human movement and I am also a nutritionist. It took a while for me to find a system that does not promote adrenal fatigue. Looking at the science and seeing the anecdotal data in front of me helped a lot. What seems to work best is a paleo type diet, 2 days of strength training with weights, and the other days mixed with some sprinting, correcting muscle imbalances, and improving upon unilateral strength and stability. Crossfit 5-6 days a week is not sustainable long-term, and destroys peoples adrenals as well as their joints (I am an affiliate that gets some crap about my workouts not being “Crossfit” style). I have always advocated yoga as a supplement to training and it seems to yield pretty good results with my clients that do it.

    • julie says

      hi I have been working with a trainer 3 days a week and she does high intensity workouts with me for 30 minutes , I find them way to hard to get through but I do push to get through them, my question is I am pretty sure I have cortisol problems, I believe I have actually gained weight in the last month doing this kind of workout, is that possible, I do crave a lot of carbs or sugar at night, I don’t sleep very well, but I have always had this problem, is it the training I should stop , I \am trying so hard to lose weight, so discouraged, could I possibly just walk on the treadmill, and then incorporate some weight training, Im very confused, and what kind of carbs should I be eating, I eat fruit during the day and I eat a lot of vegetables, are you talking about bread , sincerely Julie\

      • Cassie says

        Julie I feel the same as you. I think I have been over exercising and it’s made me quite ill at times, sleepless nights, and as you said I crave carbs at night as I feel so rough. All this in turn leads to increased body fat. I have found that high intensity interval training should only be done a couple of times a week, 30 min max, and try to do it early on in the day. For another 2 days I will do a lighter style exercise such as yoga or swimming.

        Exercise is great but accounts for only 30%.,. 70% is diet. Follow a good diet, eat 4 small meals a day, low carb, always eat breakfast but not too early.. Lots of water and don’t eat too late at night. Eat good fats (nuts avocado oily fish) and lots of protein (quinoa chicken eggs almonds spinach kale seafood) and avoid sugar at all times!

        A healthy diet along with light exercise 2-3 times a week will do just fine. On your days off just try to keep active, wall when you can, take the stairs. Try to move your body for 5 minutes out if every hour, the heart foundation recommends this too to prevent heart disease.

        Good luck x

        • julie says

          thanks cassie, did you find doing it only a couple of times a week started helping you lose weight, I have fibromyalgia as well, I cannot lose weight, or inches

  2. says

    I came to paleo from a vegetarian, yogic lifestyle. I barely exercise these days, but when I do I follow Mark Sisson’s Primal Fitness e-book. Before paleo I had chronic back pain. I took vinyasa and Anusara classes two-three times a week for a few years, with the promise that the yoga would heal my pain when in fact it only exacerbated it, and led to countless, sometimes pricey interventions. I came to feel that something was wrong with me, that I must have been doing something wrong for my back to still be in so much discomfort. Multiple teachers tried to help me with adjustments, private sessions and strategically placed bolsters and blankets. Finally quitting yoga eased the pain and I haven’t looked back. This recent article in the NY Times Magazine has solidified and validated my experience: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/how-yoga-can-wreck-your-body.html?pagewanted=all

    I am all for exercising less in order to decrease stress levels and enhance health but yoga, at least for me, is not the answer. Walking and occasional body-weight exercises are more my speed these days. Oh, and dancing—usually around the living room with my children.

    • Emma says

      Man, that article is scary!

      While I’ll still be using yoga to stretch and maintain flexibility (an aspect of fitness often neglected), I’ll watch my neck and ego way more closely.

    • says

      I think it is important that NY Times covered that yoga story, but I feel the take-home message comes back to most other healing modalities – it comes to personalization. What’s ideal in the long-term is not always ideal in the short-term and many coaches & trainers push for too much too quickly when they should look to identify core imbalances, start small and ratchet it up step by step which is the experience that seemed to work for you despite your history of chronic back pain.

  3. Cathryn says

    Hi Chris,

    I’ve recently changed my exercise program from chronic cardio to more HIIT (3 x week). I started doing Sprint 8′s” the Phil Campbell method of all out for 30 seconds and recovery for 90 seconds, which takes about 20 minutes plus warm up and cool down. Typically I then do another 40 minutes on the elliptical which I consider my “play time” (listening to all the great podcasts, like yours) because here in Eugene, OR the winter weather doesn’t invite much outside romping and my body feels like it needs more intense movement (no weight problem, well-muscled, 61 yrs. old.). On the other 2 days I do weights the Doug McGuff way for 30 minutes. I do one aerobic class a week for fun and sometimes a series of jump kicks and tossing a huge exercise ball in the air and running to catch it. This is fun, too. Most of the time I feel fine, but I do have the off day so I’m paying attention to that and how my exercise could affect it. I do have the occasional night that I don’t sleep well, but is this elevated cortisol or some stress inducer like my in-laws might be moving here (accck!). I mostly get 8-9 hours of sleep, but when I only get 6, I usually feel fine anyway and always rest or take a nap in the afternoon. So, there’s my 2 cents. Thanks for another great article.

    • jane m says

      Hi, Just interesting to see someone else who does the Campbell and McGuff routine, with some other gym stuff thrown in (and yoga 2x a week). I have been doing this for a year. I frequently have trouble sleeping most nights from 2am-4am at night, but get enough sleep over all (9pm – 2am and then 4am – 7am which is 8 hours). But Now I wonder if this night-waking is a problem. I am hypothesizing that intense exercise should be in the morning when cortisol levels are naturally higher. Eating bone broth soup helped my sleep but I notice after exercise, like my McGuff session tonight, I am up again (i.e. now). Thing is the gym only runs the retiree classes in the morning and the Zumba etc are at night. Also my mcGuff partner only comes in at 6pm too. Is our whole civilization out of synch with body rhythms?

      • rachel says

        Actually, if you feel great, I’d say not to worry about your broken up sleeping. People actually used to sleep that way. Even referred to it as their “first sleep” and “second sleep”, it was so common. People would get up and read, meditate, recreate with their partner; and then after and hour or two, sleep for another 4 hours. It was super common! It has even been tested that some peoples bodies do that naturally. Anyway, if you feel good, and are sleeping well otherwise, I would definitely not worry about it!

  4. says

    Interesting article Chris, and I’d agree with most of it, however I think most people seem to think of overtraining as simply exercising to much, when its more a case of under recovery. If someone has not exercised for 10 years and then they go on a low carbohydrate paleo style diet and start doing cross-fit, they can expect to burn out fast with the high cortisol outputs from decreased carbs and increase in exercise.

    If however they slowly increase the intensity and amount of exercise adding in a session every few weeks, they can accumulate to extremely high amounts of training such as 2-3 sessions a day, I had a client with Chron’s training with me twice a day no problem, you just have to monitor the training carefully, such as not overworking the central nervous system by going to failure on each exercise as this most definitely increases recovery time. Alternating between HITT style training, more strength based training and general physical preparedness training and limiting training time to around 45minutes as this can help keep anabolic hormones from dropping off while training, plenty of soft tissue work with foam rollers, massage, maybe yoga, decompression therapy and of course like you said, adequate good quality sleep and something most people don’t do, which is have a deload or easy week with less training or heavy lifting every 4th week.

    Keep up the good work Chris.

    • MB says

      OLLIE–I know this is a late reply, and I hope you see this. I want to know more about what you term “under recovery.” I think I’m experiencing this. Anytime I try to do intervals I find myself starting to have difficulty sleeping at night, my anxiety rises, and occasionally I’ve had an episode of a rush of heartbeats with intense heat in my face. Those such episodes would not occur during exercise but many hours later and only have occurred during the times I have started trying to do intervals again. Does this sound familiar to you or to anyone? I do not seem to have trouble with strength training or straight, even-paced cardio (though I don’t do well with intense, sustained cardio or long periods of it). Yoga I do great on.

      • Jenn H says

        How many intervals are you doing, how long is each one, how much rest? There is probably a modification that can occur to what your are doing, so that it is not so stressful to your system.

        I learned that fatigue several hours after exercise is indicative of adrenal fatigue. You feel good during the exercise because your adrenals are forced to put out stress hormones, but once the exercise high/stress hormones wear off, the body has to recuperate from something that was too much for it.

        I am guessing that the intervals you are doing is too much for your body right now, and that you are experiencing perhaps excess cortisol or cortisol dysregulation. I wouldn’t think of it as under-recovery so much as that your body is in a state of adrenal fatigue. The interval exercise is too intense for your system right now and thus causes your cortisol to get really wonky.

  5. Jessica says

    Hi Chris,

    I’ve just started a paleo diet and understand that short bouts of HIIT are generally preferable to longer sessions of cardio. Do you think this is safe while trying to conceive and/or in early pregnancy? (Sprints or moderate weight training for 20′, 2-3x weekly) I just emailed you about this, but your article was timely and thought it might benefit others to post it here. Thanks!

  6. Glenn Atkisson says

    Very timely article Chris! I was looking for such an article only days ago.

    As I’ve said before, I make a lot of contributions on Dr. Mercola’s forum, and periodically he pushes the interval training advantages over cardio. He pushed “Peak 8″ interval training because it was demonstrated on a piece of equipment that he also sells. I don’t argue the advantages of intervals over traditional cardio, such as weight loss and improving cardiovascular health as well as adding muscle. But I do like to caution that scientific studies over the LONG TERM on what the, as you call it “extreme exercise” portion of things like interval training are not recorded yet. Though man has been running “intervals” since paleolithic times, the regimented system has only sprung up recently. In fact we are only starting to get statistics in on what cardio does to longevity. It will take a couple more generations to see what interval training does.
    Dr. Mercola’s most recent article was actually recommending interval training for children, since it started out explaining that children who exercise mid-day will perform better mentally in school. I just couldn’t let that recommendation go out without posting a warning that we really don’t know what the long term effects are if we start a regular, year-after-year regimen of interval training that is utilized a couple times a week to the point of near exhaustion.
    Wish I could have had this article! Even Dr. Mercola admitted, as he pushed “intervals” that he is now also endorsing “super slow” training, and also admitted that he had cut back on his personal use of “Peak 8″ after 2 years because he just couldn’t recover and feel fit any longer. I’m glad to see he’s moderating his push these days.
    Thanks again for the article and plentiful links to references!

  7. says

    Good topic, one addressing perhaps the most under developed aspect of Paleo, one where commercial theories of exercise combine with deep seated personal opinions and dogmatic adherence, thwarting independent scientific and coaching know how.

    Evolutionary medicine, the backbone of Paleo, remains in short supply regarding what might be called evolutionary exercise physiology. University of Missouri’s Frank Booth remains the major contributor to genomic and molecular biology of exercise. His hundreds of pages of research publications should be mandatory reading pursuant to a “neo-Paleo” notion of physical training. So, too, should be the annals of exercise physiology.

    The notion of ‘exercise’, like ‘diet’, stems from 19th century Industrial Revolution culture, amplified by rapidly accelerating post World War II inactivity resulting in what Booth calls Sedentary Death Disease. He ranks the roughly 35 major disabling diseases leading to slowly erosive death to one salient factor: activity signals DNA sequencing of health proteins, while inactivity signals the beginning of erosive decline. It’s estimated that erosive metabolic decline expressed as chronic atrophy of type II strength muscle (known as sarcopenia & associated sarcopenic obesity) can result in as much as 35 pounds of muscle loss by age 70! Evans & Rosenberg’s pioneering studies at Tufts in the 1980s advocated strength training as the primary preventative.
    What kind, how much, how often? Genetic exercise physiologists have not taken the macro step. Paleo has been largely colonized by commercial theories, all of which work for some of the people some of the time, all of them incomplete with respect to various types of condition of various strengths (plural). Under training is just as much a danger as over training. Current Paleo standards seem most applicable to younger persons; even then, other dangers remain unknown or simply ignored. The result is simplistic, resulting in under development of a wider range of genomic strength and activity potentialities.
    Generally speaking, there are five differing zones of strength that are best included in a training program. What’s more, a training program organized on a monthly basis. Our ancestral calendar was lunar, and that’s the cycle I prefer training within!

    Most of us veteran elders with five and more decades of training under our belt – usually with battle scars – come to one conclusion younger people don’t seem to want to know about. Lighter resistance, various slower rhythms of movement, keeping more maximal efforts to a few times per lunation cycle. Some speed workouts, some development of proprioception skills – keeping in mind as we mature in years the quest is less one aimed at gaining size and strength, instead one of sustainability in maintaining muscular bulk and strength. Loss of bulk is another name for muscle wasting.

    Some of this is covered in more detail on my blog, more will be forthcoming. Both Dr Sebring and myself will be addressing these and related topics at the upcoming Paleo FX conference in nearby Austin, Texas. Hope to see ya there. For Paleo dieters, bear in mind Austin is in Central Texas, BBQ Capital of the world.

    • Glenn Atkisson says

      I like what you say Ken. I have those 5 decades of “work” under my belt also. Not training. I don’t train. But all the discipline of training is wonderful in that you can build a regimen and train to it and develop exactly what you want to develop. I have never wanted to spend the time training. I have at times in my life worked hard, and others played hard, and others sat down too much and wasted!
      So I am not serious at all about training, but yet agree that “inactivity signals the beginning of erosive decline” and one needs in whatever way possible, to get the exercise.
      It just happens that there are some of us that find things like “training” as well as yoga and meditation (and for me, even fishing) boring as all getout. But the information on what activity level is needed is very appreciated! Some of us just need to get into sports, or meaningful physical labor to get what our bodies need.
      The one thing I would add here that might differ from what you put into words is that my concept of graceful aging INCLUDES some decrease in muscle mass. While your methodology has to refer to that as wasting, I see it as actually a natural thing to do. I do not plan to have the same muscle mass at age 80 and 90 and 100 that I currently have at 70, or that I had at 50. This is not all bad. For one thing, I was unhealthy at 50, and carried a lot of fat that I don’t carry now. I needed muscle to move the fat at the speeds that I needed to move it at, to compete or produce meaningful work. I actually plan to build even a healthier body from here on, and that includes exercise. But for me, I will be happy with even less fat, and less bulky, but more lithe muscles. I want to be able to move fast still, but don’t care about being as strong as a 50 year old. How would you guide one to prepare, say, for aging as they approach 100?

      • says

        I’d start by quoting Dylan Thomas:

        Do not go gentle into that good night,
        Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
        Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

        Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
        Because their words had forked no lightning they
        Do not go gentle into that good night.

        Let’s drop exercise and emphasize Play. Back in the late 30s the book Homo Ludens was published, claiming the next step in human evolution would take us beyond being thoughtaholics as homo sapiens sapiens to homo ludens – man as player, emphasizing what is Sanskrit is called lila, or play. Play entrains positive, bliss like states and traits of consciousness while rendering activity a positive addiction.
        You need to build and maintain muscle mass. Remember, our current standard is genomically abnormal. For more, my blog is full of information: http://www.transevolutionaryfitness.wordpress.com

      • says

        Easiest is the stuff found in functional training…with the caveat that functional training is prone, like HIT and CrossFit, to exhibiting something akin to religious cult like fanaticism for an incomplete training system!
        For advanced proprioceptive skills, Olympic lifting and old time iron game strength movements can’t be beat (e.g., one arm barbell snatch, bent press, Turkish get up).

        • Brad says

          I don’t know why Ken, but when I read your opinions I seem not able to counter with my own opinions. I hope you don’t mind :) There is no difference between people who think HIT, or crossfit, or whatever, is the most effective and people like you who think Olympic or (old time) movements can’t be beat. Both can be considered (fanaticism) depending upon your perspective. I’m fine with Olympic lifting. It surely can get the job done and done well. Two things that I think (my opinion) are slight drawbacks to it vs machine training 1) There is more technique to it. You have to do it right or there is an increased chance of injury (eg, squats), and 2) you have to have a training partner (spotter) if you are going to lift to true positive failure. OK, if training to failure is not your cup-o-tea fine. I got no problem with that. But lets be clear… when you say Olympic lifting can’t be beat without qualification or explanation, that is just an opinion, if not misleading or outright wrong.

    • Brad says

      Ken, if you as a (veteran elder) really want to reach the (younger people) maybe you should use more approachable vocabulary than (lunation cycle) and (proprioception skills). Also, I find some good information in parts of some of your posts, but then mixed in is a I-know-best/superior attitude that just turns me off. And I’m probably not alone in this feeling. For example, your opening paragraph… what does this even mean?…
      “the most under developed aspect of Paleo, one where commercial theories of exercise combine with deep seated personal opinions and dogmatic adherence, thwarting independent scientific and coaching know how.”
      As far as I know Paleo is mostly about diet/nutrition. So isn’t exercise a separate subject?

      • says

        Hey Brad:
        I don’t have a “i know best” outlook. anybody with an independent mind and sense of science and analysis can spend hundreds of hours reading and researching and likely come to similar conclusions. Unfortunately, the internet has reinforced the cult of opinion to the point of hearing ‘everyone has opinions and they’re all equal’. I suppose that works for uneducated, uncultured people content to wallow in their own vomit. And I don’t mean that as a reply to you, rather as a somewhat exasperating comment on how low public education has set standards for research, thinking, analysis, etc. Rebecca Costa’s The Watchman’s Rattle deals with such issues in terms of how equipped we are to face the way we’re heading towards extinction!
        As for people being turned off, that’s sad. Are they so deficient in joining in animated discussion, pouring out and investing heart and soul to move forward beyond the pale ken of sacred cows.

        Thanks for the Paleo comment. In a recent interview podcast with Robb Wolf, Loren Cordain tells the story of The Paleo Diet. He did not want that title for his book. He never intended a diet book. As an unknown author, he was forced to use it. Now with credibility, he ain’t no longer allowing reductionism of his work.
        Go back to the 1980s with Boyd Eaton and Mel Konner. Their Paleolithic Prescription was not a diet book, and when Loren joined the gang they weren’t doing dietary studies. They were shaking the paradigmatic foundations of Western medicine.

        For several years now I’ve been busy codeveloping a clinical application of “Paleo”. Cordain refined his ideas by means of annual workshops sponsored by the late Crayhon at boulderfest. My colleague, Dr Lane Sebring was there from the late 90s. He brought those insights back home, developing clinical ‘paleo’ applications. he was paelo before paleo was cool, and likely has the largest mass of clinical data on paleo as dietary intervention. we joined forces to take it further. Mounting robust evidence NOT incorporated in Paleo from other evolutionary sciences has been incorporated in our work. Diet by itself works wonders; however, those wonders merely offset inevitable metabolic erosion due to how genomes work and what they expect. Those who take Paleo as a dietary Silver Bullet solution are severely misled by fools. Sorry to be so blunt. Go read the research yourself. quite a bit of it is summarized on my blog and videos. The bigger implications are the substance of a naturalistic revolution not in health care, but in genomic fitness care. Be care-full, amigo.
        No, exercise is far from a separate subject except for those who should admit that they don’t understand that they don’t understand. Should our standard be vulgar, banal opinion, or tempered by fitness education for pleasurable living?

        • Brad says

          Well how is the public at large to decipher the truth when even supposed peer reviewed science and (conventional wisdom) comes up so wrong, such as Ancel Keys’ cholesterol/saturated-fat demonization, and the low intensity aerobic exercise craze started in the 70′s, both of which continue to misinform today? Sorry, that was a serious run-on sentence :)

          PS. Again… (pale ken of sacred cows) Translation please?

        • Shefali says

          I actually very much enjoyed your use of the English language as well as what I considered a well thought out exegesis of cited research. I did NOT think you came across as a “know it all” or a fanatic by any means, you were simply sharing valuable experience. For myself, I read with an open mind and will determine what applies to my own situation.

          Anecdotally, what I have seen with older folks I have known – the ones who maintain moderate, functional activity seem to be the best “preserved”. One of my grandfathers played recreational tennis most days into his 80s and played bridge 2-3 times a week, and the physical and mental exercise kept him young. My other grandfather walked at a moderate pace a 3 mile circuit into his 90s – the 3 miles encompassed a couple of shops where he would stop and gossip a few minutes. He also played chess. Again, the regular moderate exercise, both physical and mental, seemed to work. Other elderly people I’ve known who have aged very well grew up on farms and maintained an active lifestyle – one lady I knew, into her late 80s, continued to paint her fence, mow her lawn, chop wood, etc. She was also very well read and took an active interest in people and the world around her.

          • Veronica says

            Or the people who feel good when they’re old continue to participate in lots of activities. In fact, that’s the far more obvious conclusion than what you suggested, since from infancy to old-age, literally everyone has experienced multiple instances of poor health or low spirits where they reduce their activity, social/physical etc BECAUSE they were not feeling good.
            Being an active person is generally a sign of good health.
            I just don’t understand how people simply overlook such obvious cause and effect. I hate correlation research.

  8. Amber says

    I really enjoyed this article, Chris. I’ve always thought that my excessive exercise was a contributor to my developing Crohn’s disease. Right before I got sick, I was marathon training on top of additional cardio and intense weight lifting. I think I had the perfect storm to set things off with the excessive exercise, taking NSAIDS for SI joint pain and then finally taking antibiotics for a sinus infection. I’ve read that running can cause leaky gut, we know NSAIDS can as well and then I think the antibiotics were the last trigger to disrupt my gut flora and let the Crohn’s take over.

    Now that I’ve had Crohn’s for a few years, I still am struggling to find the best exercise routine. At first tried to continue exercising like I did before I got sick and it definitely didn’t help things. I’m having a hard time finding the happy medium, but I’m finding that less is more. I often wonder if my exercise has contributed to my not being able to really get my Crohn’s under control.

    I’d be interested to know how other people with autoimmune diseases handle exercise. Many people claim it helps them, but I wonder what type and how much they do. I’m sure it’s an individual thing.

    Thanks for the great blog, Chris. I appreciate all the information you put out there for us and find so much of it applicable to me.

    • Cathryn says

      Hi Amber,

      You can see my post above. I have rheumatoid arth. I am, since implementing Robb Wolf’s auto-immune diet and then on to the Perfect Health Diet, titrating off my meds. and am getting close to half the dose I was taking. I was getting better before I changed my exercise routine. So, that’s been my experience.

      • Amber says

        Hi Cathryn,

        Thanks for sharing your experience. That’s awesome you’ve been able to titrate off your meds. How long did you do the autoimmune protocol before you switched to the PHD? I’m doing the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for Crohn’s, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. (It’s pretty similar to paleo but allows some dairy and legumes.) However, I should say I’m currently pregnant, and since becoming pregnant and dealing with a pretty bad Crohn’s flare my exercise has greatly subsided. I have noticed though that on the days I actually get to the gym and get a workout in, I usually have trouble sleeping that night, and that’s even with a much shorter time at the gym compared to usual. I think with the added stress of the pregnancy, plus the Crohn’s and being on prednisone, my body can’t handle much more added stress. I used to not think much of walking as exercise, but now I find that it makes me feel best out of anything I do.

        You seem to have found a good balance in regards to exercise and listening to your body. Glad to hear you’re doing so well with your RA.

        • Cathryn says

          Hi Amber,

          I did Robb’s 30 day challenge for autoimmune, but I ate a lot of very dark chocolate during that time and that’s probably verboten. Otherwise, I was very strict. Anyway, I still got lots better so maybe I needed that chocolate! Since we’re all so different, I think we have to keep tweaking the diet til we get the right combo. It’s tricky, but all these dedicated people, like Robb, Chris and Paul are offering up nuggets all the time. I stayed in shape for almost 4 months last spring and summer not going to the gym at all, just walking every day, some hill climbing and sprinting a little and lifting some gallon jugs filled with water to use as weights and gardening. If walking feels the best right now, do that.

        • says

          Hi, Amber:

          I’m a clinical herbalist, and I do a lot of work with Crohn’s and the other intestinal sibling disorders (IBS, Celiac, ulcerative colitis…)
          I never let folks have any dairy with Crohn’s. I don’t like nut-flours either, which are a big part of the SCD world. I’d rather see folks just stick to this list:
          bone broth with seaweed and shiitake
          any healthy meat (if it’s beef, it needs to be grassfed)
          any healthy fat (avocado, olive, the fats from any healthy animal, coconut)
          cooked vegetables (no salad until you’re healed up!)
          cooked fruits (you might get away with raw berries. skip things like oranges and pineapple)

          Make sure to cook foods really well until you heal up – raw foods are nice in theory, but when you have irritation in the gut, you aren’t strong enough to deal with the irritation that the raw foods cause.

          This list does NOT include grains, legumes, and at least at first, nuts. also you’ll see there’s no sugar there! After you’ve gotten yourself to a very stable place, it’s fin to add well-prepared nuts back in and occasional honey or maple syrup, but until then, I wouldn’t touch it.

          There’s a tea we use to, and if you like tea, you can get these ingredients at http://www.mountainroseherbs.com (no affiliation, they’re just good quality) and blend it up for yourself. Drink at least three cups a day, though more is great!

          2 parts plantain leaf (not the banana, it’s a green plant)
          2 parts calendula flowers
          1 part chamomile
          1 part catnip
          1 part peppermint

          It’s pleasant tasting (you can add more peppermint if you like the flavor) and easy to drink. It’s super soothing to the entire digestive tract and will heal the irritation. It will do that very well though, so don’t use it as an excuse to eat bad stuff :-)

          Make sure you get enough vitamin D too :-)

          good luck!

          • Amber says

            Hi Katja,

            Thanks for sharing all that information with me. I agree with a lot of the things you mentioned, as I’ve found too many nuts can cause serious issues with me. I wish I didn’t like them!

            As far as dairy, I’m torn, because I’ve taken it out several times for months at a time and have noticed no difference, positive or negative, either way. I just added yogurt back in, but I haven’t seen any reactions.

            Is the tea you mention safe during pregnancy? I’ll check it out. Had my vitamin D levels checked and they’re good. Thanks for all the tips. :)

    • says

      Hi Amber. I am thrilled to find your comment! My name is Nathalie. i am French and live in Sydney.
      I am 32 y.o. I have an autoimmune resorption of the condyles ( jaw), posterior scleritis ( eyes), spondylitis, sacroilitis, and Crohn’s disease, among others autoimmune disorders ( Raynauds, dry eyes, Thyroiditis in 2007) . Till I got my Scleritis in 2009, I always pushed myself. I honestly thought I would never be tired. After working in the corporate world, I became a Group Exercise Instructor (2006) and a Personal Trainer. At the same time I was in pain (jaw issues), I was taking NSAIDS 3 times per day, and was exhausting myself at the gym to forget this pain . My approach has changed drastically 3 years ago. I am now aware that I need to look after myself first, to be able to care for the others. As a Personal Trainer it s very frustrating, but I tend to see this as an asset as I will now focus on people who have chronic health issues.

      I can tell you about how I exercise if you like. Each of my workouts is tailored to “how I feel now”. To be honest, I am not ready to exercise with a trainer or with other people, as I’m afraid it would not suit me. The only thing I do within a group is dancing, because it’s fun.
      I’d be curious to know how is your exercise regime too.

      • Amber says

        Hi Nathalie!

        I’m sorry, I didn’t see your comment until now. I haven’t been checking back at this page for a long time, but I got an update on comments and was scanning just now and ran across yours. I’m sorry to hear about all your autoimmune disorders, as if one wasn’t more than enough. I’m glad to hear you’ve made an effort to change your approach to working out. Have you noticed any changes in how you feel since you’ve modified your workouts?

        I had a baby last summer and so I was somewhat forced to change how I workout, but it’s been really good for me. I now just go when I can and when I feel up to it, which is usually just 2-3 times per week. I’ve been feeling the best I have since I got sick, and I attribute some of that to just not overloading myself and over exercising. I honestly think a huge part of why I couldn’t get into remission for long was because I was taxing my body too much with exercise. Even when I exercise it’s no more than 45 minutes and no formal cardio, just weights.

        I think what you’re doing as far as working out to how you feel is perfect. I ignored how my body felt for a long time, and I paid for it. I think it’s great you’re going solo for now. I hope all is well with you, let me know if I can help you out in any way.

    • Sally says

      I too suffer from an auto immune problem, and after doing a fast 10k run or push myself in a spin class I always feel exhausted a few hours after, and also end up with a sore throat that results in shivers and a cold, am I putting my adrenals under too much strain? I’m also going to be 50 this year, and am needing much more recovery time, I usually run 18 miles a week one 8 and then 10 and incorporate one high intensity spin and an hour of heavy strength training, is this too much ?

    • allyson sullivan says

      Hi there,
      I am an avid exerciser. Crossfit style. Pushing myself to the limits. Eating strict paleo. I did drink though 1 wine a night. A little cream in coffee too.

      No Grains, No beans. Veggies, Meat, eggs, and fruit and nuts.

      Felt good at first. Even tried intermittent fasting.

      Last october my knees started to ache. I never had that before. I am a form freak and thought maybe something was off. I rolled and massaged and stretched. Nothing seemed to help.
      I thought Lyme? But no. Through many tests and more achyness than i could imagine and dry eyes and mouth, they think now i have an auto immune condition. Not sure what one. still waiting.

      I definitely did this to myself. This Paleo/crossfit is extreme advice for people with A type personalities. I hope i can get myself back on track. Im not exercising like I did and it has me changing my whole philosophy on Paleo nutrition and how important it is to recover.

  9. nopavement says

    I found out the hard way that trying to improve my health by mountain biking didn’t work. It might work if your metabolism is already healthy, but not if it is broken. It took my 5 years to realize our riding group all had beer bellies, low muscle mass and many had health problems. Our weekly rides were 2-4 hours each, for 2 to 3 times a week. On steep trails you end up redlining your heart rate about every 10 minutes to summit the mountain. Basically we were burning muscle and going into adrenal fatigue. Many suffer from depression, fatigue etc. I am hoping to focus more on strength training this year and use the mountain biking as a treat once a week, instead of the route to health.

  10. Gabe A. says

    When I first started paleo (I’m not anymore by technical standards :-) I would imagine myself as a ‘wild’ animal. I know it sounds strange but it led me to walk (I like hills), sprint some, jump on and off things, fall to the ground/pick myself up a lot, crawl, pull-up/climb, and lift something heavy. Sound familiar? For more stimulation I found Pavel. Pavel’s old book ‘Power To The People’ contains a very simple plan for strength using only TWO exercises. I also like his ‘Enter The Kettlebell’ where he recommends NOT to “suffer the indignity of aerobics”, lol! The KB workouts are either 10 minutes or 5 minutes! I have used all this with great efficiency. For instance, I never imagined I would be able to deadlift 400 lb., I did this with 3 months training “under Pavel.” Central to my ideas regarding “health” is STRESS. Most of what I do is try to oppose this insidious killer. So, I don’t try to overstress my body in the gym, outside, at work, at home, or in anything else I do. Enough said.

  11. says

    Great article yet again Chris! I agree and add that overtraining is very individual thing and we all need to recognize signs of overtraining. I typically notice that when I’m pushing too hard my labido drops (pun intended) and I sleep less completely. Also, I notice clients of mine have begun adopting a biggest loser mentality that suffering = physical adaptation, which is not necessarily true or that the adaptation is going to go in a favorable direction.

    Exercise is healthy and punctuated efforts of difficult work is a sound practice, both from a psychological standpoint and a physical one. It would be fabulous if instead of the biggest loser, where people get the piss beat out of them, there were a show where the winner is the one who most efficiently tackles their body transformation from a realistic perspective.

    • says

      Have you noticed how recovery is often taken as if there’s no growth of recovery skills, hence over training is something feared? Occasional over reaching is known as a strategy for breaking through plateaus.

      Agree about ‘biggest loser’ – the whole frame is negative, the term ‘loser’ giving a negative spin. Where’s the joy of life?

      • says

        Ken,
        I like what you’re throwing down, it makes me wonder about how we, more specifically I, define overtraining. I’ve definitely read about and practiced bouts of overreaching as a potent growth stimulus, but is that the same as overtraining or is it confusion about semantics? I guess I’ve lumped overtraining into the “chronic over reaching” category, rather than the strategically used plateau decimator one.

        Regarding biggest loser and the joy in life – seriously!

        • says

          The easiest subjective indicator of overtraining (used to be called overtonus) is fatigue – you’re going beyond capacity to overcome stress. Some people used to use pH sticks since overtraining results in urine going acidic; if so, potassium bicarbonate helps offset acidity.

          It’s been noted over several decades nightly sleep has gone from 8 to 6.5 hours. Less than adequate sleep will precipitate overtraining symptoms. Distinquishing between over training versus under resting and under recuperating has to be considered.

          What’s evident is the science – if it’s even science – hasn’t gone far enough. I don’t see discussions of over training in scientific literature while do find them in droves in popular lit. That should say something noteworthy!

          Overtraining is frequently held to be the culprit involved in hitting plateaus. In my experience, plateaus merely indicate time to change what you’re doing. As we grow in training years, we grow in adaptivity – meaning that instead of changing schedule every 4-6-8 weeks, more likely every few days. Doing so is psychologically and physically varied, hence refreshing. I know that considerable over training talk stems from folks relying a on small number of machines always used the same way. My bet is that boredom is killing them!

          • Brad says

            I agree that changing exercises can help not only boredom. Though I don’t think boredom is the main problem. I don’t understand what you’re alluding to about the lack of discussions of over training in scientific literature? Scientific literature has been known to be wrong seemingly almost as much as it has been right. eg, cholesterol/saturated-fats, the whole aerobic exercise movement (chronic cardio), etc.

      • Brad says

        Ken. I don’t know what a “recovery skills” is. Can you explain? Are you saying that your body can learn to recover faster? I would really like this to be true especially at my age (49) but I haven’t experienced this myself. At times I have noticed muscle soreness going away faster at times. But when I have gone into the gym thinking that I’m fully recovered due to lack of soreness, I often find I do not exceed my previous lift results.

  12. Mike P says

    Having been a college shot-putter/discus thrower/hammer thrower, I can assure you I know what it means to overtrain. Our summer lifting routines were very intense five days a week. While I did get incredibly strong, I wasn’t necessarily ‘fit’ and I wasn’t necessarily healthy. I learned a lot from other throwers, talking with strength coaches, and exposing myself to a variety of workout routines. After college sports were done, I really enjoyed creating my own workouts and running 3-4 week phases before flipping everything around. Of course, I was single and could afford to spend an hour at the gym every day and time outside of the gym planning my workouts and doing research. Fast forward to today where I am married, have three little kids, and a demanding full time job…I don’t have that kind of time anymore. I have always been one to prioritize health or healthy activities along with work, family, etc. to ensure I stay healthy…but I don’t have extra hours anymore. Thankfully, I stumbled into the Primal Blueprint a few years back and took to it immediately. I REALLY enjoy Mark’s simple Primal Fitness routine and guidelines. It is simple, yet effective and challenging. I have always been one to really enjoy the challenge of a good, hard workout. With Mark’s program its simple; two high-intensity, heavy lifts a week, one sprint a week, and the other days are filled with either long walks, easy jogs, stretching, wrestling with my kids, swimming… the list goes on. It takes me 45 minutes from the time I get out of my car at the local community center until the time I get back in, and that includes taking a shower and getting ready for work [I workout in the early AM]. With that short of a time commitment, ANYONE can do it. You can even do it from home…I just prefer to go to the gym rather than wake up the kids.

  13. Brad says

    Both myself and a friend who started eating Paleo (and low-carb-ish) had calf problems doing full speed (100% effort) sprint interval training. Pulls, cramping, twitching, and weak muscle feelings, and it’s an ongoing issue. I think there are a few contributing factors. To a lesser degree I think our ages 48 has an effect but mostly on recovery time. To a higher degree I think are two things. Sprinting (or any high intensity training really) too often and not giving enough days for muscle recovery and rebuilding. We were sprinting 3 days per week on average. I now do it only once a week at most. Second, I think it’s entirely possible that eating low carb could contribute to inadequate glycogen reserves for high-frequency plus high-intensity workouts. It makes sense to me that a muscle upon tapping out it’s energy reserve would finally complain loudly for you to STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING!

  14. Rachael says

    I wish I had known this a few years back! I was indifferently fit during my 20s and have 3 children, after my third child was born I decided to get serious about losing the baby weight and getting in shape. I followed weight watchers and worked out (cardio and body-pump) 10 or more hours a week. On Saturdays I would do an hour long body-pump class, jogging during the recovery period, and then an hour on an elliptical doing intense intervals. Afterward I would be woozy and incoherent, but I lost the weight and achieved a body that was better looking than ever. Eventually I started falling apart though, headaches, frequent infections, I developed sleep apnea even though I was very slender, I was diagnosed with Celiac. In the process of dealing with all of that I regained much of the weight, and I haven’t done more than walking and hiking for several years. At no time did anyone suggest that my vegetarian diet or my serious over-exercising could be causing my problems. I eat something like the Perfect Health Diet now, too low carb doesn’t work for me. I hope to start working out again, but sensibly. Any advise you have on recovering from over-exercising would be appreciated.

  15. Jeremy says

    I am a runner. I lost 60 lbs when I took up regular running. I started eating better(not to loose weight, but to support my running), I started sleeping better(obvious benefit of being tired), I started thinking better(it can be a very meditative experience), I started looking better(runner physique), I started feeling better(because of everything else here).

    You could probably attain similar results with the high intensity stuff that seems to be popular here- but if you are smart about increasing your intensity in the workouts, I don’t think it will necessarily lead to overtraining. The body has the amazing ability to adapt to physical stimuli. It you increase the intensity in small intervals over time and allow the body to catch up(listen to your body), there is little risk of overtraining. You may reach a limit where you find out that the body will not respond anymore and you might be risking overtraining every time you try to push it, but who doesn’t want to find out their limits? Ryan Hall, the best US marathoner, became overtrained when he was doing 120 mile weeks, he dropped below 100 and was fine and is still putting up the best times.

    • Brad says

      Jeremy, when it comes to high intensity exercise, whether it be lifting or sprinting, if you are lifting to positive failure or 100% sprinting (as if a hungry lion is chasing you), you definitely can over train. It doesn’t matter if you increase the intensity gradually over time in an attempt to build up your tolerance for it. At some point the intensity will reach a level that has the potential to do serious damage. Even a professional athlete in amazing shape can over train. The only way to avoid it is to keep the volume and frequency of training low enough to give adequate muscle recovery time.

      • Brad says

        Granted an athlete, especially a young one, has I higher tolerance for training volume and frequency due to a faster recovery/rebuild rate.

      • says

        I have to disagree. Keeping volume and intensity low is tantamount to advocating under training rather than enhancing it through incremental hypertrophy of recuperation. Recuperation is where adaptation occurs, not in the gym or playing field. Talk of training to failure rings familiar.

        It’s interesting and amusing occasionally reading neo-Paleo ideas about training in context of reading the latest version of old, old conversations. I started some lifting by age 7 (1951), serious weight training for competitive swimming (1958), for competitive lifting (1959), permanently ‘bitten by the iron bug’ ever since. So that’s 54 years of training, and more than a century of reading material, a lot of it cutting edge science. What’s clear is most of our training systems repeat and regurgitate ideas that arent’ new. None are complete, either.

        Paleo’s becoming a new petri dish for old theories and old debates. And they’re just as borish here as they were at other places in other times. Especially if you’ve heard them once (or more)!

        Put kindly, training to failure is one option. Not an especially prudent one, however. Demonization of volume usually goes with that.

        From a Paleo perspective, there’s something else to think about. I first came across it in that delightful book Exuberant Animal. One way the genetic pool staid fit in terms of survival was with the aid of predators. Weaker tribal members whose strength and recuperative skills were less than adequate became stragglers. Most likely they didn’t reproduce. As stragglers, they were easy picking for predators – like a fast food meal! And that kept the genome strong. But with neolithic agricultural societies banding large numbers of people in city states, stragglers has opportunity for relative survival. Yet only with the Industrial Revolution along with 20th century medicine’s conquest of communicable & infectious disease were stragglers granted the option evolution had long deprived the unfit from having: survival of childhood, adulthood, mating disseminating weak genetic stock.
        The high intensity minimalist training combined with recuperative anxiety works for a small percentage of the population, most likely those unwittingly bearing Forencech’s straggler genes. That’s good to know. Since they represent probably 2 or 3 standard deviations from the mean – opposite end of the Bell curve from the genetically gifted – both the gifted and deprived should not be confused with those in the mean. Some preposterous HIT thinking divides the world into ‘genetically gifted’ versus ‘hard gainers’, laughably asserting other than that 1 standard deviation of gifted, everyone else is hard gainers: those claimants missed more than statistics in school!

        Take home point: most of us bear genes that can go forward with fitness, including regular growth of recuperative capacity. I’m by no means genetically gifted, just positively addicted to training for 54 years. The category we should be looking at is that of lifelong trainees – Signorile has in his Bending the Aging Curve. Lifelong trainees strength levels at 90 diminish to normal people’s in their late teens and twenties! For me training is 45-minutes to little over an hour 5-6 days weekly. All kinds of training. With worry about under training.

        • Brad says

          Ken, first… just because some kernel of knowledge or training program is not new doesn’t make it any less credible/effective. To the contrary IMO. And just because you believe that training to failure is not a prudent choice does not make it true. I am one that can attest to the efficacy of HIT training and I was quite fit/strong before starting it as an on-and-off lifter for over ~25 years. As to it’s effectiveness for the people in the center of the bell curve, there are lots of personal trainers who have trained thousands of clients using HIT (positive failure training) to good effect. There is also a long list of professionals in the industry and successful body building professionals that suggest this method, if not have written books and websites singularly focused on this technique. For me, I find it hard to argue with getting the same results or better with 25% of the gym time investment. My own experience is anecdotal evidence (the most important to me) that it works great!

          • says

            Glad it works for you Brad. I first read of it in Iron Man around 1970 as Jones was brewing it up, gaining quite a bit of unacknowledged info from Vince Gironda. I gave HIT an honest try several times, always a set back – especially when Jones went downward from three sets to one. By the time HIT surfaced, I’d had a decade of competitive training as a power lifter and Olympic lifter. I’m rather convinced HIT was useless for me due to already having considerable contractile hypertrophy (it does very little for sarcoplasmic hypertrophy).
            HIT has hoped for bodybuilding champions. Jones’ original claim was HIT with his Nautilus machines would produce drug free champions. It never has produced drug free champions. On that note, with champion bodybuilders there’s only one factor uniting all training methods: those $60,000-80,000 per annum investments in polypharmaceuticals.

            • Brad says

              I will agree that HIT minus drugs does not work better than no-HIT plus drugs for hypertrophy (whatever kind). The champion bodybuilders are a completely different group and quite to the right of that bell curve you were talking about. You sound intelligent and well experienced. I’m glad you found what works well for you too. We all like different things, have different techniques, thresholds, genetics, etc.

              • says

                Brad: The often missing element in the various training methods has historical roots. Both Randy Roach’s Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors and Bill Pearl’s Legends of the Iron Game help fill in the gaps. If you go to websites, blogs, books today, there’s all sorts of methods. Most all of what’s published rehashes and repeats a century or more of varying training ideas. And they all work – for some people, for some of the time, then come the plateaus, the injuries, the boredom and staleness – and a ton of theories why that happens.
                The last 25 years of the 20th century included sequencing of the human genome, finding out what it’s made up of. With our new millennium, we’re now finding out what it does. Folks in physiology funded by the pharmaceutical monopolies are looking to understand how to interrupt, down regulate, stop various processes they regard as normal diseases. Over in the colleges of education, hidden away in PE departments now working under new names like kinesiology, health education, and exercise physiology, the same genomic and molecular biological processes are being looked at in terms of peak performance and long life fitness maintenance – their orientation is not pathology and pharmaceutical driven. They’re one of the missing chapters in a bigger sense of evolutionary medicine and it’s practical expression and implementation in a newer Paleo movement. I found out how true that is when giving an invited lecture at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in early November – those students and faculty have a good understanding of genomics and molecular biology from the medical model, and none from the exercise physiology model. That latter bears incredible impact on overcoming a pandemic of chronic degenerative diseases escalating in Western civilization a tremendous costs of needless human suffering, familial suffering, and burdening the economy – only the medical/pharmaceutical/health care cartel of monopolies benefit from it.
                Activity figures in real big time. Add to it that our genome loves HIT plus about four or five other modalities of training to render full, complete genomic expression of Darwinian fitness. We’re in the early stages of understanding noetic fitness, and all our old theories are baggage – baggage with nuggets of wisdom combined with burdensome nonsense folks like me and you grew up believe to be truth! If we apply the same method Boyd Eaton, Mel Konner and others did to Western medicine versus anthropology 30 years ago that gave birth to what’s now Paleo – apply them to our long standing orthodoxy of various training methods, we’re going to find out they’re largely Americanisms maintained by West Coast editors of fitness publications. The series of articles I did in Iron Man over much of the last decade – and some I only researched – took me largely outside of the USA to coaches with methods that work better than our standard methods but who are outside the ‘fitness civilization’ – Poloquin did the same thing with Germanic language sources, and before him Drs Fred Hatfield and Mel Siff with Soviet Bloc methods. When all’s said and one, train as you know best while maintaining the integrity expressed in being a walking question mark goaded on by the Oracle at Delphi’s injuction to Know Thyself.

                • Brad says

                  Phew! Again Ken, I’m not sure what you’re point is. Other than to show that you are a smart guy with great knowledge of fitness industry history. I agree that both of these things are likely true of you. It looked at the start as if you were going to say what were the (missing element in the various training methods) but then you lost me in the long history lesson. Your last sentence… Know thyself and train as you know best. Gotcha! ‘Nuf said.

        • Shefali says

          so interesting… thanks for elaborating! I really am valuing your comments and finding answers to questions I’ve got. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

      • Jeremy says

        Brad, I think we are in partial agreement. You need to give your body a chance to recover(exactly how long it takes to recover adequately is found through experience, in runner speak: you want to listen to your body). But I am also saying that you can shorten that recovery time, or increase the intensity in small increments to allow the body to adjust and get stronger.

        • Brad says

          Jeremy, the only way I can see how getting stronger will shorten the recovery time is if, as you get stronger you keep the intensity at the same level. Ie, if you sprint at the same speed all the time,even when you are stronger and could actually run faster, you don’t, just keeping your previous speed. Or, not lifting to failure or increasing the weight you are lifting as you get stronger. But if you are not giving 100% effort all the time, then what we are really talking about is something completely different. This is reducing the intensity level in order to minimize the muscle inroading (fatigue, damage, or whatever you want to call it) in order to shorten the recovery time. I have no argument that lessening the intensity will shorten the recovery time. But IMO, this will also reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. This is assuming the objective is to get stronger, faster, trigger hormones, loose fat, etc. If someone is merely in a “maintenance mode” and is not looking to improve, then maybe this is OK. Just my thoughts.

          • says

            another variable is time under tension, along with eccentrics, holds, drop sets, vascular occlusion. Vascular occlusion is dicey – with 40% loads occlusion results in temporary disruption of blood flow to the target muscle, resulting in pure anaerobic stimulation with light, taxing resistance. I’ve trained several serious people with that method, resulting in more than 1″ arm growth in 5 weeks – two of them were young guys, both plagued by mom’s & girlfriends wanting to know if they were on steroids. Another guy at 59 gained three inches on chest in less than a month with more than 3 inches loss at belly and hips. One woman loss utterly no bodyweight while dropping 2 pant sizes in three months, her main movement being squats – progressing in three months from an empty 45 lb Olympic bar to 3×8-10 with 185, 5’3″ tall, 160 bodyweight – gaining great legs and booty, an a new inclination to wearing short skirts with bragging rights.
            In my own experience, going well down in resistance/strength with higher rep/volume schemes starts as a power set back. Usually within 2 months the strength increases change everything: movements I could get 6-8 reps with at a certain poundage, I’m now back to that poundage for more than 12 reps.
            Some of the literature suggests that morphing to type II fibers reaches a point where they morph to type Is, but a powerful type I. My experience leads me in that direction.
            All of which suggests the meaning of intensity is more somatopsychic or mental/emotional, not fixed to absolute poundage lifted.

            • Brad says

              Ken, you’re making my head spin :) Seriously dude. I read about this stuff more than the average (non professional) person. But I still have a hard time understanding what you say and why. I’m pretty sure I could learn some things from you, but you gloss over things that clearly need more and clearer explanations. Example: what do you mean by (Some of the literature suggests that morphing to type II fibers reaches a point where they morph to type Is, but a powerful type I.) Honestly, that 59 year old story is a bit hard to believe. You want us to believe he grew 1 inch per week? Without steroids or breath holding changes during measurments? R E A L L Y?
              IMO, reaching maximum intensity does indeed have a mental factor. It’s a learned technique requiring some practice. But it’s not difficult to learn. And the (meaning) of intensity to me is… that effort which creates the most muscle inroading in the most time-efficient and safest way possible.

              • says

                yeah, he really grew that much. I was concerned with a weight loss of only 11 pounds over three weeks so taped him again. I don’t have equipment to assess body mass. Can you imagine how shocked I was. The training has been intense, far more than ‘normal’ people would put up with – my kinda guy. An alpha male. The chief variable was eliminating alcohol from his daily diet. That in itself in a high intensity/density training environment can have profound effects – including down regulation of conversion of test to estradiol. no breath holding…made sure of that. no steroids. I’ve witnessed similiar results with 20-30 year olds. some with high reps training, others with New HIT (my review of Darden’s books in Iron Man a few years ago should be a teaser on that one).
                Max intensity is the gateway to noetic training. It’s not just mental, it’s largely emotional – mediating transition from limbic/amygdala driven knee jerk reactions to left pre-frontal cortex/insula cortex reformulation of embodied brain functioning, recognized in neuroscience as irreversible neuroplastic transformation.
                Inroading in my book is not lifting weights but intentionally/mindfulfully flexing resistance under varying conditions.
                If you go to my facebook page, check in to become a friend, then send me a message including your email address, I’ll gladly forward some research publications to you. Can’t do that here. Your head will spin even moreso due to them not being my declarations but science stuff. That’s all in honor and respect to you, amigo.
                My FB is Ken O’Neill or Smart FIT (FIT=fully integrative training).

                warm regards

  16. says

    I read a study not too long ago that extended cardio in particular after 30 minutes causes a marked decrease in T3 (active thyroid hormone).

    How much is too much is also very individual. When I was in the throes of my hypothyroidism, I remember just doing 15 minutes of moderate yoga would drop my temps and pulse afterwards, and I’d feel horrible the rest of the day. I’ve since used temps/pulse to gauge my activity ever since, pretty successfully.

    • Elizabeth says

      Sandy,

      Do you happen to have a reference to that study? I’m interested as I’ve been diagnosed in the past with low T3 and love running (low cardio).

  17. Amber says

    Oh, one more thing-

    Chris, if you have time, I was wondering what your ideas are on exercise for autoimmune diseases, as far as when you need to just completely rest as opposed to adding some exercise in. With a non-chronic illness, it makes sense to just allow the rest for your body to heal, but if you have a history of long flares with autoimmune disease, that could mean hardly ever exercising. It’s hard to know when the added stress of exercise will be beneficial or detrimental to your body in that situation.

    Also, if you’re on a drug like prednisone which affects your adrenals, are you asking too much of your body when you exercise on top of that (though I thought it may be important to have some weight bearing exercise since prednisone affects your bone density)? And then of course what if on top of those things you’re pregnant as well?

  18. says

    Chris,

    One nit to pick in an otherwise excellent article: The abstract you referenced with “overtraining and low carb eating” looked at a two groups of male triathletes, one with no diet change and one with added carbohydrate, who were then deliberately overtrained. It’s true that the higher-carb group suffered less from the effects of overtraining, but we don’t know if the no-diet-change group was following a low-carb diet. If they weren’t, the study doesn’t compare low-carb to high-carb diets. If they were, it means that they have been training for triathlons following a low-carb diet with no apparent ill-effects, which suggests that what must be a high-volume, if not high-intensity, training regimen isn’t incompatible with a low-carb diet.

    While it may be true that additional carbohydrate offers some protection from the effects of overtraining, given the known health benefits of carbohydrate-restriction, it seems more prudent to simply avoid overtraining by reducing exercise intensity/volume/frequency rather than adding carbohydrate to the diet.

    • Brad says

      Chris, I would agree with your last comment in general, except it may be helpful to carbo-load the day of a once per week HIT lifting session (for example), and perhaps eating more carbs right after the workout. I’ve read that insulin is a bit of a growth promoting hormone – not just for adipose tissue but muscle tissue as well. I don’t know how true this claim is, it’s just something I read. Do you agree with this claim?

      Btw, thanks for the great article.

  19. Lara says

    Very timely article. I have been low carb and have worked out at 6:00 am forever it seems. I have learned within the last year that this has caused pretty severe adreneal fatigue which I’m just starting to get a grip on. It’s hard to workout less when the workouts give you that burst of energy.

  20. Jenn H says

    I have been trying to recover from chronic fatigue for 4 years. I had done a lot of cycling before and during that time, competitively, but also recreationally and for transportation. During a very stressful year (stress from school, personal life, physically from exercise and low fat veggie diet), the fatigue started and I’ve been trying to figure out what is an ok amount of stress for me since then. I have a tendency to keep pushing to my edge as soon as I feel well enough to exercise. For a while I was able to do crossfit 2x/week with good results and little fatigue, but I have had 2 debilitating flare ups with the fatigue when I increased to 3-4x/week. My fitness over the last 4 years has steadily decreased as I cycle through feeling better-doing too much- feeling worse and having to do less, and repeating that. If I had rested properly 4 years ago (assuming I had known what was going on, which I didn’t), I could have been over this in a year instead of dragging it out.

    Now I am back to strength training 2x/week (with weights or bodyweight), yoga 1-3x/week, sprinting every 1-3 weeks, and almost daily low intensity exercise- yard work, house work, walks, short hikes, horseback riding. I have slowly given up my ideas of what constitutes proper exercise, because as a former endurance athlete, I thought I needed to be doing a lot. Now I do what feels right- I try not to exhaust myself with any of the activities, the yoga I do at home is more aimed at centering myself than in getting in a great workout or doing a difficult asana, and some days I don’t do much at all and I still need a nap. I am steadily improving my health (sleeping better, fatigue happening less often, digestion improving) and maintaining or improving my fitness. Since I have always been fit, I am not worrying about getting out of shape because it’s relatively easy to maintain a base level of fitness.

    It’s also worth mentioning that I’ve altered the rest of my life to decrease stress to allow better healing. I commit to less activities, I work less, I have to say “no”.

    What I’ve realized- and what Chris points out- is that more exercise will continue to keep me sick and actually decrease my fitness. You can only do what your body can recover from.

    • Allison says

      Sounds very similar to my story. Was super into crossfit 4-5x week and was starting to get to that competitve level. Set some pretty good times and strength gains, then started to not be able to recovery from workouts, period stopped, gained body fat, couldnt sleep. Now I am seeing an endocrinologist because I burned through my hormones, DHEA and progesterone essentially gone and am on provera challenge right now hoping to start prometrium in a couple weeks on advice from my Naturopath. Might be on them for the rest of my life. I havent done a single physical activity in about 5 months, walk thats about it and lost 15lbs, didnt have any to lose in the first place. Digestion is a MESS, constipation. I have really reassesed what is fitness and health and when Im ready, I intend to work out 3x a week, lifting heavy weights and oly lifts because thats what I liked to do best and do some quick sprints. Also am planning on getting a puppy so I can enjoy walking.

      • julie says

        hi I to am suffering from fibromyalgia, and cortisol problems, I was doing hit 3 times a week, for 30 minutes and then some strength training after that, I had very sore knees, which I have never had doing exercise, I have not lost a pound , I cannot lose weight and the majority of my weight is in my stomach, which leads me to believe cortisol, I guess my question is can I still work out, how do you know when not to, I want to lose 15 pounds any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  21. John Walker says

    When I want to clear up my mind about how much I should or shouldn’t exercise, I watch the animals on the Nature programmes. I liken that to how our distant ancestors lived.

    Apart from the young, who run about out of sheer exuberance, and just because they can, animals don’t exert themselves unless they are chasing prey, or evading a predator.

    Running for a bus, and running away from an irate wife, provides me with plenty of both!

    Cheers.
    JW

    • says

      While interesting, it sounds a lot like the fictional construction of early people, one simply not supported by archaeological evidence. Those folks were active much of the time. What came to make us human, not animals, was development of our brains including planning & organizing tasks, being mobile rather than bound to a discrete area, and far more dexterity than other animals. From birth onward survival needs groomed & shaped our genetics, in turn embodied them. Archaeological records demonstrated our ancestors were bigger, faster, stronger than the downgraded pale shadows populating today’s world as humans! As several scientists put it, earlier humans expressed genetic potential in a manner rendering them equivalent to life long athletes of our times. If you’re less than a life long athlete, you’re simply under living your genetic potential. So no worry about over training where the concern should be with under living under expressing genetic potentials. Most will respond in full verve in the voice of the momentum of mediocrity, finding reasons we all know to be excuses in vane attempts to justify membership in the zoo culture of restrained persons.

      • Brad says

        Again Ken, I agree with much of what you say here, but I have trouble following your logic or the conclusions you form from the evidence (or opinions) you pose. I agree that our paleolithic ancestors were bigger, more fit, and had bigger brains. And yes they were active much of the time probably out of necessity of acquiring food. But what portion of the time was it lightly active and what portion was intensely active. How much rest did they have? And don’t you think that their diet could have had as much of an impact on their body and brain development as other things? There is a big difference between the diet of historic man and apes for example – much higher nutrient density. I have heard this was a factor in brain development.

        Btw, what do you mean by this? … (zoo culture of restrained persons) Are you attempting to be poetic here or merely clever?

        • says

          Hi Brad:
          Cultural zoo? Thanks to my buddy Keith Norris, my range of reading in the past year has expanded to many bloggers of the Paleo movement. I honestly can’t tell you who has used and popularized that metaphor. Metaphors or poetics are my love: two of my mentors were mythologist Joseph Campbell and the mentor we shared in common in Kyoto and Sunnyvale. Imagine civilization as a zoo! Since we have six dogs, most of whom came to us for foster care, then a blurred distinction between who adopted who as pack/tribe/family, zoo is real salient to me.

          In recent years I’ve read through hundreds, maybe more research publications, mostly peer reviewed. My office is a mess of binders with important ones either classified or waiting to be so. I’m a generalist for whom the devil in detail is a big pain. With projects going on, I’m not readily available for citing publications or other extensive research reports except on a consulting basis with a retainer for time and materials. Don’t mean to be mean with that comment. At best I can offer salient publications, and otherwise recommend use of Google scholar keywords as Kim Hill benefited me with. Brad Schoenfeld did two popular articles on T-Nation about a year ago, one under the general topic of why bodybuilders and powerlifters don’t look the same. His peer reviewed article The Mechanisms of Hypertrophy is, in my opinion, a must read – likely a precis for his doctoral dissertation.
          For more on the noetic topic, check out 19 podcasts going on each for more than one hour as the 2010 summer Zen Brain conference at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, a gathering of neuroscientists, contemplatives, and others pursuing a science of autonomous consciousness. Please ignore the word ‘zen’.
          Rest times. In intensity or density training, the goal for rest times is to minimize them. EPOC and more results.
          For supplements in such training, beta alanine is a must.

          warm regards

          kayo

  22. says

    At the moment I am having an incredible exercise experience.

    Suffering from Fibromyalgia for over 25 years (I’m now 63 y/o) I’ve used exercise to alleviate some of the toll the illness has taken on me and to roll back some of the pain and stiffness. Sometimes I can hardly walk and often I am over come with a massive ‘Fibro fog’ that descends on my thinking. So concentration collapses.

    I learnt from experience that some exercise approaches maybe release endorphins and I can harness them as analgesia. So mine has been a constant experiment: walking (at time with trekking poles), kickbiking,aqua aerobics, boxing, kettlebell lifting,paddling, line dancing…. Always the handicap was whether I could actually do these things any one day of the week or whether I’m so stiff, sore and fatigued that I can’t do much at all.

    My journey is logged here: http://kickbike.blogspot.com/search/label/Exercise

    But after taking up Tabata every second day — I think I’m in Wow Land. With an mp3 player in my ear with a suitably nuanced Tabata song — I’m finding that I can do this HIIT stuff for such a short burst of time and intense output when I may not be able to do the other. I would have thought I’d stress myself out and sponsor a relapse of symptoms, or that the scale of the physiological demand would not be within me on any one day.

    But so far it’s all +++.

    I embraced this approach after I leant that — ironically — I can dance when I can’t necessarily walk so well. Long, slow or ‘normal’ exercise isn’t always practicable for me but Tabata-ing and dancing — most times regardless of how I feel so long as it is to music — are.

    I do urban soul line dance and just dance to music at home. After 30 minutes you are sweating big time. But I can dance when I can’t necessarily take the dogs walking.

    The point is that I’m a weather vane to stress: thats’ what pushes my Fibro buttons and sends me to bed. But you cannot live without stress and avoid it. I need stress, but I need it so that I can control its impact and focus it, harvest it to best effect . Stress from exercise decreases the length and depth of my relapses.I can get more ‘bounce’ in my lifestyle and not fall into a chronic heap. Two day separate Tabata seems to be doing just that and I get a endorphin rush that undermines the pain and stiffness.

    • neeters says

      I myself suffer from Chronic Fatigue syndrome, secondary (caused by) Adrenal dysfunction and hormone imbalance, all of which were caused by my overzealous attempt to lose the last 10 lbs of a 120 lb weight loss using HIIT interval training, mostly using Turbofire dvds or using spinning classes to basically kill the fat off. instead it killed me. what happens is high intensity training during the high intervals, you cause Adrenal stress, as your body must spit out tons of cortisol/adrenaline, which, while and after you are doing it feel WONDERFUL and indeed help eliminate pain and inflammation. That’s what cortisol does. HOWEVER, you risk depleting your reserve and/or damaging the adrenal cortex and also wrecking the balance of other hormones, as in order to make all that cortisol and adrenaline your body will STEAL Pregnenolone, from which all other hormones are made (especially if you are menopausal or close to it) then you will suffer greatly, so PLEASE STOP the HIIT, it is too high a price to pay for temporary pain and stiffness relief! use Magnesium, supplements, go gluten free, avoid caffeine, do slow quiet type exercises and forget the rest. Tabata is indeed giving you the rush, for now, but you WILL pay later!

  23. Frank Verano says

    I started my on form of interval exercising when I was about 40. However, over the many years since then I’ve seen an evolution in the type of exercise recommended. So today I am now basically doing the ‘Peak 8′ exercise routine three times a week. At my age (94) I don’t expect to run marathons or do any feats of great strengths or endurance. My interest is in reaining supple enough to be able to get up off the floor, keep from falling and in general be productive the rest of the day. (Believe me. your goals change with age.) Fortunately, I still have my original knees and hips. I brag to the octogenarians that I don’t have to take any presciption medications. (Yet!)
    As far as I am concerned I consider exercise as the best way to achieve longevity and good health regardless of the physical problems you’re dealt. My biggest worry is deciding on how intense should these exercise get as I get older (and older.) I have no good qualitative or even quantittive measurement to guide me. I wonder if there are serious rsks that an old man faces when he exercises up to his limit. Perhaps none of you who are still young can appreciate my problem.

    • Cathryn says

      Hi Frank,

      My husband and I appreciated your post. Yes, we are younger, but not for long and we realize how fast it goes. I wonder, when I am 94 (highly doubtful I’ll make it to that, but let’s just pretend), will I still be trying to keep my cute little body? I am 61, but, trust me, I look damn good. My husband is 55 and he will back me, of course, because if he has a hot wife, he looks better. Oh, don’t think I don’t know you 30 year-olds are splitting a gut over that one, but just wait. Your time will come. My 90 yr old aunt used to tell me that she put olive oil all over her body every day and her skin was still like a baby’s. Fine, if you want to walk around smelling like a salad your whole life. And you’re just going to croak anyway, so WTF? Anyway, the husband looks really good, too, good enough to be hanging out with me (which is nice cuz I don’t want some fat dork following me around). We both do what we like to call “crazy 8′s” and swear by them. I did the slow weight lifting stuff this morning and was admiring by biceps (I’m really full of myself today, but it will pass as soon as I get in the wrong light conditions)). Seriously, Frank, your biggest worry is that the intensity of your exercise may be doing you harm? You’re 94, dude! Come on! Okay, I’m not holding back because I’m sitting here with 2 glasses of Zinfandel doing a taste test. I rarely drink, but it’s my 61st birthday. I started out counting calories this morning and then bagged it and had a whole bunch of extra butter on my rice noodles. I’m 5’3″ and weighed 107 this morning. My husband said, eat anything you want, but still, my mind is calculating the chocolate, the carbs, did I get enough protein? Let’s not miss what’s real, here. Not that I know first hand what’s real. All I know is we all better pay attention. I’m still going to weigh every day, watch my calories and balance of micro and macro nutrients, and experiment with exercise methods and TRY to maybe splurge a little more often. I mean geez, I drove an hour north yesterday to buy 7 pasture raised frozen chickens! (both these wines are good!) We are all trying to do the right thing, so God bless us! (okay, the vino is definitely kicking in) I might regret this post tomorrow, but if Brad and Ken can go back and forth 15 times, why should I be embarrassed? O God, I’m probably going to have at least a little hangover tomorrow because both the taste test glasses are empty so I might be officially drunk, but I challenge anyone to find one typo here!

      Anyway, Frank, back to your “problem” – I know that looks sarcastic and I really don’t mean to be rude, but wouldn’t you rather bite the dust lifting weights or while doing some form of exercise than going to the dr. 4 times a week, having numerous skin cancers removed, losing a leg? This has all been happening to my 90 year old mother for the past 5 years. Forgive me if I sound at all preachy (you know, the wine). My mom says she still feels 25 inside. We have to let go of that. There is something else far more important, but don’t ask me what that is. That’s something we all have to find out for ourselves. Okay, the tipsy old lady is going to lay down now.

      • says

        Your post gave me the biggest laugh of all of the ones I’ve read so far (and I read from the top down). Totally hilarious–esp the part about the 2 guys back and forth 15 times. Really. Anyway, thanks for the brilliant bit of writing–made my evening.
        P.s. no, I didn’t find one typo. As a former proofreader, I’m impressed. ;)

  24. Jason says

    Last year I decided to try long distance running. I had never run more than seven miles in my life. I trained for six months and then successfully ran my first marathon in just over four hours. It was an amazing and rewarding experience. However, there are two weird things I will never forget:

    1) Over the course of the training period, my average blood pressure went up (UP!) from about 130 to 150! A month after the marathon it still had not gone down and I had to go on blood pressure meds.

    2) During the final miles… 22-25… I remember feeling faint, nauseous, and exhausted. Even though I was in the best shape of my life, It was not a “healthy” feeling. I remember wondering to myself: How can this be good for my body?

    These experiences seem to resonate on some level with your article.

  25. says

    I ran two half marathons and did extreme cardio for about 8 years. Then I got Hashi’s and had to re-learn everything. Thankfully to paleo I no longer have to workout to keep my weight stable. I work out if I feel like it. If I am tired I just nap. It takes a while to get away from the self flagelation but it is so nice once you do. I am not as lean as some people out there but I just have to love my body and do what I can without stressing my self out. Now I just do a lot of walking, one day of heavy weights and one short kettle bell workout. Thanks for all the great info Chris!

  26. John Walker says

    Ken,
    Yes our ancestors were bigger, fitter and for certain leaner. Because they were on the move most of the time. But they didn’t exercise for the ‘good it would do them’. They might not have had the sensibilities to make that distinction. They exercised because they had to. But when they didn’t need to move about, or had finished their ‘chores’. they conserved energy, by sitting about.They didn’t find the nearest field and go for a ‘jog’! Which is why the larger predators today also lie around so much. Conserving energy means the food you eat ‘goes further’. They don’t think about it. It’s instinctive. And all this jogging, and interval training? years and years of it, together with football, cricket and climbing have shot my knees and hips. That’s my punishment for doing things that were not completely natural. I might be wrong, but the pain I suffer tells me I am probably right.

  27. John Walker says

    Caitlin,
    Just as a matter of interest.
    Dumb-bells got their name from the bell-foundries. The foundry-men used to have spare-time competitions performing feats of curling with cast bells, without the clapper inside. These they referred to as ‘dumb-bells’ as they made no sound of course. The idea caught on and ‘dumb-bells’ became part of the gymnasium equipment. When you think about it, a ‘kettle-bell’ is really a squashed up bell, sans clapper!
    Keep it up. Although I must admit, I just walk to the shops and back again, and to the post office to collect my pension. Other than that I maintain my weight with eating a low carb diet. (Almost nil-carb’) in fact.
    JW

    • says

      Halteres in one form or another were known as far back as ancient Greece. “Dumb” or “silent” bells seem to have first been noted in passim as early as 1711.
      Jan Todd, PhD (first woman to break the 500 lb squat barrier with a 545 lift in the late 70s; cofounder along with her husband, Dr Terry Todd, of the world’s largest such collection, the Todd-McLean Physical Culture archives (300,000+ items in 2.5 miles of compact shelving) and the Weider Physical Culture Museum, both at University of Texas, Austin) addressed the subject in her “From Milo to Milo: A History of Dumbbells, Barbells & Indian Clubs”
      In summation, the terms ‘dumb’ and ‘silent’ bell have been used for 400 years, sadly without illustrations for much of that time. Transition form Halteres to dumbbell in vocabulary was not accompanied with drawings, photos, even much in the way of descriptions. It looks as if application of dumbbell to items from forge factories comes about later in the use of the word – and sure makes sense.
      Added to use of bell is that early ones, up into the early 20th century, were not solid cast as, say, today’s hex dumbbells are. The ‘bells’ were hollow cast and came with plugs. Amount of resistance was adjusted by adding or subtracting sand, shot, or other dense material. The Milo Barbell Company manufactured adjustable kettlebells, the bell part screwing together while instead plates of varying diameters filled the kettlebell. My FB photos section has a photo essay on Mike Graham’s Old Texas Barbell Company in Lockhart, TX, including some Milo adjustable kettlebells and other beautiful antiquarian equipment. For Paleo folks, Mike’s gym is a double blessing: next door is Smitty’s BBQ, complete with 100+ year old pits fired up with oak and mesquite.

  28. says

    Overtraining or underrecovery is a serious problem. But it is a preventable problem. A good coach and trainer should be well versed in how to set up training plans, monitoring, and recognizing overtrianing. Remember that the key is allowing the body to recover from the exercise. It is in the recovery phase that adaptation occurs.

    • says

      In my experience, certainly trainers and even more coaches than you’d believe are inexperienced with over-training. It’s largely a hot topic among the HIT crowd: when Jones first wrote, over training – fired by detrimental reliance on training advice coming from bodybuilders using steroids – led to too much over training. Then HIT/Nautilus went in the other direction, most of it now in rather serious deviation from Arthur Jones recommendation of three full body workouts weekly, about 8-12 movements, with 1-3 sets to failure: more importantly, his strongest admonition was to ‘know yourself.’ Same goes for under v over training. If all else fails, you can monitor by using urine sticks you pee on to test pH level, then back off some if you start going acidic – but first make sure you’re getting adequate vegetables since that can throw off pH with a false positive reading ascribed to over training.
      Remember, too, that adaptive recuperation should increase. In my experience, intensity deficiency is a far bigger basis for failure to gain. And intensity is equally the standard whether in a one set minimalist training plan, or in a training density orientation using 10 sets with little rest and optimal pump.

      • Brad says

        Hi Ken, how does adaptive recuperation work? Your body learns to recuperate faster over time, perhaps as you get stronger and/or used to working muscles? How is this affected if one was to increase the training volume or resistance as strength increases in order to keep the intensity high and continue to improve inroading, adaptation, growth, and strength of muscles? Or am I completely misunderstanding what you mean by “adaptive recuperation”? thanks! -Brad-

        • says

          Brad:
          All good, well informed questions. We’re only beginning to understand the answers! Here’s one for you. Supplementing with beta-alanine has worthy effects for building carnosine stores. Athletes have upwards of 25% greater carnosine stores than ‘normal’ folks. Whales have huge amounts to offset the burn associated with deep dives.
          How do we adapt? Our genes are ready to implement upgraded development in response to our inherited nature. I’d suggest turning the question around. Given genomic ancestral survival rendering most of our ancestors as equivalent to life long contemporary athletes, what do we need to do to more fully embody the lives we’ve been given, offsetting how modern civilization’s physical and belief habits have taken our nature, our lives, away from us so horribly that we collectively under rate ourselves? What I mean by adaptive recuperation is regaining the gifts we’re born with, not to excel or be hypertrophic, instead to actualize ancestral normality. Hope that makes sense.
          I’ve been around such thinking all my life, sort of a counterculture, and since becoming involved with new science have had those views sharpened. For me, that’s what’s natural. And that sense of natural or Paleo is incredibly counter-cultural. In that regard, please excuse me if I seem to be minimalizing questions – at times I just don’t get why others don’t get it, and that’s for my educational improvement as a communicator.

          warm regards,

          Ken

  29. John Walker says

    My training plan is simple.
    I don’t do specific training. I just make sure I use all the muscle groups every day, just to that little extra beyond necessity. I.e. I take the stairs instead of the lift. (elevator). Just little things like that, o top of my strolling. At 72 I need vigorous exercise less. Point is, I feel fine and most things are returning to normal.

  30. Sally says

    Hi Chris,

    This is something I’ve been giving a lot of though to lately.

    I am a chronic ‘over exerciser’ – I tend to self-medicate my depression with exercise (working out 2-3 times a day) and I prefer high intensity exercise as it gives me a ‘buzz’ (which I feel I need because I often feel lethargic and sluggish).

    However, I am now 31 and haven’t had a regular period for 4 years (and it has been completely absent for the last 4 months). This clearly isn’t healthy and I have been trying to figure out the cause. I’m not underweight at 130lbs at 5’5″ (and I want to lose weight – part of the reason for the ‘excessive’ exercise).

    Lately I have come to the conclusion that exercising too much might be causing the amenorrhea and I’m ‘trying’ to ease things off a little (although it’s very hard because I’m REALLY afraid of gaining weight). I’ve also just bought your PPC programme (I started the Reset today actually) and I’m hoping that by following your programme and reducing my exercise I’ll be able to shed some body fat, get rid of the feelings of chronic lethargy/fatigue and also get my menstrual cycle back!

    If you’re interested I’ll let you know how things go!

    Sally

    (PS I’m from the UK, and the doctors here have been very unhelpful regarding my menstrual irregularities – they checked my TSH and T4, and my sex hormones (at my insistence) and when the results came back ‘in the normal range’ they told me that not having a period was ‘not a problem’)

      • Sally says

        Hi Brad,

        To be honest my diet hasn’t been great…not bad by many standards but I think it has included too many grains, and/or too much dairy and sugar – hence why I’m trying Chris’s PPC. I really want to see how excluding those foods from my diet impacts my body. What really bothers me at the moment though is my lack of a period and I think that that’s probably the result of doing too much exercise…hopefully following the PPC will keep the weight off even if I reduce the number of workouts I do daily!

    • Amber says

      Hi Sally,

      I used to be a chronic over exerciser, and I have quite a few friends who fall into that category. I lost my period for about 2 years, but though I was exercising at the time, I just got sick with an autoimmune disease, which was most likely the whole reason I got lost my period (too much stress on my body from flares). My husband and I were finally ready to have a baby, but obviously it made it impossible since I didn’t have a period and didn’t ovulate.

      Anyways, after visiting a reproductive endocrinologist, I was diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea. Obviously, you would need to get checked out for this, but if I were you, I would do some research about it. I found a forum with women who wanted to get pregnant but were diagnosed with the same, but the majority of them had lost their period because they had exercised too much and didn’t eat enough. It had nothing to do with bodyfat percentage either, it was just when your body is under too much stress (wether it be from excessive exercise, not eating enough or just stress in general) your body shuts down its reproductive cycle since it thinks its not a good time to support a baby.

      It’s been a while so I can’t remember the exact hormone profile, but usually you have low estrogen, low FSH & LH and low progesterone, that can be indicative of HA (hypothalamic amenorrhea). Also if you fail the progesterone test (you take progesterone supplements for a period of time and then fail to get a period after you stop), that can also be a sign.

      Hope I’m not bombarding you with too much information, but it took a long time for me to finally get a correct diagnosis, and I was also told all my hormones fell into the “normal range”. I hope you find out the cause. Not getting a period can be detrimental to your body in the long run, though the doctor’s may say it’s “not a problem”. Osteoporosis is one issue, but if you have low estrogen I believe that can lead to other major issues. Hope you can get this figured out.

      • Sally says

        Hi Amber,

        Thanks very much for your detailed reply! I’d never heard of hypothalamic amenorrhea before but I think it seems highly likely that that is what I’m suffering from – I first ‘lost’ my period 4 years ago when I moved home and jobs and I’ve recently done the same again. Like I said, I also do tend to over-exercise – largely because I enjoy it but also partly because I want to lose weight/fat. Plus I’m an anxiety-prone person ‘by nature’ and worry a lot about things. AND, although I don’t think I chronically undereat, I always TRY to undereat (often unsuccessfully), again to try to lose weight.

        Given Chris’s latest audio on the body fat set point, and this post on over-exercising, I’m going to try to refocus all my efforts on getting my body to be ‘happy’ at a lower body fat level rather than trying to battle with it by attempting to increase caloric expenditure and decrease caloric intake – the plan is more yoga, less HIT and the PPC diet (eating as much as I want and not counting kcals). I’ll also wean myself off caffeine (but at the moment staying away from dairy and oats is tough enough – I’ll try to kick the caffeine (i.e. green tea) completely in a week or two).

        I agree that the loss of my period is a serious issue – I don’t want children (ever) but I recognize that amenorrhea is often a sign that health isn’t optimal (or even ‘good’). I’ve just moved area and have a new doctor – I went to see him before Christmas but my notes hadn’t been transferred at that point and he said to rebook an appointment for Feb. Hopefully, this new doc will take my condition more seriously, and I’m going to print out your message so that I can ask him about the different hormones and tests you mentioned.

        Thanks again for your thoughtful reply!

        Sally

        • Bevin says

          Hi Sally and Amber,
          I want to thank you both for sharing your experiences. I relate succinctly with your prediciment of too much cardio in an attempt to lose that last five lbs. I would really like to know what you discover, and what works, because I am currently tired of the constant exercise, feeling tired, and being afraid of gaining weight if I stop. I had what Amber referred to as hypothalamic amenorrhea for three years, with no clear diagnosis, and then once I became regularly sexually active my menses returned. Who knew! I have known two other girls who had a similar experience.
          Anyway, don’t know how we might stay in contact Sally, but I would really like to know how this plays out for you.
          Best,
          Bevin

    • Jenn H says

      I would also recommend the book “Fully Fertile.” It’s great even if you don’t want to get pregnant- it is a yoga based program and covers body, mind, and spirit. Many women are infertile due to hypthalamic amennorhia, and this book guides you in how to CHILL OUT and get your health back. The book also recommends various professionals to work with, such as an endocrinologist, acupuncturist, and psychologist. Have you thought about getting a consultation with Chris?

      I would absolutely recommend working with a psychologist on the anxiety creating the over-exercising and body image issues. At 5’5″ and 130#, I would guess that you are not over weight but would like to be 5-10# thinner- because I have been in that camp myself my entire adult life. It’s not worth hating your body. You are already beautiful.

      If your hormones are really wonky and if you’ve actually been under-eating, you may find that you gain a little weight (maybe up to 10#) as your metabolism tries to heal and your hormones try to figure out what’s going on. Then it’ll go back down, but the whole thing can take several months. This is another reason to find some healthcare practitioners to work with- you need someone to help you stay confident while your behavior and mentality change.

      Good luck! And do check out that book and seek out professional help!

      Jenn

  31. Victoria says

    I do a workout program called 10 minute trainer. i work out 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week. it’s a very intense 10 minutes. and one day a week i do an hour of yoga. i follow a “paleo” diet, my own individualized one of course. so far i have lost 50 lbs, and i have 45 lbs left to go. i am thinking about starting to do 20 minutes a day, but i am scared maybe it will be too much…and i might plateau. who knows.

    • Brad says

      Vitoria, goodonya as the aussies say. That means congratulations!
      What is it that you are doing intensely for 10 minutes per day?

  32. says

    Do you think a high carb diet combined with heavy training raises the potential for glycation?

    Low carb diets for athletes are a bad choice, but many advocates of low-carb diets say that a high carb diet, even when combined with heavy training (strength or endurance) will cause glycation from the glucose in your bloodstream.

    This doesn’t make sense since the training is using the glucose and people who exercise have better glucose control.

    I’m curious about your thoughts.

    thanks,

    -Armi

    • Brad says

      Glucose is supposed to be in your bloodstream, you’d die without it. If you’re worried, just reduce the carbs, and reduce further your fruit and dairy intake. I’m no expert, but wikipedia says that fructose and Galactose produce 10x the AGE’s of glucose. And don’t add sugars when cooking fat and protein.

      • says

        Brad, I never said glucose was toxic or that it shouldn’t be in your bloodstream. I was talking about high levels of circulating glucose for long periods of time which might result from an excessive carb intake.

        • Brad says

          I guess we need to know what you mean by “high levels”? You probably realize that high levels will not stay in circulating for long as that’s the job of insulin and other mechanisms to get it out of there. It’s my understanding that excessive carb intake that hit’s the bloodstream over that which can be absorbed by muscle tissue and the liver will get stored as adipose tissue (fat). Are you saying that there can still be high levels remaining in the blood beyond this?

    • Brad says

      Armi, having re-read you original post, I think it’s a bit too vague. When you say “low carb diets are bad for athletes” I think this also is too general a statement and I don’t think it’s true in all cases. You need to quantify what “low carb” is in this case and what kind of athlete. I personally don’t think eating say 150-200 grams of carbs per day is hurting my weight lifting or sprinting, though I do recommend carb loading on leg workout days, just to help protect against cramping. I’ve had problems with my calves potentially due to this. So again, when you say “eating high carb” how many grams/day are you talking about? cheers, -Brad-

  33. Maui says

    Wow, this sounded just like me!

    I’m a female triathlete and long distance cyclist who trains 6-7 times a week, 2-5 hours a day. I barely take a rest, eat so little (I barely have appetite after training), and race often.

    After years of overtraining, just last year, my body broke down and I was diagnosed with secondary hypothyroidism.

    It’s really sad that it’s been almost a year and my thyroid levels have not gone back to normal yet. I cannot train anymore, have gained a lot of weight, and I feel like crap every day, with all low thyroid symptoms still lingering despite medications and a gluten-free diet.

    Really hoping I can still go back to my favorite sport soon… :(

  34. says

    some basic exercise physiology will help. I remember attending private reception at the Stark Center in April 2010 for Dr Kenneth Cooper, pioneering father of aerobic training He emphasized that evening points his publications have brought forward for more than a decade: back off the endurance work to include life-extending anaerobic strength training. How come? Endurance work emphasizes type I fiber, and excessive or sole endurance training contributes to muscle wasting (sarcopenia – chronic condition systemic atrophy, not to mention disruptive training of heart rhythms rendering endurance athletes high risk for sudden death). Evans & Rosenberg’s work of the 80s at Tufts showed that muscle wasting is not a normal condition of aging, instead the primary cause of premature aging. Loss of strength muscle results in metabolic erosion, in those days referred to as Metabolic Syndrome and Syndrome X. Scientists in genomic and molecular biology of exercise physiology now have expanded the notion to include upwards of 35 major causes of disease and death stemming from loss of strength and stimulation of adverse protein turnover. Paleo has not caught up with that science as is evident in Loren Cordain’s new Paleo Cookbook.
    I would recommend a very slow come back in the gym with resistance training. I would not recommend HIT nor HIIT for starters, instead a metabolic rehab program comfortably addressing moderate strength training three times weekly, and limiting your workout time to under an hour. Either ‘intensity’ driven model most likely would backfire given your condition.

    Hyperthyroidism is a secondary or down stream condition stemming from far more primary causality.

    • Maui says

      Thanks, Ken. Really appreciate your reply :-)

      Actually just last October, I started training yet again for this sport. I joined a triathlon race in December, then boom, the very next week, I was worse than before. More hypothyroid symptoms. So I guess, your advice really complements what I have been failing to realize: I have to slow down.

      Will let you know how it goes after a month :-)

  35. George says

    I run several marathons and ultra-marathons a year. Now I am training for my first 100 mile race in the summer. I run about 50 miles, 6 days a week. I am 52 years old. I started running in 2001 and lost 50 lbs in one year. In the process, I felt in love with running. I started eating low carb in the summer. I lost 10 lbs and my running is even better. I enjoy what I am doing and I see no harm doing it. I am happier than ever with no side-effects. I just wanted to share my situation :)

    • Maui says

      Hi George,

      Wow, that’s soooooooooo awesome! :-)

      If it’d be okay, can I ask you to post your typical day’s meal since you started going low carb? I am not really sure if the reason why I broke down is because all I long I was thinking I was going “low carb”; but in fact, I was on a “ridiculously what-was-I-thinking low carb” diet. Also, I was so addicted to caffeine then I’d typically have 4-5 cups a day.

      Thank you so much, and good luck with your training and races! :-)

  36. Chuck says

    Hello, similar to George, I took up running in 2005 so I could spend more time with my wife, who was training for her first marathon (I was a bike commuter and hiker). I fell in love with running and eventually got up to the point where I was running races year round, including 5K up to 100K (mostly trail) races. Unfortunately I started to feel run down despite placing well at races. I had my cortisol levels checked and found that my adrenal function was in the tank. No surprise. I am already signed up for two marathons, two 50 milers and one 130 mile stage race in 2012, but think I will take a big break for running after that. I will be 52 this summer and probably due for a change in life style.

  37. says

    This. A year ago I started working on transforming myself from skinnyfat to well-built. I picked up a weight training regime (4 days a week). Started off pretty well but soon found myself super fatigued and finding it difficult to get the gains I was after.

    After 3 months of this I decided to drop down to 3 workouts a week and incorporate HIIT. Result more energy, improved gains and looking far more healthier.

    Less is definitely more!

  38. Billy says

    Doing collegiate track and field… we do about 12-14 hours per week of running + specific workouts. I definitely note some kind of physiological change when we start doing more specific running ( repeats, lactate threshold, etc ) and racing every week. You always feel like you’re on the verge of total breakdown.

    I’m still not understanding the physiology that well, since I’m not that far along in my education, but one of my instructors basically said increase in stress causes more cortisol instead of DHEA to be made, which takes away from testosterone production and immune function.

    I think what’s most important is having a keen sense of how you are feeling and knowing when to back off. I’ve tried to push the envelope in the past and crashed. Once you’re in that state of chronic stress its very hard to rebound and retain the same training momentum.

  39. James says

    I’m 52 and have “worked out” with an intensity of a 12 out of a 10 for many years. They ranged from heavy lifts, to Crossfit style, HIT, circuit, long distance running, to mixtures of everything. I gues I was bit by the fitness bug. Well I look great, better than I did in my 20′s, but I have become mentally and physically exhausted. Just getting changed for a workout has become a chore. So obviously it’s time to back off a bit. It’s quite a reality check when you read posts on this blog and other blogs, of so many athletes from many “fitness” disciplines who have become victims of the “over training” syndrome.

    I am sure there are exceptions to the over training rule just as there are exceptions to everything else in life. Ken you are undoubtedly a sponge for the varied “opinions” on the subject but then again they are just that, opinions. As you pointed put in your article about the “experts” at cherynobyl, even the experts are indeed wrong at times. You are, as you pointed out a “generalist” , and your interpretation of the facts are based upon the “experts” that you obviously agree with. This however does not make other opinions moot points or junk science, they are just opinions that don’t necessarily align with yours.

    Everyone is different, different genetics, different training strategies, different stresses and so on, I could go on and on but I will spare everyone with posting the regurgitation of “expert” opinions that align with my beliefs.

    Life isn’t a guarantee and everyone who enters a fitness regime needs to experiment, research and come to their own conclusion has to what works and doesn’t work for them. A cookie cutter approach suggesting that we all have to do things one way in order to realize success is ignorance at best and foolishness at worst.

    This isn’t a dress rehearsal, so be smart, do what works for YOU, and enjoy life.

    Cheers

  40. says

    James:
    So your position boils down to everything is a matter of opinion? In previous times general education ensured knowing the distinction between fact and opinion; however, today’s standard, one sadly re-enforced by the internet, has become the reign of opinion with the motto noting “everyone has a right to their opinion and all opinions are equal.” Combining the ethos of relativism and solipsism, such a motto serves to strengthen weakness, elevating & insulating laziness from the hard work mandated in gathering and assessing facts.

    We do hear a lot about people hitting a self-diagnosed ‘over trained’ condition. The danger, of course, with self-diagnosis is missing the point. Doing the same routine, the same number of sets and reps, the same old same old is just as likely to bring on psychological staleness, boredom, ennui – who knows.

    The benefits of my Orderly Chaos training include eliminating psychological and physical stress/over training, eliminating under training (a far more serious problem), and working the full range of fiber and metabolic ranges. In that regard, I’ve thrown out the Gregorian seven day calendar week in favor of natural lunation cycles and their attendant biological rhythms.

    Another dimension of over-training is discussed in Frank Forencech’s fun book The Exuberant Animal. Read that book cleared up for me how it is a small portion of the population is prone to over-training or just plain pooping out easily. Thanks to modern life and medicine, they can now survive with weak metabolic and immunity systems. Among prehistoric times, their below average recuperation rendered them what Forenceck describes as stragglers – prey for the large cats always stalking early humanoids and keeping the genetic pool fit by eliminating members of the species would couldn’t keep up. Well, thanks to housing, sanitation, and the triumph of Pasteurian medicine in conquering communicable, infectious disease, the stragglers have grown in number and survived, even breeding to surely weaken the genetic pool. They write books and articles maintaining there are two groups of people: hard gainers and genetically gifted. Right away that shows no understanding of statistical distributions – those hard gainers aren’t the mean, they’re one or two standard deviations to the right of the mean, the weak group – might be good to sterile them to protect the genetic pool! That’s the group HIT works for. Everyone else would do better to re-frame the context of their training to make gains enhancing their recuperative ability/threshold – it’s genomically much higher than normative medicine even knows how to measure.

  41. James says

    In answer to your question in your first sentence, yes. In response to the rest of your post, although I disagree with it, thanks for your opinion.

  42. Nanasha says

    When I was 15, I decided I wanted to “lose the weight” (I had been holding steady around 150 pounds for awhile with a moderate daily exercise plan of walking and PE class), so I joined the JV girls basketball team, and on top of the 2 hour daily trainings (with windsprints, etc) I would also exercise and shoot hoops and run drills for at least 2 hours afterwards. I eventually, over the course of 9-12 months, lost 10 pounds and went down to a size 8 (the smallest I’ve ever been). I felt pretty good, but my mom is really thin and petite (maybe 100 pounds), and she assured me that I “just needed to lose 10 more pounds” and then I could just maintain. Well, once basketball season ended and summer began, I ramped up my daily exercise to about 6-8 hours a day. I couldn’t keep it up indefinately, though.

    Eventually, I crashed. I developed pneumonia (in the middle of a hot summer!) and almost died from the fluid in my lungs. After that, I had permanent scarring on my lungs and gained back all the weight, plus I think that this must have triggered some kind of hormonal cascading failure because I started to develop the classic markers of PCOS and steady, uncontrollable weight gain, regardless of my exercise or dietary modifications. Doctors tried putting me on reduced calorie diets, I still gained. They put me on hormonal birth control to counter the effects of PCOS. I still gained. In fact, the only time I stopped gaining weight was when I stopped running/going to the gym and just stuck to walking and bicycling.

    Then, I finally got an “official” diagnosis of PCOS, and with the help of metformin therapy and some low GI eating habits, I was able to make my blood panels look great and distributed some of my weight to lean muscle instead of fat (although I did not really lose any weight). I have since maintained my weight while improving my health and blood panels significantly each year. Of course, I was knocked back a bit when, after my pregnancy, I developed Hashimoto’s Disease and it took them maybe 4 months to diagnose it. I didn’t feel normal and gained maybe 20 pounds but I was told that I would be “tired” with a new baby, so I didn’t bring it up until my blood panels came back with the results.

    Since then, my goal is to maintain my weight (I’m a little over 200 pounds) and keep my health panels good. Every time I want to lose weight, regardless of what I do, it only eventually leads to weight re-gain, even when I sustain my behaviors. And the only way I was able to lose a small amount of weight (10 pounds) was through overexercise to the extreme. It just does not seem worth it to me to temporarily lose a small amount of weight only to gain back 50 or even 60 pounds while still monitoring food and exercise. I also get horribly neurotic about food and that leads to the urge (that I generally successfully fight, but it’s still incredibly distracting during the day) to binge on food that I don’t actually WANT to eat. So I tend to eat low-GI with a side of intuitive eating. I’ve found myself eating much fewer foods, having no urges to binge on “forbidden” foods, and overall feeling more mentally and physically happy about my relationship with eating.

    But I still can’t lose weight. That doesn’t mean I will stop my daily exercise (between 1-2 hours of bicycling/walking), because these exercises are sustainable and I can fit them into my daily routine. But I am tired of people insinuating that because I have not shrunk in size, that my health is “bad” or that I am somehow lazy or slovenly. I find it hard to talk to others who exercise or who consider themselves “fit” because my appearance does not jive with the super thin athletic build, and because my obsession is with my health and quality of life, not necessarily shrinking to some optimal pants size.

    • says

      I think you are doing the right thing and ignore the idiots who don’t understand your situation or what you have gone through.

      The only thing you might want to consider – is even the walking/cycling too much for you? Also, you might want to see a nutritionist if you haven’t already done so? I know for myself, giving up gluten and supplementing with iodine helped me with my energy levels. I also try to make sure my food is as clean as possible – I eat almost exclusively organic food, and my animal products are free range – which is also more humane since animals allowed to graze in the fresh air and sunshine are happier and healthier than those locked in pens.

      At any rate, I applaud you for being concerned with your HEALTH vs. your APPEARANCE. You have your priorities straight and good luck and good health to you!

  43. Knack says

    The most acute flare-up in my life of PSORIASIS coincided with sprint interval training (SIT). A previous bout of psoriasis ceased 7 years earlier when I ceased heavy weight resistance training. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease.

    Quite religiously I had previously been doing 5 days per week of high intensity circuit training from

    spring 2008 until June 2012. My workout sessions were only 25 mins. (not including warmup, cooldown, and stretching). Exercise on each of 4 different machines was interval type, with HR usually peaking at about 92% of true HRmax and average HR usually about 83%. I was in good health (including NO psoriasis) but was unable to lose the final 3″ from my waistline.

    So during mid-June 2012 I replaced two of those circuit training days per week with 100% maximal effort

    SIT, in which I was harnessed to a special motorless treadmill enabling the free swinging motion of my arms. Each sprint interval was “uphill” at a slope of 25% for 20 secs, causing muscles to fatigue with lactic acid burn and legs to slow before interval completion. Exasperating stress on respiratory system. Ten intervals per workout session.

    I began to observe psoriasis lesions on scalp, feet, right forearm, and left shin within days after beginning the SIT.

    If anyone else out there can recall similar episodes of psoriasis ocurring coincidentally with an extremely stressful training regimen, please share your experience with us in this particular forum topic.

  44. says

    My experiences with psoriasis seem to have more in common with allergy and mold seasons in the Austin, TX area. Right now is cedar fever season; ragweed is also a problem for me. Using digestive enzymes, oregano oil, garlic oil and other anti-inflamatories helps. Tip from a dermatologist helps immensely: switch between zinc and selenium based dandruff shampos every few days.

    I can’t link psoriasis to training levels one bit. Along with allergins and mold, the effect can be debilitating on training and life. No sinus infections this season! one claritan every morning, and appropriate supplements. No beer whatsoever. I’ve also added betaine HCl for ensuring digestion and absorption of minerals since last summer.
    Are you getting adequate protein for cell repair? The standard is 2.38 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for those doing serious anabolic stimulating (protein turnover) training. Anything less is a waste of time.

  45. Knack says

    Ken, thanx for the tip. I’ll try to order a pair of selenium and zinc shampoos today.

    For several months I’ve tried a concentrated infusion of garlic in refrigerated fish oil, but I haven’t yet observed any benefits. Various forms of garlic have been experimented with in the fish oil: diced, fresh crushed, and powdered.

    I’m just beginning to steep infusions of dried American ginseng in hot filtered water, because that herb is claimed to be an immune system modulatator.

    I still haven’t given up on SIT because the coincidence of its beginning with a psoriasis flare-up doesn’t constitute proof of the connection between the two (although evidence is very strong). The SIT and the psoriasis have been ongoing now since late June of 2012.

    From way back, immediately after the SIT session ends I’ve been having a 25 gram scoop of whey protein with 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1 dried plum to help prevent my body from burning up the protein as fuel. I then wait 2 hrs until I have my brunch (raw almonds, pistachios, grapefruit, kiwi, more cinnamon, and either 2 eggs and guacamole or a small portion of oatmeal with shredded whole lemon).

    Haven’t been getting any protein with brunches of oatmeal. Perhaps I should have a whey protein shake with that?

    My only other meal is supper at 8 PM. I have a large portion of animal based protein and a large portion of veggies, plus 5 fl oz of red wine. No starches (no potatoes, bread, grains, etc.) for supper.

    According to your 2.38 figure, I would need 197 g (7 oz) of protein. Is that the amount needed for the whole day, or is that the amount needed immediately following a SIT or weightlifting workout?

  46. Lisa says

    This HPA dysfunction/adrenal insufficiency is going on with me right now. I’m a 33 yo type A personality female. I do everything excessively and obsess about everything. I was overweight my whole life. Diet wasn’t the worst because I’m Greek and ate a typical meditteranean diet, but was still eating grains. Switched from the chronic cardio and lean cuisine eating model to a paleo template and heavy weight training 5 days a week plus sprints at least twice a week. Dropped carbs to further speed up fat loss (dropped from low 70-80 grams/day carbs to very low under 30 grams a day carbs). Throw in breakfast skipping, excessive coffee – to the tune of a pot of coffee a day at times! – ,constant obsessing over food and training, horrible sleep patterns, and financial stress, and you get total system meltdown. About 8 months into this, I lost about 45 pounds – all fat – and on the outside, was in the best shape of my life. And thats when everything started to go wrong. I was already suffering from insomnia, due to my husband’s sleep apnea (due to thyroid issues, now finally resolved), but I was begining to stress out about not being able to sleep to the point that I would be in tears over the thought of not sleeping. Shortly after the “lack of sleep panic attacks” started, I developed gut issues, mainly constipation. This caused additional stress – I was eating a ton to support my crazy training, but only going once a week. That month (august) I had the heaviest menstrual period of my life and thought I would need to go to the hospital due to blood loss. The next month, I quit smoking after a 16 year pack a day habit. Even though it was planned, and not smoking was relatively easy as my mind was made up, the stress levels went up yet again. Another bad menstrual period – in September, and again in October. Everything was level (but not good) for about a month after quitting smoking, but things started getting worse. I had “tried out” training after work for about a month, vs early morning, which I had always done, and didn’t like it. So I thought it would be easy enough to change right back. It didn’t turn out to be so easy and I felt a huge loss of strength that first morning, but kept pushing on anyway. Super regretfully, I also ate gluten goodies a couple times in October – after not eating anything with gluten in over a year. In the first week of November, my period came a week early and stuck around for 2 weeks. From that point forward I started experiencing the following symptoms. Unless otherwise noted, most continued to get worse until mid February, where they leveled off:
    Extreme cold sensitivity
    Hair loss
    dry chapped and cracked skin
    addicted to salt, where I never even had any in my house before
    extreme abdominal bloating (constipation is mostly resolved though)
    extreme fatigue – no matter how much I sleep, I wake up exhausted – I’m a lifelong morning person
    fine hair growth in some spots on my face (where I was pretty hairless before)
    excessive sweating
    I am constantly waking up to pee (but now able to fall right back to sleep)
    my feet, arms, legs – my whole body – is killing me! Everything feels sore and cracky
    went through a horrible acne phase for a couple of months, after having great skin since early adulthood
    horrible memory, and unable to think straight
    Gained 20 pounds since Sept
    And the kicker – amenorhea. have missed 4 cycles.

    Some things I have done to try to help me situation:
    I had reduced training to 3 times a week – max – sometimes, only 2 days. Recently, I stopped training altogether due to exhaustion and weekness. This is the 3rd week (coincidentally, all symptoms stopped getting worse when I stopped training)

    I increased my meal frequency to include breakfast lunch and dinner, along with snacks after lunch and before bed

    I increased my carbs. I am no longer counting anything, but would guess to be at 100 grams a day

    I am able to fall asleep right away now, although I still wake up 2 times. I often have a hard time getting to bed at 10 as recommended – it’s usually 11. working on it.

    I cut all stimulants except for 2 cups of coffee – max and I make them weak. considering decaf if it becomes necessary

    I did a whole 30 in January, which was the strictest I had ever been with my paleo diet, and it pretty much stuck. I no longer eat dairy, and nothing processed. Everything I eat is homemade, from scratch.

    I eat soup everyday for lunch, made from bone broth I make and freeze regularly

    I am eating a wide variety of greens, veggies, and some fruit, and have eliminated my over-consumption of almonds and mac nuts (it was ridiculous)

    I recently had a lot of bloodwork done, and am fortunate to have a doc who practices functional medicine, and is really open to the idea and treatment of adrenal fatigue.

    Most notable on my bloodwork are:
    I have super low (way below the given ranges for any time of the month) estrogen, progesterone, and pregnenalone. I also have an iron deficiency. Testosterone was on the low end of the given range, as was TSH, free T3, and free T4.

    Still waiting on the results of my 24hour saliva test (adrenal panel?)

    and my GYN put me on a ten day progesterone test to see if it would trigger my period. It didn’t.

    Am a missing anything? My follow up is 2 weeks away. Hard to wait so long. Doc just recomended rest and supplementation (adren-align – high levels of vit. a, c, e, b6, b12, pantothenic acid, siberian ginseng, rhodiola rosea, schizandra, ashwaganda root, licorice root), also to keep taking what I already take – vit. d drops, fish oil, zinc, magnesium, and 5htp.

    • anita says

      You’re not eating enough carbs, you can’t make hormones if your adrenals are exhausted, I’m going through the same exact thing, I am now on Progesterone and Testosterone cream, iron, vitamin D, taking herbal adrenal meds, and most importantly REST and no STRESS…so I’m off work and chilling.. no more workouts, no more work, no more pushing myself to do anything. I am watching TV, eating, napping whenever possible. I finally figured it out. and yes, I have gained 30 lbs in 5 months. but I’m no longer a total wreck, no longer freezing all the time and my hair stopped falling out and my skin finally started producing oil again. quit the rat race and Heal thyself!

      • Lisa says

        Anita – what do you eat to get your carbs? I don’t really tolerate rice -I get pretty bloated. One can only eat so much squash/sweet potato/fruit….

        Would be a dream to be able to take time off work right now!

        • anita says

          Lisa, the reason you felt better during training is because you were raising your cortisol during activity which stayed raised afterwards, but now of course the adrenals are depleted. DONT workout, you will pay for it severely! because you are so young and hormones are so low is because your body is trying to conserve energy. this is classic Adrenal dysfunction. you will definitely help by eating small and frequent meals, with at least 25-30 grams carbs, and 10-2- grams protein. I’m on half-caf now but did go decaff for a year (blech.) I too was severly anemic, and since going gluten free my ferritin DOUBLED in 6 weeks, what does this tell me? that gluten was interfering with absorption of minerals! I have had great success with Proferrin and Ferramax iron supplements. Proferrin is a heme iron one but it did give me gas. the other is a Poly-saccharine iron complex and It worked within 2 weeks, whereas the regular iron preps take several months and cause constipation. taking more than once a day is futile by the eay. one per day is all our body can process. for meals, carb sources are: breakfast I often eat non GMO organic corn grits with my eggs, or a couple of tortillas, sometimes some baked beans or gluten free homemade bread (rice and other gluten free flours, with added chia/flax seeds. or I just eat an apple or half a banana. a couple times a week I do eat a big bowl of cooked gluten free certified large flake oats topped with flax, a handful nuts, some dried fruit mixed in and a big blob of coconut oil – deelish! and dinner, we do all kinds, quinoa, rice, sweet potato, squash, I’m not 100% paleo, I truly believe in my case, and for women in general, our thyroids need the carbs in order to make the hormones t4/t3, too low carb and my thyroid turns off. Also, I am too hypoglycemic right now and that’s because my progesterone is low. Lisa, I am getting good results from using Progesterone cream, not sure if your doc put you on Natural progesterone (you didn’t specify) but unless its Natural, it wont help you. Prometrium is natural but if taken orally you lose 90% of it through your liver. you can split the capsule and apply it to your wrists or use it vaginally for 100% absorption. BTW if rice is bloating you, either you’re eating too large a portion or you need to take some digestive enzymes to help digest carbs. sure hope you start improving soon. BTW I’m 52 had the same job for 24 years and have earned my early retirement:) My hair stopped falling out once my iron ferritin went up. it went from 13 to 26 and that took a year, until I stopped all activity, went gluten free, and now its 57 and climbing:) I am on an Adrenal product called Adrenal L BP from my Naturopath which has helped significantly with my low blood pressure and temperature. its licorice and holy basil and a bunch of other things including rhodiola. good luck!

    • Brad says

      Since things got better when you stopped working out. Give it a rest a while longer then add it back in slowly. You really don’t need more than one short, intense whole body workout per week (eg. Body By Science Big-5 routine) if you are in maintenance mode. It likely is not a problem of carb intake if you are eating at least 100grams depending upon how much exercise volume you are doing each week.

      • Lisa says

        Thanks for the replies. I will look into the Body By Science big 5 – Can’t wait till I feel good enough for an actual workout.

  47. says

    Body By Science? A great book for those knowing astonishingly less than its two authors, and for those with a cult like adherence to confirmational bias in place of science I guess somebody has to keep failed ideas alive; McGuff and Little have done just that. Notice that Iron Man Magazine cut Little’s pathetic column, too. If you wish to be misled by amateurs dabbling in exercise physiology and appealing to lazy people looking for a rationale to under train, join their scam. Otherwise get Brad Schoenfeld’s The MAX Muscle Plan, a breakthrough publication from a real exercise scientist.

    • Brad says

      Ken, when you have published a book that is widely read, used, and has proven to help thousands of people then maybe you can better criticize. Nobody said BBS/Big-5 was perfect or optimal for all people. But it’s a good place to start and SSTF HIT is safe and effective. Certainly better than crossfit IMO which I don’t think is safe for most people. I have gone through the Big-5 HIT stuff and have moved on after some months of it – I hit a plateau and could not get past. Now I’m doing higher volume Gironda style stuff. I still think that high intensity slow cadence to failure works pretty well for most people at least to start out.

  48. says

    Brad:
    Your point concerning a widely sold book by no means validates its contents, no more than the incredibly successful Tim Ferris also drawing on HIT, the ‘Colorado Experiment’ fraud, etc. does. I read BBS at first with interest, then was astonished by the charade of research cherry picking the precious few research publications that might shed some credibility on an otherwise failed commercial theory of exercise. Jones’ Nautilus machines & HIT training were all the rage in the seventies, a fad long gone but on life support due to a marginal group difficult to distinguish from advocates of the Flat Earth Society. Howe the Paleo community gave credence to BBS evidences only that they do not follow evolutionary based genomic and proteonomic work in exercise physiology. Twice weekly working out for beginners is laughable enough, but then tapering off with progression? Cavalier disregard for our genome in action.
    HIT has its place for emphasis on contractile hypertrophy, not sacroplasmic hypertrophy. Contractile work carried to failure is an excellent strategy for destroying connective tissue as Dorian Yates did.

    Gironda type training is a far better alternative. Higher reps, density, addressing metabolic and mitochrondial stress rather than wrecking joints.
    MAX (mitogen-activated-xtreme) Muscle Plan is by far a breakthrough publication, as are the peer reviewed articles by its author Brad Schoenfeld. Unlike BBS, Schoenfeld’s work is real science – state of the art science. After all, McGuff is a physician, not a research science – something he admitted in his opening remarks at AHS2011. On top of that, Brad’s won drug-free bodybuilding competition, coached for decades, won a number of prestigious awards, published several successful books, and is now finishing up a PhD. His book doesn’t advocate a cast in concrete system; instead, his work brings the full spectrum of training methods to bear, integrating them for periodization from beginner to well beyond that. Progressive recuperation enables training more rather than failing to adapt in an ancestral manner as BBS proposes.

    That BBS has sold a lot of copies merely says its readers know astonishingly less than its authors! As for has your opening line is concerned, it remains laughable. BBS is a wonderful book for first semester research oriented graduate students in their research methods and analysis curriculum as a genuinely shallow example of what popular presses will publish to make a buck at any cost.

    Referencing Mad Mike Mentzer is astonishing. Those of us who knew him remember a loadie.

    • Brad says

      I’ll check out the MAX MP stuff. Thanks for the pointer. But it’s very true that most readers of BBS know astonishingly less… the same is true for most personal trainers working in gyms that are supposedly “teachers”. I read the 4-hour Body as well and thought it was just trash. BBS at least was clearly organized and written.

  49. says

    Brad:
    You’ll probably like Brad’s book. I don’t know how to be a fair judge of it since by the time the book was published I’d read and re-read his peer reviewed work which serves as the in-depth science backing up the book – he sure doesn’t take the average reader through a thicket of fascinating state of the art science – science unfolding, in dispute, conjectures and refutations, an unfolding detective story not a fixed conclusion. So what else is new? A higher level, synoptic, all-inclusive work such as Brad’s opens the door to experimentation in the laboratory of your life. With 55 yeas of training experience, I came to the same conclusions calling my approach Orderly Chaos Training in honor of the rich & varied potentials for expression embodied in the genome that gives me life.

    Personal training certification programs seem to me to be akin to a GED program loosely like health & hygeine, physical eduction, and exercise physiology. Only two of them strike me as solid foundations. Note: solid foundations. Extended the GED analogy, high school is a major institution of socialization in culture, social skills, interpersonal relationships, etc. Reading an abstract book on training just doesn’t come close to an apprenticeship under a competent mentor working with real people. When I got my certification, I had more than 45 years real time experience, tons of reading in all kinds of related fields (e.g., body therapies, biomechanics, neurolochemistry, somatic therapies) plus the benefits of having training with world class athletes and knowing many more. Of them, the biggest influences remain John Grimek (The Glow), Bill Pearl, and Vince Gironda in terms of being generalists with open minds and big hearts to match. The game has changed, with today’s big names more remote than used to be the case; nevertheless, at the private dedication of the Weider Museum at the Stark Center in July 2011, some 150 of us gathered with marked collegiality, no big egos, a tribe of life long iron game athletes. That’s the iron game I love and know, not one with little tin gods, people helping people. Bill Pearl has said personal trainers became important only when gym owners quit doing their jobs.

    The worse image coming to mind is that iconography of a personal trainer in someone’s face scrutinizing a simple movement with stationary bikes, big screen tvs, treadmills and machines all around, Vince used to say if you wanna ride a bike, ride one to and from the gym! Gyms today are big boxes catering to manufactured images based on fitness industry marketing of crap equipment totally useless for densely intense training. That includes trainers who know only how to use such stuff. Or like CrossFit conduct injury producing training (iatrogenic training)! Where’s the sanity?

  50. Brad says

    Ken, thanks for pointing me to Brad Schoenfeld . After reading through various posts of his on T-Nation and his blog, I just bought his book ‘The MAX Muscle Plan’ (Kindle version) and look forward to reading it. He’s obviously very knowledgeable and researched. I like that he prescribes a varied/balanced approach and seems non-dogmatic with regards to training styles/techniques, as apposed to most of the SSTF HIT crowd. I can’t imagine that Brad’s book will not be worth many times the mere $10 price. I have to admit not giving you enough credit some year+ ago (when we were arguing further up this discussion thread). My education has progressed much since then. What made me pay more attention to your “ramblings” was when I re-read some of them and saw your mention of Vince Gironda, mainly because of late, I had been sucking up all I can learn about his teachings from years/decades past, and due to other lifters’ opinions that I trusted that used some of VG’s techniques. What I liked best about VG was his all natural approach, and all the things that he prescribed that was unpopular at the time – like a low carb diet (which I do sorta CKD), and fairly unique exercises like Neck Presses, Sternum Chins, Sissy Squats, etc., versus the normal “squat/dead heavy” thing that everyone is always parroting. Also, was the fact that Gironda claimed that the resistance doesn’t matter that much and his volume heavy routing like 8×8 (similar to the German volume training 10×10).

    cheers, -Brad-

  51. Brad says

    I hear you regarding Crossfit. It has become hugely popular especially in Paleo circles and I can’t understand it. For the general public I think such “ballistic” style of training is very dangerous. Why not just take up Parkour then? At least you’ll have more fun before you get injured.

    • says

      Vince was incredible. As early as just after high school I wrote to him receiving replies in the mail – same with Bill Pearl. Very different than today. Much of my home gym is organized with ideas inspired by The Iron Guru. He and Robert Kennedy a book somewhere in the 80s with “wild physique” in the title, well worth tracking down. On T-Nation, Thibeadeau (sp) did a few Gironda articles some years ago also work reading through for his adaptations.
      Gironda’s right – resistance measured in pounds doesn’t matter. The trick is learning the mind-muscle connection, rather like a meditional mindfulness, all hardwired in the genome as a potential for development.
      It’s refreshing to meet a person with a penetrating mind given to experimenting to learn the truthes of their own body instead of blind reliance on authority!

    • says

      My theory is that as the popular Paleo movement grew, distanced from evolutionary based exercise physiology, both HIT and CrossFit enthusiasts moved in wanting to claim their pet dogmas were Paleo.
      Those of us who’ve been around don’t want to do ballistic movements because we love training with healthy joints! At my age, same applies to one set to failure with heavy poundages. Actually, studies done at McMasters compared 1 set to failure, 8-10 reps with 3 sets to failure 8-10 reps, both 80% 1RM, and a third group of 3×25 reps to failure with 30% 1RM. Both three sets groups exhibited pretty similar hypertrophy, while the one set group drug well behind due to undertraining. The McMaster’s group is a bunch of labs to stay on top of.

      Also highly recommend Steve Hollman’s Eat, Train, Grow series in Iron Man Magazine – Steve’s the editor-in-chief. He’s slowly uncovered a bunch of basic principles of training, a bit more narrow in focus than Brad since he’s aiming at optimal recreational drug-free bodybuilding. His new TORQ approach is awesome. The March issue carried his interview with Doug Brignole, who in his early 50s felt his career in competition was washed up due to age interceding with gains. Doug’s new system has him gaining 2-3 pounds monthly, expected to be up to 240 by next January, then down to a lean competitive 210 by a year from June. One movement per body part in a series of sets: 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 (or 5&5), TUT reps, amazing burns. Steve’s version modifies it. My version starts each set with a 10 second static hold at the half way point to trigger vascular occlusion. The poundages drop like crazy with pumps you’ve never had – in part due to occlusion pooling at a cellular level rather than simply lactic acid induced pump. Hollman’s x-rep.com website is his ongoing training diary with comments, a look into day to day doing, reflection, and refinement of method.
      every few weeks do a HIT or standard training workout to keep contractile hypertrophy alive and well. We thrive on variety since it’s our nature.

  52. Sharon says

    I eat low carb because I follow Dr. Bernstein and Dr. Rosedale’s advice on eating low carb if you are pre diabetic or worse. Being that my A1C is 5.5, I try to eat “like a diabetic”…no starches!

    So, now I find my TSH to be high and I wonder if the low carb is affecting my thyroid.
    Here is the dilemma…If I eat more carbs and starches, I worry that I will raise my A1C again.

    None of the experts can agree and this is really frustrating and confusing. The low carb guys say if you have low thyroid, get treated (hormones..no thanks). The other guys say to go eat some carbs.

    Anyone have the same problem or any advice?

    • says

      There’s a profound difference between metabolism of those sedentary and active, athletic like folks. Our genome is hardwired for active, athletic living in respect to millions of years of evolutionary development. Half an hour of working out signals DNA to begin healthy protein turnover – including insulin sensitivity.
      I’ve got to believe the low to no carb advocates don’t train, or if they do have minimum hypertrophy benefits. Sarcopenia or muscle wasting/under development is a viscious indicator of metabolic breakdown. What’s more, you’re not going to properly make use of protein without complex carbs.

      We have several centuries of Physical Culture know how to draw from. Many experts exemplifying a living death physical condition are not people I’d advise taking serious advice from unless you wish to look as pathetic as they do.

      Your age and fitness age are part of what should be considered. Increasing evidence of iodine defects corrected through supplementation to heal thyroid conditions should also be addressed.

      Bodybuilders know far more about orchestrating genomic responses for being and looking fit, when to take in sweet potatoes, etc to ensure proper carbo levels.

      • Brad says

        Ken, so are you saying that you have to eat a lot of carbs to grow muscle mass? That is not what Gironda advocated – a “carb up” every 4 or 5 days if you felt weak. I don’t understand why carb’s are supposedly a requirement for building muscle. Granted, I don’t think you can grow much if at all on a consistently ketogenic diet. -Brad-

        • says

          No, Brad, by no means eat a lot of carbs…nor bacon! Unless you’re aiming to look like a superheavy weight power lifter! Small amounts and that’s it. Timing them before workouts is best. I also use John Ivy’s Nutrient Timing idea, a small amount of whey, a few grams of l-leucine (replaced these days by 1 gm HMB), a teaspoon or two of gatorade powder post-workout.

          For detail on the post-workout, either read John’s book Nutrient Timing, or for an intro google on “John Ivy Ken O’Neill” for the lengthy interview I conducted with him as a feature story in Iron Man Magazine, August 2005. John’s chair of Kinesiology & Health Education at University of Texas, Austin, pioneering research scientist in nutrient time for that post workout anabolic window. Reason for a small amount of simple sugars is to promote an initial surge of the most powerful of anabolic peptides, insulin (insulin is now included in pro bodybuilding doping – has been since the Dorian Yates era). L-leucine, better its metabolite HMB, serve for sequencing of mTOR in response to activity – mTOR being the trigger to a cascade of anabolic events/protein turnover in response to training. Vince couldn’t have known anything about this since he died before the genome was much explored & I have serious doubts he could read the literature anyway. Schoenfeld’s publications go into more detail than most of us will ever want to know.

          • Brad says

            Ken, Read your interview. Two things. One is that a high protein meal will trigger an insulin response so are the carbs needed and then in what quantity? He talks about the importance of post workout carb+protein supplement to spike insulin and increase the turn-on of anabolism but does not say what quantity of carbs and protein – how many grams per pound of body weight?

  53. Brad says

    Ken, Read your interview. Two things. One is that a high protein meal will trigger an insulin response so are the carbs needed and then in what quantity? He talks about the importance of post workout carb+protein supplement to spike insulin and increase the turn-on of anabolism but does not say what quantity of carbs and protein – how many grams per pound of body weight?

  54. says

    13-15gm whey; 40-50 gm glucose, sucrose, maltodextrin, 1-2gm each glutamine & leucine.
    I’ve tweaked it for my needs to 25 gm whey, 25 gm gatorade powder (lacks only maltrodextrin), and 2gms of the aminos. I don’t do his pre- and during workout drink.
    Pre-workout is 4 gms citrulline malate, 4 grams creatine monohydrate, 2gms beta-alanine, 20 mg vanadyl sulfate, 1 teaspoon gatorade powder (for creatine). citrulline malate is far more potent for bio-availability than arginine, especially important for us older folks.
    dosing is not bodyweight dependent.

    • Brad says

      Ken,
      25gm whey is a pretty small amount of protein, though perhaps with the carbs it’s sufficient to just switch off the catabolism? Do you follow that up within a few hours of the workout with a more protein and calorie heavy anabolic meal?

      I don’t take anything pre-workout either. I workout in a fasted state and find it to burn more fat and it gives me more sustained energy during the workout, counter-intuitive though that may be for some. I sorta do a mix of Leangains 16 hour fast on workout days 3 days per week (M,W,F), with heavy calorie eating yet still low-ish carb (though not ketogenic) on the other days, then on Friday night and perhaps part of Saturday I eat very high carb and low fat – this to make sure the glycogen stores are topped off and make sure that things get reset so no detrimental effects from the intermittent fasting.

      • Brad says

        Oh, also just FYI, the only supplements I take are 5gm creatine within a few hours after a workout, and whey mostly just the night and morning following a workout. Maybe there are others I should take, but I figure most I should get from my diet, and I don’t want to waste money on things that have diminishing returns.

        • Brad says

          Ken, are you familiar with Gironda’s “precursor protein drink” of raw eggs and cream? What are your thoughts on that? I’ve been having it regularly for over a month now and have gained about 7lbs perhaps half of which is fat. I’m a “hard gainer” as far as muscle mass beyond where I am now which is prob close to my genetic potential. I am 5’10″ and around 175-177lbs right now and the most I have every been was around 183lbs lean and strong at age 20 playing junior college American football.

          I only use “free range” eggs, not the cheap junk. I also try to eat lots of grass fed beef.

            • says

              Oh, age 50. That explains everything: you’re a kid, barely started!!! joking. I’m approach 69 with no interest in slowing down. Work out 5-6 days weekly, thriving on it.

              • Brad says

                Maybe I’m working out too intensely and/or my recovery ability is just low. I can only manage to work each muscle group once a week. More than that and my progress goes backward.

          • says

            Frankly, I like Vince’s dietary ideas since they also taste good. For me, hedonism rules.
            I don’t believe in hard gainers – most every exposition I’ve read of that idea ignores statistical distributions in general, and never has discussion of control groups in experimental design – in fact, it’s more dogma than evidence driven from experimentation. When still in high school I read University of Texas research Roger Williams’ book Biochemical Individuality – so did my buddy Frank Zane at about the same time. Both of us grew up while still kids immune to generalizations which might adversely impact training!
            I’m inclined to believe hard gainer means ‘challenged ectomorph’. Our training ideas about sets and reps have stayed constant for all my life while virtually every other science has progressed. I really recommend you dig into Steve Hollman’s Eat, Train, Grow series in Iron Man Magazine and his x-reps blog. The recent TORC training packs the muscle on – and with a few modifications can keep packing it on within monthly increments.

            I love raw dairy cream and 1/2 & 1/2. In the 70s when Blair’s milk & egg protein was still available I used to get quarts of thick raw dairy cream, organic, from a little dairy in Los Gatos, CA. That combination packed on the muscle. Friends asked if I was on the sauce.

            Raw milk is harder to come by in Texas – I’m looking for a source. Even with protein powder instead of egg you’ve got a winner. Be sure to use betaine HCl with it – as Vince & Blair both advised.

            • Brad says

              I include some avocado, cocoa powder, and Stevia in it. The taste is amazing. Better than any sugar laden milk shake.

        • says

          I think the consensus these days for creatine is pre-workout. The mix I compound are all nutrients put to work while training.
          Citrulline malate is more bioavailable than arginine for NO production, something I deem of importance to us ‘maturing’ guys for peripheral circulation,
          Beta-alanine is one of two amino acid precursors to carnosine production. Athletes tend toward up to almost 25% great carnosine stores. Carnosine buffers lactic acid. Of mammals, whales have the largest deposits to stave off the lactic acid burns with dives. For us humans, it facilitates deeper workouts, upgrading the pump/burn/fatigue threshhold.
          I add gatorade as a catalyst for creatine uptake; vanadyl sulfate helps in that process.

      • says

        Hey Brad:
        The nutrient timing drink post-workout is more of a catalyst for a host of events that training stimulates within skeletal muscle. In fact, so very much occurs that the Danish Center for Inflammation and Metabolism has urged that skeletal muscle be included in the endocrine system. Yep, hormonal events other than HGH, test, IGF-1 occur (not to mention demonized nor-test) – a set of curls produces a cascade of more than 850 separate and distinct mRNA events!.So John’s method isn’t one of macronutrient infusion, instead a kick start for the process to get going.

        He’s noted lab results demonstrate the process can be kept moving along for upwards of 36 hours post-workout – I’m pretty sure that’s in the interview.

        I’m pretty constant for three meals daily, usually one protein drink somewhere between meals, then an infusion of protein before going to bed. The pre-bed one counts as Paleo Heresy since it’s casein and whey. I find no adverse effects to casein, and thrive on it. No doubt I’m dominant in Northern European genes!

        • Brad says

          I am also of Northern Europe ancestors and have no problem with milk proteins or lactose. I used to eat home made Kefir before going to bed. I need to get back to that.

  55. says

    For me it seems like the more I exercise both intensity and duration the heavier i become, it’s like my body works opposite to how i would expect. When i get sick or reduce my exercise I store less fat and seem to weigh less (which is always a problem in my brain – the scales). But if I work extra hard I seem to increase in weight and measurement. How do i overcome this??

    • says

      Kath:
      I’m not too clear from what you’re saying. You store less fat when not training as much or not at all? Doesn’t make sense. Is diet constant, or does it fluctuate – for example, do you eat less when not training?
      Heavier can be subjective, and sometimes gender specific interpretation. I’ve noticed for decades many women with round, muscular, beautifully attractive legs interpret their legs as being ‘fat’ since they don’t look like skinny models bearing the appearance of coming from lands of starvation! Just an observation, not an intrusion.
      Scales are meaningless. On an anabolic diet, one can lose fat, gain muscle – both rapidly – so end up weighing more while being more ripped. Use a tight tape for neck, chest, upper arms, belly at navel, hips, upper thigh, and calves. Measure weekly at most. Forget scales. Forget BMI. If you have access to body comp measuring, do it.
      You may be gaining muscle.
      One thing I check with women is how they respond to reps. Some doing low reps, heavier weight gain – especially in the thighs, while others don’t – those other’s tend to gain in thighs with high reps. Find out which camp you’re a metabolic member of.

  56. Andi says

    Hi Chris and all! Thanks so much for everything you do :-D

    I am a personal trainer and listen/read your work daily. I have a secret weapon to help me push my clients to their limit without overtraining them. This is an important secret weapon since most of my clients are severely deconditioned beginners so it doesn’t take much for me to push them over the line.

    Before we start their program, I have them take 2-3 days off in a row. During those rest days, they take their resting heart rate before their feet hit the ground. We average their logged RHRs to come up with their baseline. If their RHR is elevated from their baseline enough (10-15bmp), then I know they need an extra rest day. If ever they come down with a sickness, have a particularly stressful or sleepless time, or if I’ve stepped up their training (especially with HIIT workouts), I make sure they stay on top of taking their RHR first thing in the a.m. This has been so helpful in avoiding overtraining my clients. For example, sometimes clients are ready to get back at it Monday morning following a sickness and are surprised to find their RHR is elevated even though they feel generally much better. They still need an extra day or two of full rest.

    The other thing I’d like to mention here is recovery weeks. For all clients I start them at three weeks on, one week active recovery like 3 days of light aerobic for about 30 min, 3 days of yoga). From there I tweak it for each individual.

    • says

      Andi:
      Are you working with client blood panels? They provide a lot of insight except most blood panels are short form, generally used to highlight a few items with physician orientation toward writing prescriptions for symptoms of bad diet and fitness deficiency disorder.

      Carl Rogers’ main idea in non-directive psychotherapy has influenced how I train persons: client-centered, no magic formula, no cook book recipes, only an eye toward presenting conditions then observation of how they respond. Since my orientation is psychophysical, RHR and blood pressure takes chronic stress into account and for those in need, stress management techniques are worked into training.

      This might sound heretical – we generally are taught to consider progressive resistance training. For me, that’s half the equation: the other half is progressive recuperative development. Some camps treat persons as incredibly fragile. Good information from genomics indicates otherwise. Modern life has produced persons grossly under expressing recuperative capacities nevertheless innate as potentials for development. So beginners may train twice or thrice weekly – whole body, then move into 2 way splits, then three way splits, in time getting to more advanced recuperation expressed as six days/weekly orderly chaos training – varying reps, sets, TUT, rest, etc. Metabolic conditioning, after all, spans about half a dozen varying responses.

      • Andi says

        Ken:
        Thank you so much for your response! I am not working with client blood panels. I don’t feel I am qualified to do so, but I do work in tandem with a local doctor with trouble cases. What kind of thing would I be looking for in the blood panels that would provide such insight? Thanks again!

        I just use their RHR as a cheap, quick way to make the decision about training or not when, for example a client has been sick but seems to be on the mend and could maybe work out for our scheduled day. We will go ahead and keep that appointment set, but they txt me their RHR upon waking that morning and we decide from there. Same with when I start increasing their HIIT so I can be sure I’m not overdoing it for them and actually being counterproductive by placing them under too much stress.

        I’ll look up Carl Roger’s non-directive psychotherapy. Thank you. Even in my little time as a personal trainer, I agree there is no magic formula. I like to start with a general monthly format of, like I mentioned, 3 weeks on, 1 week active recovery, then onto totally new workouts…but it’s just a starting point. Like for myself I actually do best with around 6 weeks on 1 off. On the other hand I have a couple clients who end up under the weather or doggin it on week 3 so I’ve just made that a lighter active recovery week for them so their cycles are shorter and then they bring better energy on their two weeks on. And I TOTALLY agree with the part about stress management techniques. Teaching them to keep tabs on their RHR and report back to me also has helped me decide when we need to spend some extra time focusing on stress management, sleep, nutrition and maybe some basic supplementation suggestions for that bout of whatever is going on in their life. Such a simple, yet great little indicator, that RHR….that’s why I call it my secret weapon. It is crazy simple, but so helpful.

        Cheers to you!

        • says

          Many of those coming to us for training are or should be concerned with preventing, stopping, and reversing chronic degenerative diseases originating in poor diet and inactivity. Blood panels can reflect those items, although after some decades of subtle erosion. Physicians look at cholestrol levels, however elevated cholesterol indicates an immune system struggling with inflammatory markers. A good blood panel will include homocystene and c reactive protein levels, both upstream causal markers for cholestrol. Hemoglobin A1c, the marker for spotting type II diabetes onset is another. For males, total, free, and bound testosterone levels as well as estradiol. So-called ‘low T’ is symptomatic of inactivity leading to sarcopenia. All the Paleo food in the world without stimulation of type II strength fiber only slows down premature aging and disease onset.
          There’s a lot to be said that training certification programs simply do not cover and which equips trainers as wellness consultants with wisdom. May I suggest you read through my blog? There’s a lot there! http://www.transevolutionaryfitness.wordpress.com I’m also on FB.

          I’m approaching 69, training 5-6 days weekly, about a nonstop hour at a time. I thrive on it. But I’ve trained since I was 15! With local examples like Jack LaLanne!

          • Andi says

            Yes, yes I’d love to flow your blog! Thanks for taking the time to give input.

            I’m certainly no expert. I’m 26 and have avidly devoured books on fitness, biology, self-help, wellness etc. since I was in 6th grade! But even being such a green novice I already was having to bite my tongue for passing my certification test (through NASM), memorizing and giving answers I knew they were looking for but that I either flat out disagreed with our was at least unready to accept as gospel. haha I suppose you get used to that kind of dichotomy after a while in this realm of the info-sphere. Any wisdom and guidance is welcome! Thanks again!

  57. Sara says

    It’s all about finding the right balance for YOU. Everyone is different- different nutritional needs, some recover faster, some slower, and of course all sorts of age and lifestyle factors apply. Are you getting enough sleep? Is your job stressful? Are you eating enough of the right nutrients at the right time? Are you a highly trained athlete or a beginner?

    Personally, I like to listen to my body and train intuitively instead of rigidly following a set program. I have a general program in mind with goals involved, but if Wednesday I’m supposed to work legs and I’m still sore and tired from the 10 mile trail run on Monday, I might just skip Wednesday or do something else like abs or yoga. By allowing myself greater flexibility in my program to allow for better recovery, I have managed to stay pain/injury-free, healthy, and have made far better gains in fitness that I had previously with a more dogmatic approach. This method requires a certain degree of self-awareness in order to avoid UNDER training, as some people may interpret a case of the “blahs” or bad mood as a reason they shouldn’t exercise. So many times I hear people complain about various nagging injuries, but they keep trying to “push” through them. It is especially bad with runners. I knew a woman who had all kinds of bad things going on in both knees from overuse, and she still attempted a marathon without allowing her body to heal thinking she could “push” through the pain and just tape her knees up, etc. Well, not even halfway through, she had to stop and walk, a short while later, she had to quit. Now her injury is worse of course. Or the guy(s) at the gym with an inflamed rotator cuff, yet keeps on bench pressing anyway and then wonders why he his shoulder keeps getting worse 9 months later!
    So, my point is, exercise intensely all you want, just make sure you allow for recovery and eat correctly to support recovery and health.

  58. ANN B says

    Chris-Nice Post! I wish I had learned about HIIT earlier in my life, but, there’s no time like the present! Ken’s comments about a good, thorough check up are good advice for anyone of any age who, especially if you are new to working out. I used to watch Jack LaLanne, too!

  59. Roy Montgomery says

    Fitness nowadays is big business and the thought of less exercise may make a lot of people sigh in relief.
    My thoughts are that if any exercise regime is planned correctly it should not be discouraged.

  60. George says

    Hi Chris,
    I have had hashimotos nearly 20 years and its controlled and I have been road cycling more and more. Last weekend I did 100 miles and the following week starting Monday my thyroid was swollen. I make my doc test me frequently… tests on Wednesday showed normal T3/T4/TSH/Thyroglobulin but elevated TPO at 62. This is terrible, the only way to manage that I know so far is to train less, which I don’t want to do!!! What do you think, is there something I’m overlooking that could get be back out on the mountain? –Thanks!

    • says

      If it seems to fluctuate most with your exercise level, then I would guess there’s some adrenal imbalances still going on. You may consider focusing on low intensity, long duration type workouts where you’re not putting unnecessary stress on your adrenals and see how that affects your levels – especially when there’s also the chance you may not be recovering adequately from your workouts with pre/post-workout meal timing etc. Also, remember that Hashimoto’s is an IMMUNE issue, not necessarily a thyroid issue primarily, so looking to things like adrenal health, gut health, Vitamin D status, hidden infections/overgrowth etc are basic places to start. Just some initial thoughts based on your comment.

  61. cindy says

    I’m having a major stress response from several emotional traumas and dealing with other major stressors and chronic sleep deprivation with it. I withstood a lot before it finally was too much. I can feel in my body and my brain that my neurotransmitters are out of balance, and little stress now affects me disproportionately. I’m working hard at healing this – organic food, omega 3s, st. johns wort, trying to sleep well. It is a complex dynamic to put back together. Question – is it possible that even a little exercise, which I’m not used to, except for yoga, can raise my cortisol too much now that my stress system is all desensitized? Example, I just went for a bike ride, tried to take it easy, and feel whoozy and can feel it in my head. I understand that exercise is perfect for rebalancing neurotransmitters and the hormonal response. But if someone is that far gone, can a bit of exercise be damaging? Do you have any suggestions as to how I can carefully and slowly but surely put myself back together? Thank you.

    • Jenn H says

      How long did you ride your bike for? How long do you think you could ride without being symptomatic during or afterwards? Perhaps your tolerance may be as short as a few minutes to start.

      • cindy says

        I also think my stress hormone dynamic is dysregulated. It shows up in my sleep, anxiety, apathy etc. How can I begin to repair this if even a bit of exercise leaves me exhausted. Would one thing like St. John’s Wort start to repair the dynamic of cortisol burn out?

  62. cambo says

    Hi all thanks a lot for your contribution helps a lot. Though I always read the same thing about overtraining and how it can be prevented.

    Why don’t we speak more about how it is to be overtrained so people learn.

    Ie I was a training gym/mma/boxing running preparing for local competitions all of a sudden about a year ago I fell while training. Since then weird symptoms started evolving – anxiety attacks – fatigue – exhaustion – muscle spasms – foggy brain – memory losses – speech difficulties – irritability -severe exercise intolerence. Did a zillion tests all negative except one very low level of hormones cathecolamines. 3 months later I was better so started to exercise again (80% of what I was only) then boom comes another crash 4 months later. Its been now 4 months that my symptoms evolved to : morning fatigue – focus issues – pins and needles in the face and hands – severe exercise intolerence meaning 10 push up would make me feel worse for a while – neck pain – headaches – anxiety from time to time.

    My questions are :

    1) is this overtraining? knowing that I was obviously training too hard too much not sleeping a lot.
    2) why do we always speak about decrease of performance and never about incapacity of doing exercise ?
    3) does anyone ever experienced this ? Is it linked to sport ?
    4) how do we overcome it? Been taking 4 months off totally of any workout now. I just wish I could only do pushups for now…

    Thxaa lot for your help and contribution.

    Much appreciated

  63. Travis C. N. says

    Let me ask you all something…when an animal spots a predator/prey, does it run 90% intensity for 20 seconds 8 eight times with 30 second rests in between, or does it run all out as hard as it can and as long as it takes to survive? How often is it forced to do this? When it is not running for it’s life, what kind of physical activity does it get? We are all animals, and we will never have fitness figured out until we take a good hard look at these kinds of question.

    • says

      While interesting to ponder, your position presupposes exercise physiologists have not taken such an isolated fact into account.
      Contemporaries should not be confused with remote ancestral forms of human development: those ancesters were active and fit from birth were they to survive. Few today enter ‘fitness’ with a solid conditioning background from birth. What’s more, unlike ancesters driven by limbic responses to environmental threats and opportunities, our range of conditioning benefits from sciences emergent with social evolution of human culture. Perhaps we might live up to the term sapiens or wise.

      All things considered, we’re in a far superior position to craft appropriate fitness programs, even targeting specific types of skill development, than were our pre-linguistic ancestors living on pure fight/flight reactions.

      Trouble with paleo orientations to fitness is an increasing tendency to gear them to a fictional construction of ancestral humans. Sisson has done that with his Grok, but matching it with fairly sensible exercise. Why he chose Grok is a mystery since among hippies of the 70s being Grokked meant being stoned on acid.

  64. says

    In my opinion, both over training and adrenal fatigue are diagnoses confusing symptoms with disorders.

    Acute over training is a real difficult condition to obtain. With 55 years of regular training, worse I’ve ever experienced is episodic fatigue mandating an extra day or two off with plenty of deep naps! The bounce back stronger.

    Over training isn’t really a term found in exercise physiology, instead more of a popular diagnosis made in absence of much science. An old Soviet technique for determining over training is to urinate on a pH stick upon arising from bed in the morning. If too acidity, you’re over trained most likely – or not getting sufficient vegetables to buffer acidity.

    Alt,med needs to go back to the late 1930s pioneering work of Hans Seyle, The Stress of Life. With Seyle, today’s arbitrary if not patently straining of credibility distinctions between physical versus psychological stress are not found. And they shouldn’t be found anywhere. Our ancestors were equipped for fight/flight amygdala reactions to threats from predators. Today we live in acute to chronic stress. Stress is not additive, it’s systemically synergistic. Adrenal fatigue is way downstreet from real upstream causes.

    The principle cure is noetic – applying techniques facilitating voluntary control and choice based on neuroplasticity – moving from knee jerk reactions to any kind of stress to rising above them, thereby disempowering them. That applies to training in a profound manner.

    My forthcoming book Original Nature, Essential Nature – The Three Pillars of Longlife Fitness & Wellness will be the user’s guide to your life you weren’t born with.

  65. Gary says

    I’ll give you the short version of my story. At the age of 48 I decided I might want to try a Body Building a competition. I was already in the gym 5-6 days a week, mostly weightlifting with heavy protein supplementation. I had already experimented with Paleo but in an effort to rid myself of all my fat I stumbled upon Keytosis. I won’t bore everyone with the process but I was purposely peeling on a PH Stick to ensure I was “in Keytosis”. At the same time I moved from an all my life light and strict lifter to, trying to break personal records.
    What a disaster… All that stress on my body.
    My issues began with Neuropathy and inflammation at both elbows and within a year it hit my cranial nerves. Today my body continues to be under attack and no matter what I do I can’t seem to break the cycle of dysfunction. Good health to all but take it easy!!

  66. dabney says

    I am not weight training. I am a 57 year old female trying to get my life back after 18 months of sleep deprivation (which put 35 lbs on me) and i want to know WHY after bending over with or without a LITTLE excursion, my belly (cortisol fat) gets offended and poofs up even more. Driving me absolutely and completely NUTS.

  67. Amber says

    I found this article after doing some research on my symptoms.
    I have been doing exercise programs such as Crossfit/P90X/Cathe Frederich Tabata drills and HIIT/ The New Rules of lifting for Women and the Spartan Workout for the last 5 years. I try to lift 3 days a week and do 2 to 3 days of cardio. I also have digestive problems that continued to get worse over the past 5 years. I was also limiting my calories to no more than 1800 at the very most per day, dominated by protein. About 2 years ago I started to experience horrible fatigue and “body heaviness” – it was hard just to lift my leg to take a step. My mind just did not seem to be able to form thoughts much less get what was in my mind to my mouth. I also started to get reoccurring sinus infections and upper respiratory issues. To top it all off I started to gain weight and fat!! My legs now have fat all over them that I did not have before, my abdomen started to grow!! I was desperate so I went to a different personal trainer requesting help. He confirmed I was overweight (5’8.5 @ 135 lbs) he put me on a rigorous workout routine and a 1400 calorie diet for 3 months. I did not drop any fat and gain any muscle instead I gained more fat!! After a scary experience of not being able to even hold my head up due to the weight, 3 hours after a workout, I decided to change my diet and add in more fats and healthy carbs. I found a book called Trim Healthy Mama. I felt better for about a month, then the fatigue came back, muscle soreness, constant frontal headaches, post nasal drip etc. In reading the above and some other articles I match some of the symptoms, except decreased appetite. If anything I am hungrier – but that could be due to the fact that I had cut out so many foods thinking that they were problem foods, fats being one of them. My question is how can a stay at home mom, working out no more than 30 minutes a day, with fat deposits, be overtraining!? I thought this was only a professional athletes problem/worry.. The harder I work, the heavier I lift the more fat I gain!! The more calories I cut, the lumpier I get!
    Can someone break this down for me?

    • Jenn H says

      Sorry to take so long to reply to this!

      You over-trained for a long time and under-ate for a long time. Your metabolism is damaged, and you likely have pretty severe adrenal fatigue. You’d be best to find an ND or FDN practitioner (that’s a naturopath or functional diagnostic nutritionist) to get on a healing path quickly. You will likely gain fat at first (maybe for 6 months give or take) as your body recovers, metabolically and hormonally.

      Stick with light exercise- walks, easy yoga, etc. Nothing where you are straining, getting out of breath for more than 5 minutes, and you should definitely not feel tired the next day, or 2-3 hours later. If so, that is a sign you over did it.

      Make sure to eat regularly- no skipping meals. Eat every 2-5 hours to keep your blood sugar stable and so that your body feels secure that it is getting the nutrients it needs. You starved yourself for a long time, and so your body has been hoarding fat thinking it is in a famine.

      Be kind to yourself as you recover. Getting some mental health help (counselor, psychologist) to change your habits and your mindset will give you faster progress.

      Good luck! I am mostly recovered from chronic fatigue, but it is a long road. My pituitary and stress hormones are still out of whack, and may be for years to come because of the chronic stress that induced the fatigue in the first place.

      • Amber says

        Jenn – Thank you so much for your feedback! I did find a Naturalpath and was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue, Hypothryoidism, and my progesterone and estrogen were not even on the hormone blood panel test, as well as sluggish digestion (due to eating so much protein every 2 hours). It was told to me to eat every 4 hours instead of every 2 hours like I was. So I eat Trim Healthy Mama meals w/lots of veggies and fats (like coconut oil, Red Palm Oil, Butter). I have started to gain weight, of which I am not happy about but don’t know what to do. According to your reply that is going to happen? I am currently taking Adrenal Cortex supplements for my adrenal fatigue, Armour for my thyroid and an herbal tincture for the balancing of my hormones. I have been told that it could take up to a year to heal my body? I am not liking the fat that is appearing everywhere :(… So much conflicting advice all over the internet – found one lady’s blog who said to do HEAVY weight lifting while healing adrenal fatigue??

        • Jenn H says

          My husband and I have both worked with Scott Hagnas, of Crossfit Portland. He wrote the menu part of Robb Wolf’s the Paleo Diet Solution Book. You might find a consultation with him helpful. Make sure to ask direct questions, as he is mellow and doesn’t necessarily offer advice unless asked. His email is Scott(at)crossfitportland.com

          He’s a pretty smart guy and has done a lot of research and experience both with himself and clients in your type of situation. He recommended to my husband and I to lift weights, heavy is ok, but not so heavy you are straining. The idea is to minimize over-taxing the sympathetic nervous system and minimizing stress hormones. So that is why weights are good vs. cardio vs. HIIT (though some HIIT done at an intensity that does not make you want to throw up is ok). I try to keep it to feeling like 70% as hard as I can do, because I am probably actually working harder than that. Don’t do 1 rep maxes- 3 reps or more. Don’t go to fatigue or exhaustion. Be careful with exercise, as part of the reason you got yourself here was through over-exercise.

          Once you are eating to restore your metabolism, the body will gain weight because the metabolism is still low. Keep eating, and the metabolism will normalize and then so will your weight. This was not my problem (I’ve always been a good eater- eating less than 1800 calories feels like starvation to me, because it is!) but it was my husband’s problem who was “eating like a pre-pubescent girl” not because he tried to eat low calorie but because he just wasn’t hungry. With eating more, he went from about 120 or 125 lbs up to 145 and has now decreased to maybe 138. He is still a bit chunky, but SO much healthier now. We expect his weight to normalize more in the next year as he continues to heal. He is also taking supplemental hormones due to hypothyroidism and not making enough testosterone (too much aromatization turning testosterone to estrogen). His sleep and energy have improved tremendously over the last few years. His memory is better as well.

          It may take a year for most healing to occur, possibly several years more to fully recover. I got hit with fatigue from chronic stress 6 years ago and I am mostly better but not normal yet. It will be several more years before I can trust myself with exercise to exhaustion, and I may never compete again because it’s not healthy for me physically or psychologically. I really want to CrossFit again, but have a bad track record with it! It is just too much stress for my system to exercise like that. My workouts now are more like a crossfit warm-up, which is plenty for good health.

          Scott also does something called a BioSignature bodyfat analysis, which can analyze hormone balance via skinfold fat measurements. It is through the Poloquin training. I have benefited from this analysis, as every time I go, I go in feeling fat, and then Scott tells me that my hormones are normalizing and I feel better. I still have signs of excess cortisol (excess fat in tummy area), but it’s actually DECREASED there since exercising A LOT LESS and making my life more much more mellow. I still have progress to make before I’m “normal” though.

          So don’t freak out, have compassion for yourself as you heal. Focus on the good things you are doing for yourself and keep the long term goals in mind. Your body will lean out when it’s ready.

          Jenn

  68. Emily says

    Very interesting all around, but for me the bottom line is MOVE. I’ve been Jazzercising for 30 years at least 4 days a week, and I just dance. Half the time I forget I’m working out, and believe me I am. Loud music, good choreography, fun and sweat. It’s the best stress relief around. I did need to add more muscle work as I got older, so now I do yoga on the off days. The two compliment one another beautifully. Best of all, I don’t have to calculate it or analyze it. Eat real food with few ingredients and be able to pronounce the ones there are. No mainstream industrial “food.” Then just dance. :-)

    • Pepper says

      Great idea Emily. I tap dance & DDP Yoga. I thought I had to do high intensity to get fit. So it’s great to see others successful in this kind of workout schedule. Thank you.

  69. Britbrit05 says

    What about walking? Is it detrimental to walk too much? I’m talking about at slow paces here like no more than 2.0 mph. I try to walk for a couple of hours everyday spread out throughout the day. I am TIRED by the end of the day. Does that negatively effect your body? I don’t do intense exercise except for some dancing here and there and usually it isn’t that intense. Didn’t our grandmothers even walk a lot everyday such as walking everywhere they went?

  70. Jo says

    What if you have been “over training” for 3 or 4 years and restricting calories at the same time…how do you get out of that or reverse that? I am a person who exercises at high intensities most days of the week, including Bikram yoga (sometimes even twice a day), running and weight training as well as having fitness and moving around as my job. I have restricted my calories in the past to about 1500 or less (I am 5’1″ and currently 110lb). I feel like I either need to quit exercises which makes me depressed because it is also a part of what I do for a living or stop eating. No matter what I do the high body fat won’t budge.

  71. Mimi says

    hi, pleasehelp me! I have been having this pain in my stomach whenever I eat . so, I taught it was because of the diet and the workout because they say your belly shrink when you start doing portion control. it happened once back in december I went to my doctor he gave me a shot because I had the flu at the same time. but it happened again. I feel full when I am weak and hungry. it I try to eat I will feel pressure on head and will have a little pain.
    I workout out everyday sometime without recovery, I try to eat under 100g of carb. I workout everyday for at least 2 hours. I do weight training and cardio. sometime twice a day. I just started drinking a chinese oolong tea and taking fat burning and cleansing.
    I was thinking of stopping everything first before I go back to my doctor
    My questions are
    Am I doing it too much?
    do I need to see a doctor now ?
    do you think I have too much going on at the same time.

    by the way the pills give me headache when I drink them. please guys help me, I am scared. I am doing the training on my own so I don’t know how much is too much

  72. Lane says

    Can you post the citations of the sources of your information? Wanted to show my endocrinologist this who has proclaimed me as “not working hard enough.”

    For over 10 years I though the only way to “workout properly” was to follow my high school cross country routine, well at least the “light day” workouts: 45 min of elliptical/stair and a 6 mile run topped off with 45 min of intense weight training. A hard day would be all that except with an 8 mile run.

    Needless to say my weight crept up every year. Scores of doctors told me the same things constantly; eat less workout more. I’d be in tears trying to explain how much I worked out and they would either shake their heads in disbelief or just not say anything. My parents paid for personal trainers, they told me that i need to work on my diet, are you kidding me? Nothing worked. I developed an eating disorder because I was desperate to follow the doctors advice: “you aren’t working hard enough” aka “quit being lazy” .

    The only specialists that were able to help me were my RD’s (registered dietitians). My first one told me simply that we’re gonna lose weight by quitting the workouts. I lost 15 pounds in 6 weeks.

    So anyways, citations of your sources would be great and much appreciated. :)

  73. Oops says

    Please disregard my comment, I see how you hyperlinked the citations. Thank you so much for your expertise!!!

  74. Andrew says

    I’d like to point out how frustrating it can be when an article references published studies but doesn’t provide a citation.

    According to the study in the link below, cortisol levels decreased almost 30% after the control group worked out intensely for 12 weeks. Levels were nearly unchanged when the participants consumed a drink with carbs.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/18845978/

    If we could see the references used, we might find that dangerous cortisol levels were only reported during exercise when a synthetic cortisol deravitive was taken.

    I am not in disagreement with you on being cautious about overtraining and any diet (I am not paleo but do exercise regularly at varied intensities). However, I cannot find anything out there that links the two to cortisol induced memory loss. Those that do are all studying stress, which impact the adrenals very differently.

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