Why You May Need to Exercise Less | Chris Kresser

Why You May Need to Exercise Less

by Chris Kresser

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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?


Join the conversation

    • [Brandie-Moderator] Hi Branden, thanks for your question. There are several links to evidence sources throughout the article.

  1. Thanks Chris, Your article is extremely informative and answered a lot of questions for me. I was very active when younger but haven’t done any serious exercise for about 15 years. Then 5 months ago i did 3 weeks of crossfit 5 days a week. I have always tended to push to the limit. I expected to feel fantastic. I didn’t. I became extremely exhausted all day and had to push through each day. I stopped as i had to go overseas and although have wanted to return i haven’t felt ‘fit’ enough to return. I have suffered from chronic fatigue in the past and wasn’t sure if i should do crossfit. After reading your article i think i will start again but only do 3 x a week.
    thanks heaps

    • Thanks Chrissie, Hope you are feeling better now. My situation is exactly similar to yours. I started working out after a long gap and kept pushing myself to the limit and ended up hypothyroid. Did you get your blood tested? I have elevated thyroid antibodies. Just wondering if that too is due to over exercising. Anyone else who recorded high TPO antibodies due to over exercising? pls let me know.
      Any info is highly appreciated.


  2. I’d like to see the study that supports this claim: “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.” I clicked on the hyperlink but was shown a 404 error. Thanks!

  3. Can losing 26 pounds in twelve weeks (intentionally) and high intensity workouts every day cause blood pressure to rise considerably?

    • I am no expert; but i have read you shouldn’t do high intensity workouts everyday. It will help with weight loss but it will place a lot of stress on the body and its systems and leave you lacking adequate rest for your body to recover. This lack of recovery time could also increase the risk of injury. IMO i think you should consider incorporating two rest days to you week, or at the very least two days when you do low intensity exercise, like yoga or going for a walk. Also, see a doctor about your blood pressure.

  4. Hi, I am a 35 male. I allways been a fan of gym (weights and cardio). I managed ok in both of them. Since last March i start loosing muscle mass at a rythm of 2 kgs a month, quit running in order to mantain weight. Now i am still loosing muscle but i am gaining fat aswell. Still on the gym for 50 mins 5x a week . didnt loose that much strenght. I think ive got cortisol issues, my Urinary free cortisols are extremelly high – x8 more tan max (not so quite on blood) .
    Nutrition is the same. Am I on chronic stress ? I can not explain what is happenning to me and doctors are useless.

    • If the weight loss suddenly started without any obvious cause (such as changes to your diet and activity levels) then you should get it properly investigated by a doctor. If you don’t like the doctor you have, find a new one/get a second opinion.

  5. Hey everyone my name is Dustin and I have a question regarding overtraining induced Insomnia due to the fact that I have seemed to have developed it overnight (started 4/8/2016) and have not resolved it after 5 months and still ongoing (8/1/2016). I am reaching out in desperation to anyone who may have been through this experience that might happen to have insights of what I can do to cure or remedy my situation as it has seriously been wrecking my life in every aspect.
    First off, a little background of me including lifestyle, daily habits, and what I think may be the culprit of my insomnia.
    I’m a single child (5’11/ 200lbs) living in SoCal, soon to be 25 years of age (august 8) and am your typical guy who goes to Work, School, Gym (5 days a week) and carries a normal life as any college student would in regards to regularly socializing with friends, dating, going out, spending time with family and basically enjoying life. I am a Gym goer that is pretty strict with my eating patterns, eating every 3 to 4 hours in order to keep me satiated, functioning, and able to fuel my weekly workouts (roughly 3-4k calories / 200g of protein ample amounts of carbs and healthy fats per day). The occasional weekend cheat meal is also a given because I like to enjoy myself every once in a while.
    So I’ve written up at the top that my issue started April 8th 2016. It’s good to note that prior to this happening for the most part in the month of May I had changed up my training schedule from my normal bro split consisting of
    M Chest T Back W Legs T OFF F Shoulders S Arms S OFF REPEAT –
    Workouts consisted of 4-8 exercises per body part training in the 65-85% of 1RM with sets of 3-4 in the 10-12 rep range. So my preferred style of training was high volume which is my bread and butter and has always blown me up and given me great results without injury, diminishing returns or setbacks. I forgot to mention that I have been training since the age of 19 so I know what I’m doing for the most part in regards to form, range of motion, rest days, supplementation, progressive overload, recovery, nutrition etc. Not to say that I know everything -which I don’t, and especially not in terms of periodization which I will get to in the next part of this.
    So I went from that type of training style that I used for most of my training career and decided I wanted to increase my strength at a faster pace with a more structured program. I researched online for various strength training regimes and came across the “Ice cream Fitness 5×5 novice program” that only called for training 3 days a week which focused on increasing overall mass and strength on the bigger lifts (bench, deadlift, squat, ohp, and rows) and decided I would give it a go. Compared to the high volume type of training I was on, I guess you could say this was a much more intense style of training calling for 5 sets of 5 reps on the main lifts using around 75% of your 1 RM and ramping it up by 5lbs every other workout. My gym sessions would normally be 1.5 hours long tops, and with this new type of style I would be so gassed out set after set on the big lifts and taking about 3-5 minutes of rest in between sets stretching my workouts to almost 3 hours in length. I think this is where I believe I jumped the gun. So I started this program back in May and throughout the whole month on the program I felt as if I wasn’t recovering fast enough or my body was not adapting as it should have to this new style of training. Throughout my time on this program (one month, did not complete) I felt my body becoming exhausted after each session and I always felt tired, but I kept going workout after workout because in my mind I thought it was part of the process so push through it and keep making progress. So on my last workout before discontinuing I recall doing the deadlift @275 for 5×5 and I remember trying to load up one side of the bar and yanked it up pretty fast and felt a strain from around my upper right trap down to about mid right back and felt as if that was the last string for the day and could not continue my workout. I went home and showered then went to get a haircut at around 8pm and I remember telling the barber I felt completely out of it and apologies if I didn’t talk to him for most of the cut. I also was going to go out that night with a few friends to grab a few drinks but I declined their invitation because I was so exhausted and fatigued. I went to bed that night April 7th 2016 and woke up the next day in a complete daze. I felt warm and completely out of it like I was drunk or hung-over and my vision seemed blurry and out of focus. I have never experienced a feeling like this in my life so I was pretty spooked. I thought I was coming down with the flu so I tried to rest and sleep it off but fast forward a week and nothing changed. At this point I schedule a Dr’s apt and they told me I had “Benign Positional Vertigo” which was BS because I wasn’t feeling dizzy, just “out of it” or “spaced out.” What a waste of a 60$ co pay because I had no insurance. I also went to a Chiropractor at the time to get an adjustment in hopes of it maybe being a pulled muscle that might have been restricting blood flow to my brain or whatever. Week 2 strolls by and nothing changes – at this point I start to panic and search Google for all types of symptoms and reasons as to why I may be feeling this way and while I found a variety of people suffering from similar things to what I was going through, I really never stopped to analyze what would be causing this domino of effects. I should note that I also stopped working out completely for about 2 or 3 weeks and I stopped eating like I normally did because I went into a semi- state of depression due to not knowing what was wrong with me. After week 3 I returned to the gym because I couldn’t handle being at home and thinking of being sick and nothing helping my situation. I went back to my old style of volume training and started to pack on muscle and my lifts starting going up shortly week by week but my symptoms of constantly feeling out of it and fatigued still lingered. When I hit the 2 month mark in June everything was getting worse so I went to the ER due to Symptoms of:
    Fatigue, Feeling spaced out 24/7 while wired at the same time (almost like I’m on edge and can’t relax), constant shortness of breath, indigestion, sensitivity to light, developed a pale white tongue with scalloped pie crust appearance to it on the edges, excessive thirst with dry mouth upon wakening, dark under eye circles (started after not getting good sleep), hair falling out and more noticeable in the shower and a strong heartbeat that shakes my body when I’m at rest.
    I had a battery of tests done including a Metabolic panel, Cortisol AM, TSH, STD, HIV, B12, Chest x-ray, EKG and the list goes on but they all came back fine and told me it was all in my head.
    Around the 4 month mark there was one trend I noticed that I considered a breakthrough, although it was so subtle and never thought it could possibly be contributing to all my current symptoms. Throughout my whole battle with my condition I noticed that I was never hitting “DEEP SLEEP.” You know. The kind you get when you knock the F out and wake up feeling refreshed like a baby. Throughout my whole time dealing with this I was never hitting Deep Restorative 3-4 stage sleep. Sleep deprivation can make you feel Drowsy, unable to concentrate, brain fog, which is exactly what I feel. During the beginning I would sleep but not hit deep sleep and as time went by I would only hit REM sleep and dream all day which made me feel extremely exhausted throughout the day. I only ever get 4-6 hours of sleep per day because I wake up before 8am daily. I didn’t realize this until I caught myself being jolted awake whenever I was tired and wanted to take a quick nap. I dream every night and never hit deep sleep. And some nights I wake up at 2-3 AM and find it hard to go back to sleep and then when I do finally knock out, I wake up in the morning before my alarm clock goes off. I can’t take naps like I used to or sleep whenever I want because every time I want to sleep my body seems to twitch and wake me up and I feel like I’m gassed for a lack of air but the feeling Is more like I’m on edge and can’t seem to relax. I also wake up with a numb hand sometimes but that may be due to the fact that I might be sleeping on it? Not sure, but what I’m finally trying to get at is that do you think that I could have fried my CNS and induced overtraining or overreaching that lead to the development of Insomnia? Other possibilities could be sleep apnea, hypothyroid, silent GERD or god knows what that is disrupting my sleep. Please help me as I am really starting to feel helpless. Keep in mind in the time frame that I returned to the gym I was still increasing in size and my strength was the strongest that I’ve ever been in my life but I feel as if I’m running on pure adrenaline or fight or flight. People also compliment me in the gym telling me that I look great and I’m getting bigger. If I’m not mistaken isn’t overtraining supposed to be completely opposite as to what I’m able to do in the gym? My lifts have not plateaued, I am never in pain, I am not losing weight (mainly stalled) or getting sick but compared to other years of training when I was able to sleep I recall my muscles looking more full, defined and now they seem more flat and don’t grow as fast because growth hormone and most recovery happens during deep sleep. I should mention that during the time I was running the new strength training program I was dealing with Life stress in all aspects (finance, school, work and personal life) so maybe my body couldn’t handle that paired with the physical stress of a new training program? I read on a forum that someone that over trained and had stress in their life at the same time gave them insomnia and they had to take 6 weeks off training to recover and start hitting deep sleep again, so as of now I have stopped training and will do so until I hopefully see signs of recovery because this feeling is something I would not wish upon anyone. I greatly appreciate the time you took to read this because I have become desperate for a solution, any thoughts or input would be greatly appreciated.
    A bit more info: I drink plenty of water daily and do not use steroids, pre workouts or any stimulants, as my only form of supplementation is BCAAs, Protein, and Creatine. I have also been trying to take it easy and de-stress lately but training was constant and now discontinuing to see if body needs rest.
    I am also having a sleep study done august 25th to rule out sleep apnea or other sleeping disorders.

    TLDR; Can over training induce insomnia? Have you been through it? Have you gotten over it? What were your symptoms? How did you fix it?

    • Hello there very deep reading your story as i went througj exactly the same thing for nearly 6 months. I ended up in hospital having drs test me for all types of disorders…yet everything came back fine….so after yet another 2 months of being to the hospital and various drs no one could determine what was wrong. Turns out it was hypoglycaemia. Where youre exercising so much that your carb in take ends up being to low and your body cannot maky glycogen to fuel your muscle’s and immune system, so for the first 2 weeks i had to eat simple sugars. I was not allowed to exercise until that brain fog feeling went away. It worked for me now before i gym i will eat/ drink simple carbs. I am not saying you have the same problem, its just no one suspected to check my sugar levels early in the morning. I hope you start feeling beter soon. I know your pain.

      • Could you tell more about your symptoms please.

        I think, I have the same problem, I feel very terrible, dehydrated, loss of appetite, feel tired esp. in the morning, diarrhea, leaky gut, half of my upper body esp. head left side stings, thinning hair and I can keep it on…

        Please let me know how did you feel that time

    • I had a similar problem. My body and mind was not feeling normal. I was depressed and worn out. What seemed to be my problem was a doctor had told me my vitamin b12 was low. Took some shots and then some pills for it and it worked after some time. Now I feel great and not like I was getting old. A lot of people don’t pay attention to this. Hope this helps.

    • Hi, my training intensity is no where near yours but i suffered similar symptoms of interrupted where. For nearly 1 year i only do moderate intensity program for about 1 hour for 6 days with 1 day walk for 1.5hour. I managed to shed 15lbs and not satisfied with the result so i increase the intensity and duration to 1.5hr or at least 80mins. Not no after this changes, ive noticed i have trouble sleeping and would wake up every 2-3 hrs, then doze to again for 2-3 hrs and up again, my mood and bahaviour became irritable, im losing my memory and depress apetite. Luckily i picked up these abnormalities at early stage so i decreased my training intensity to 1 day high for 60mins follow by 2 days moderate intensity of 60mins and 1 day 1.5hr walk and the program repeat it self. With this adjustment, i now sleep at my normal pattern, and by 11pm i tired. I guess every one is different, what works for me doesn’t necessary work for you. So you need to gradually chop and change your routine and assess the outcome of the changes. You will definitely feel the outcome of the changes, if you feel chopping and changing didn’t do much then chop and change a bit more and soon you will feel it before you know it. I HOPE THIS HELP. good luck.

    • Maybe you are magnesium deficient. I would definitely take 400mg magnesium amino-acid chelate daily if I were you. It might be something else entirely, but it’s worth trying. Check out the symptoms for magnesium deficiency and it might surprise you.

    • Hi Dustin. I have the same symptoms and want to ask you if is any news about your recovery? I tried a lot of things but the most disturbing is that I can’t rest and recover completely.

      I wake up at 3 am in morning and stay awake for 2-3 hours and finally when I fell asleep I have to wake up after 1 hour and fell dizzy and lethargic.

      Anyone who find a solution for this?

      Thanks a lot.

  6. Wow!How interesting!I recently changed my exercise program and feeling A LOT WORSE for it.
    I have been doing high intensity strength training for 4 days a week and 3 days a week power strength yoga and I feel exhausted and burst out in loads more spots than usual-even tho I’m eating super healthy and clean.
    And I have put on weight!???And my digestion has gone to pots!
    Before that I would cycle leisurely to work and back with many hills on the road and do gentle yoga-and lots of walks-which did do me a lot more good!
    I guess the stress this new exercise & health regime is creating is causing my cortisol levels to jump up to the roof.I did have sleeping difficulty too when I first started (have been doing it for 6.5 weeks now) but now am just so exhausted that I’m sleeping like a log and crave constantly more sleep.-maybe time to return to cycling and cut down on the days of intensity training!

  7. I came here mainly because I wanted to find the relationship between cortisol, stress and weight loss. I went through a divorce a few years ago that hit me pretty hard mentally. My appetite dropped to a bare minimum, and I would wake up a few times every night because my heart was racing 300 mph. One month later, I had lost close to 40 Lbs (at least 90% fat) without having done any exercise whatsoever. (some of my friends have had the pretty much the same experience with their divorces).

    Now, according to several articles about the topic, my cortisol levels should have been through the roof during that period due to the intense stress I was experiencing, basically preventing me from losing all of that weight? I have a hunch that my adrenaline was probably so high that it canceled out the negative effects of cortisol? Adrenaline does two things; it burns fat faster than cardio and it reduses appetite. I for one, would like to see more comprehensive research regarding these hormones, and how they react with one another?

    • Hi everyone,
      I hope someone can help here. I am 26 years old and was diagnosed with SLE at the age of 14. By the age of 16 doctors managed to push my SLE back. That year I broke up with my boyfriend, lost 25 pounds and became anorexic. I struggled with anorexia for 8 years but managed to get back to normal eating when moved countries. Everything was perfect for two years, I ate whatever I wanted and exercised 3 times a week. Then I took on a very stressful job, started binge eating gained around 20 pounds and so started exercising daily to lose weight ( 3 hours sessions every day: riding my bike for an hour, jogging for an hour and finally around 9 pm hitting the gym for an hour ).now as I look back this was just to turn my attention away from my job and the stress at work. I did this for a year or more and messed up my regular 9 hour sleeps. I woke up every night around three times and ate as much as I could. This was again to aid stress at work and I guess my subconscious wanted to treat my body as I wasn’t treated well at work. At the same time doctors diagnosed me with fibromyalgia, and advised I should exercise more?!! Every day I would have so much pain in my muscles that I had to take painkillers to cure it. Doctors gave me antidepressants to cure my sleeps. Nothing helped. Had no sleep for a year and chronic muscle pain every day and night until I stopped going to the gym. And that’s where I am now. My lupus is dormant, I eat well( still feel anxious about it but I think that’s not something I can fix), have no muscle pain and sleep well. However I had to stop every sort of exercise ( had to even give up cycling to work) because as soon as I do a little exercise my muscle pain comes back. I can live without workouts( I never thought I get to this level, I was obsessed with going to the gym daily), the trouble is that I keep gaining weight no matter what I eat. Is there anyone who has similar experience to mine? I just need to know how to keep my weight at a healthy level. The problem is because of eating very little( a mini pot of yoghurt every day) during my years of anorexia my body is used to not getting any calories and now I guess it just stores everything. Any advice is much appreciated.

      • I’m a 37 M, my lifestyle allows me a lot of free time so I am very active, 6 days a week I double up on workouts activities. Regular stretching, pilates is absolutely necessary for me but also replacing my calories with nutritious meals, when your’e as active as you are it is really important to eat and eat a lot as a calorie restricted diet will cause injury too.
        There’s also a lot of research that NSAIDs like ibuprofen although alleviate pain they impact gains and possible in some cases atrophy muscles so be careful if your taking NSAIDs for long periods of time.
        Your muscle response is either psychological, DOMS from not working out or you have poor musculoskeletal. As I get older I need to stretch more than ever, you should be stretching out those angry muscles and definitely look into pilates I swear by it.

        • Thank you for your comment J.
          I will definitely give pilates a go. I wish I had more free time so I could give appropriate amount of rest to my body! Stay well! Chrissy K

      • I was also diagnosed with lupus when I was 15. I was in an abusive marriage @ 19 and started aerobics and light weights to help deal with the stress and was 103 pounds from 19 – 33 when I hired a trainer and began lifting heavy. He just kept adding weight over a long period of time until I became very strong and was pushing a LOT of weight, which over a period of years created a LOT of muscle. I’m only 5′ so that much muscle without fat is great, but then I got sick. I found out what they do to animals on factory farms and the lupus kicked in. I was literally bed-ridden for 6 months. I then started green juicing and it all seemed to turn around. Then I ended up back in bed for another 5 months, then okay for a bit then back in bed another 6 months. I’ve been in bed over 1 1/2 yrs in the past 3 years. It’s hardest on me mentally. I feel worthless. I buy everything organic and drink green juices like crazy – but STILL I cannot lose weight… until now.

        I was talking to my daughter and she mentioned Whole 30. I have now combined Whole 30 with a Ketogenic lifestyle change. I cut out all dairy, grain, sugar, nuts, legumes, almost all fruit and all alcohol. I have read a ton of information (habit) and found that although I eat organic everything… almost everything I was eating was being converted into some sort of sugar/glucose. Even the green juices. These were incredible revelations to me. I don’t care for candy, but love fruit so ate a lot of it. Turns out, that’s bad too. If our body has a constant source of sugar being put into it, it CANNOT burn fat. If we remove those sources (mostly carbs in my case), our body MUST turn to the fat reserves. This new eating plan also increases fat consumption. I began my new eating habits on Monday July 25 & though I was not suppose to weigh myself for 30 days… I weighed exactly 6 pounds LESS in 6 days. I also feel better than I have for a long long time.

        Reading your post reminded me a lot of what I have been going thru so I wanted to tell you what is actually helping me, when I honestly didn’t think there was anything that would make a difference. I strongly recommend looking at sources of information on Ketogenics, Whole 30 & Paleo lifestyles. Once I found out that all the ‘good’ foods I was eating really wasn’t good – that’s when it started changing. And seriously, I’ve tried everything and until now, NOTHING has helped me lose the weight I have gained being sick. I finally have hope and am losing 1 pound a day while eating real foods and not being hungry at all.

        I sincerely wish you the very very best.

        • Thank you for sharing your story Liz. I am glad you have managed to get through it. My lupus is dormant at the moment, however I have been extremely exhausted in the past three months which led to me quitting my job as I wasn’t able to coop with the workload. I truly believe that a lot depends on the food we eat. I have been experimenting with different types of diets and my muscle pain disappeared as soon as I quit sugar. Would you please tell me in detail what can you eat? I would love to try and follow your diet.
          Many thanks! Christina

  8. Hey Chris, this article is just what I was looking for. I have an autoimmune disease (colitis) and a few years ago I was a regular gym-goer. I’d frequently perform HIIT cardio and lift heavy weights (for my size, lol) but I’d usually leave the gym feeling nauseous and with a bad belly, so I traded in my gym membership for a yoga membership and ended up becoming a yoga instructor myself. Recently I’ve felt like I’ve lost some of my strength/muscle mass and of course my body has adjusted to a regular yoga practice so it’s not as challenging as it once was for me – so, I thought I might get back into the gym to not only tone overall but also improve my yoga practice. However, after visiting the gym twice this week I’ve had the same symptoms return, so does this mean that I should nix cardio altogether? Not lift heavy weights?? I’d like to gain more tone and strength but obviously not at the risk of my health. Any suggestions?

    • My limited google knowledge leads me to believe HIIT CARDIO will escalate your HR and that will cause your AI symptoms to surface. You need to resolve your AI issues. You should be able to weight lift alone to see muscle gains, you’ve seen the chicken legged top heavy guys at the gym. Excessive synthetic protein (soy, whey) are also known to cause GI issues so be cautious on the nutrition front as well.

  9. I started doing crossfit in 2014 and not long after that I gained 10 lbs (no, it wasn’t muscle). At the end of 2015, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Between diagnosis and surgery (3 months), I gained another 20 lbs. my surgery was 4 months ago, I still do crossfit about 4 times per week and I eat pretty healthy. I have only lost 8 lbs in those 4 months.
    Someone that lives without a thyroid like me recommended this article. She cited the article when saying HIIT is not a good idea when you live without a thyroid.
    What I get from your article is that excessive training, or overtraining, is not a good idea for anyone.
    Do you believe crossfit, without overtraining, is detrimental for those living without a thyroid?

  10. I was recently diagnosed with subclinical hypothyroidism. I was not put on medication, but have recently started putting on weight no matter what I do or eat. I work out 4 days a week, usually twice a day; cardio at noon and then weight training after work. I have always been conscious of what I eat so I’m confused on why I continue to gain weight. Reading this article also made me wonder if my work out routine is what brought on the hypo. I have not seen an endo, but will check into that. Any thoughts on how I should move forward with exercise? I did go to a health food store and bought an all natural thyroid pill to see if that would help. I am trying to keep a journal of the day, although not really tracking food. Any thoughts or ideas would be much appreciated.

    • Marsha, some doctors still use old range for thyroid 🙁 I’ve been in your position before. Good doctor will treat you when your levels of TSH above 3. Some of them automatically will put you on synthetic thyroid medication that has only T4 and doesn’t do much difference for quite a few people as your body have to convert T4 in T3. You will not lose weight unless you have a proper thyroid balance, my doctor gave me an article about not to use any thyroid supplements. .. I think you just need to find a really good doctor.Good luck!

      • Marsha,

        Any updates? I’m in the same boat as you and trying to figure out the best path forward. I have a great naturopath and am on supplements, but would love to hear other advice.


  11. Frankly, I feel this emphasis on exercise is blown way out of proportion. Ninety percent, if not more of my weight control is through diet. Exercise never fails to bring my weight up, no it’s not muscle density either. It probably has to do with increased cortisol due to the stress of working out. Exercise also makes my sugar cravings go through the roof. People say they work out to relieve stress? Well I don’t know about you but pounding the pavement or treadmill for 45 min or lifting weights IS stressful to the body, it certainly is not relaxing. Everyone is different, but my body just does not need it, in fact it just aggravates my body more and actually makes me crave more food. I am able to maintain healthy blood pressure ,cholesterol and weight without beating myself up at the gym. Stop eating so much, adopt a vegan or vegetarian dies and you will not need the gym.

    • Frank, if you take a basic anatomy and physiology class, you’d know how EVERY “body” NEEDS to move and exercise. If you are unable to or feel it’s too much, it sounds like you have chronic fatigue, or adrenal fatigue or maybe another autoimmune affecting the joints like RA or anxiety if it seems too much. Calming herbs or lavender, chamomile can help anxiety. I’m dealing with CFS and autoimmune. But, i also know that LYMPH becomes stagnant & sludge if we don’t move. BLOOD circulation returned to the heart to get re-oxygenenated must be moved by Muscle CONTRACTION by moving and exercising. We become blood deficient and weak return blood if we don’t. ALSO, exercising helps MOVE LYMPH — our VITAL circulation system above the blood vessels. It houses our IMMUNE system, but also works as our Sewer system, by killing microbes and it’s where metabolic wastes and pesticides & herbicides, like ROUNDUP Accumulation end up. Blood clots form easier when we don’t move. Its’ why they say get up and walk, during long plane/car rides. It needs to be flushed just like a toilet does or it backs up and can cause disease anywhere in the body, because we have lymph nodes all over the body. Stretching, rebounder, walking and other activities can help move lymph too. Vegan and Vegetarian is not for everyone. Some people have genetic blood condition Pyroluria and MUST avoid grains (very difficult on a vegan diet), or they get severely depleted in certain nutrients, like I am now treating my imbalance.. Also we need adequate PROTEIN to help our body make more critical lymphocytes. Some people need other nutrients only found in meat. Whatever works for you, go for it. Soy = 90% GMO and toxic sprayed ith Round up today. and some people cannot eat legumes either. Get YOUR genes tested at 23andme.com and eat for your own genes. Per Livestrong.com, Women need 46 gm protein, Men need 56 protein daily, and more per activity. Humans were not designed to be stagnant. When i grew up in 1980s, everyone exercised & rarely were overweight. Now, majority is overweight & sick society. If we don’t move, our blood & lymph become DIRTY & Oxygen deficient. Let’s MOVE.

  12. Everyone has valid points to make. Stressors, of any kind, contribute to anxiety. In my case, a lifetime of built up exercise overtraining, treating my body abysmally through trying every diet in the 90s and 00s, living a childhood of extreme family violence has all taken its toll. I feel violently ill at any indication of stress. As a result, I’ve eased right back on weight lifting to learn to enjoy it and not use it as a form of self flagellation.

  13. I’ve been teaching spinning (14 yrs), les mills rpm (6 mo), and train for tri’s. 3 years ago I started gaining weight. First endocrinologist said , ” eat less, work out more”. Spring 2015 fought that there was something wrong w me after a50# weight gain in a very short period of time. Diagnosed with Cushings disease after finding benign tumor on pituitary gland that is secreting high levels of acth. Getting this bugger removed Jan 2016. I have to wonder if my 5 am spin classes 2-3 times a week may have contributed some. A little nervous after recovery if I should continue with it. As much as yoga is so good and challenging….I’m bored! Thoughts?

  14. I have a rare adrenal condition condition known as Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. The quick definition is I do not produce adrenocorticosteroids naturally in my body. I never have and, pending Divine Intervention, never will. I take a small steroid supplement once a day to put on par with the rest of average humanity. However, I am a highly active individual. I love Olympic weightlifting, hiking, mountain biking, snowboarding, and being outdoors in general. When it comes to 10-15 minute metcons, though, I bite the dust. Hard. I typically cannot finish the workouts in the alloyed time, no matter how many times I attempt the workouts and I find myself moderately depressed for the next 25-36 hours (and it’s not because I “failed a workout”). I was wondering if anyone had any input as to why metcons are so brutal for me, why I am so depressed for so long afterwards, and if there is anything that can be done about it. Any input would be appreciated.

  15. I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidisum a year ago. I walk everyday watch my caloric intake keep a food journal and cannot lose any weight. I am taking levothyroxine and Cytomel. The weight just keeps piling on no matter what I do. My sleep is not good I feel sluggish and ashamed, I bet people think I just sit around and eat all day which I don’t. I have tried following the weight watchers program but wasn’t losing any weight so why pay for something that is not working. I have heard reduce carbs that didn’t help. I take brisk walks but that is about all key body can tolerate I feel worn out every day have no energy. I have been to see my dr numerous times and to no avail. Any ne have any advice? Can cortisol be to blame?

    • My advice: Go see a different Doctor; specifically and endocrinologist. And if you are seeing on, try a different one. Obviously your problem is not being addressed properly.

      • You might also want to be checked for Hashimoto. 80% of people who have hypothyroidism actually have an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto. A good book to read about this is “Why do I still have thyroid symptoms? by Dr Datis kharrazian

    • Hi Cyndy,

      I am sure you must get a lot of advice, but my thoughts are not just about the amount of calories you are ingesting daily, but the food choices you are making. Gluten is a often a culprit in hypothyroidism, take a Lugol’s iodine as prescribed on the bottle, and see an endocrinologist (if you haven’t already seen one) to ensure you don’t have any growths on any of your glands which may be contributing to the hormonal imbalance. Also read up on vitamins and minerals such as Selenium and Zinc which also support the thyroid. But most importantly TRY to get 7-8 hours of sleep – take melatonin an hour before to induce sleepiness, and be DISCIPLINED about your sleep. It’s the #1 culprit for fat retentions when calorie over-consumption is not the cause. I had hypothyroidism it was iodine and proper daily sleep that ended it. But if I start getting lax on my sleep hygiene, and nothing else, my weight mysteriously goes back up. Food for thought…. 🙂 Good luck!

    • It’s important to address all issues with your adrenals before treating your thyroid issues. If you do not address them first your thyroid treatment will not be effective. There is plenty of info explaining this on the internet. I agree that you should see an endo…a lot of GP’s are clueless about thyroid and take a one size fits all approach to treatment. Good luck!

  16. My name is Scott Marshall, and over the past 6 years of training I have now realised that exercise is the root cause of my sleeping issues, whether it’s playing sport at a high intensity, football, squash or heavy weight resistance training, my sleep is virtually non existent, feeling ‘hungover’ in the morning is the best way to describe it. I initially stripped back everything trying to understand what was going on, caffeine, smoking, high protein diet, had prostate checked, hormones checked but nothing, doctors just fobbed me off. Only when I stopped going to the gym did the problem stop! I stopped going to the gym for 7 months, but being a very keen sportsman & gym goer I tired a series of tests….gym once a week, the problems came flooding back…and they are very consistent every single time….if I went to the gym, I would struggle to sleep often taking up to 90 mins to fall asleep, have 2-3 hours of deep sleep, wake to urinate, then roll around for the remainder of the night, most of the time being already conscious before the alarm goes off in the morning for work. This would also be the same cycle for the very next night, with my sleep returning to normal the 3rd night after going to the gym! Please help as I am seriously at my wits end…I just can’t handle the two days after going to the gym! I just don’t understand what biological reaction high intensity is having on my body. I know it is far from normal…I keep thinking that if I could understand what is going on in my body, then I might be able to do something about it! I am a 31 year old male, very slim & eat extremely healthy! Any advice would be most welcome! Thank you


    • Maybe go during the day, morning or afternoon. I worked out at night for about 15 years and being in my mid-30’s now, my hormone levels are majorly messed up. Lucky you are fine and bounce back so quickly

    • Scott, I experienced the exact same thing when in my 30’s from too much volume and intensity of training. I’m currently 60 and fortunately the problem has been corrected. I found that, for me, going to failure must be used judiciously. If you read enough about exercise intensity and the central nervous system you will eventually find that it is possible to become very seriously overtrained, to the degree you describe. If overtraining is taken too deeply, recovery can take years. So be careful. I’d suspect this may be the problem. It certainly was for me. It was necessary to refrain completely from training for something like two years (I also had a high stress job at the time) before I could start with even light weight training again. Even then it was touch and go for some time after. I can now train with high intensity, but stay very tuned in to the signs of overtraining. I also notice that increased protein intake seems to help some, but controlling volume of training seems to have greatest impact. Incidentally, I could find no doctors or physical trainers who understood my problem. One even suggested that it must be “in my head” as everyone knows that exercise helps people sleep.

      • Hi Mark
        Thank you so much for sharing. I hope you see this. I have been struggling with sleep and hormonal issues for 10 years. I finally figured out that exercise was disrupting my sleep. It’s been z year dive I’ve barely trained though I am sleeping better I’ve put on weight. Can you share a bit how you recovered as I could really use all the tips or any contacts you can provide.

        • Hi Kim, I’m glad to hear that you’ve been able to return to sleeping. Life is a bugger when the Z’s aren’t cooperating. I’m not sure I know anything that’s a real tip, but I’ll try to outline my recovery for you. It took me a long long time, though I don’t think it needed to. I just couldn’t find info on it at the time. Nor find doctors or reading material on the subject. Today, doctors specializing in hormonal systems are available and might be a best direction. I don’t know…I’ve never seen one. Also, it may be important to know that my preferred form of exercise was most often weight training, but I think intensity of effort was the key stumbling block for me. Any intense exercise (even a game of volleyball) would mess me up. So in my recovery, I think my decision to stop doing intense exercise until I recouped was a first step. From there, I had to learn to listen to what my body was telling me. I couldn’t wait until I wasn’t sleeping to cut back. If I did, I’d regress much too far. I needed to learn and listen to the more subtle signals my body sent me. Holler back if that’s confusing. My realization that there were more stressors in my life than exercise was probably next. At first I wouldn’t accept that my job, kids, divorce etc. had anything to do with exercise performance and recovery. Realizing it’s importance was a key. Understanding that my response to exercise was not what some specialist writes in a magazine was a big one. That helped take off pressure to perform to other’s notions of acceptable performance. (That’s probably a typical male issue. lol!). (This is also where the recognition that I trained with weights is important. Weightlifters (me) very often follow a routine created by others that has been proven to work. Understanding that I didn’t have to follow one was important). Last was probably my rejection of the notion that exercise permitted dietary carelessness. Deciding that a healthy diet would improve recovery helped a good deal. I do miss my daily chocolate fix though. I do not take any fancy supplements nor hormone therapy. I do take a daily vitamin, as well as extra D and Zinc. I supplement with protein occasionally. In essence, recovery was a process of internal discovery versus one of trying to meet what I or others “thought” I should be able to do. It took years of back and forth and was often screwed up by something as simple as repeated snowfalls causing multiple days of driveway shoveling. But gradually things improved. Had I reduced intensity and/or frequency as well as dealing with outside stressors earlier, I’d have probably recovered faster. But who knew? Anyway, I hope this provides something of value to you. All the Best!

          • Hi Mark, Thanks for sharing, your story resonates so much with mine. From the intensity, to the work stress to the stressors in my life etc.
            I really appreciate the feedback.
            it gives me hope to know that you recovered. I’m at the point where I’m beginning to see where the stress brings me into sever crisis and I have to nurture myself back to functioning, next steps are to stop it before I derail and find a level of exercise that works for me. I have not yet found this. For so long I struggled to keep what I was doing. Running, when my body wouldn’t allow me to run anymore, I Lifted and kept pushing not knowing i was doing damage, and climbing and a whole bunch of high intensity. Until I stopped and did nothing which does not help either.
            I think my next step is to try working out a low intensity i.e.; the MAF method (which I just discovered this week) keeping my heart rate significantly lower to not put stress on my body and trigger stress hormone production (basically listening to my body as you say), and accept where I am and work with that and also keep learning to set boundaries with other stressors.
            There are some doctors out there yes, but I have yet to find someone I could hire, like a coach or trainer to really support me and hold me accountable to full recovery. This, ideally is what I would like to find.
            Thank you so much for the inspiration.

            • Kim, Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad you found it helpful. While reading your response I thought of something that might be of value to you and/or others on the site. To this day, I still like to workout hard. Sometimes all the way to failure (though rarely). But I have an experience you might find interesting. A few months ago I had completed a periodized training routine that left me very close to being overtrained. So I took off a week and decided to back off and try a routine of daily lifting doing only one set of one repetition for seven exercises with weights that I could actually do 8 or 9 repetitions with. This routine was the ultimate in easy. I was only working at about 12% of my capacity (but doing it every day). It was actually more work changing the weights than it was to do the actual lifting. After one month when I tested my max lifts, all of them were higher than before. As much as 5%. I was amazed that so little exercise could cause such an improvement. I certainly learned a lesson there! So feel positive about performing exercise that doesn’t seem to be taxing you to any great degree. It might be that you’re improving anyway. Good luck with your journey. Mark

    • Mark, i’m 50 and i feel the same when i go to the gym and you have to remember you are not in your 20″s and 30’s anymore..Age plays a big difference in recovery speed which is slower when you get over 40…i was a gym rat for 31 yrs until my muscles start going into spasms and it took days to recover from it… I don’t go to gym for weights anymore i only do cross fit machines and treadmill and i feel much better and less fatigued and stressed out..I also had to wait out of the gym for 6 months to a year for full recovery …

    • Are you sure you’re eating enough and hydrating enough when you exercise? As a mid-30’s athlete, I discovered that exercise dramatically increases my need for calories and carbs, water, and certain minerals like magnesium. When I don’t get enough of those, I get broken and unrefreshing sleep, which sets off a cycle of under recovery, and if carried on long enough, over training. I sometimes have to force myself to eat and drink more to avoid the crash and burn. I also put a huge priority on my sleep, getting 8-10 hours a night and taking supplements that help facilitate recovery.

    • Son of a gun, you sound just like me. 30 years of age, have been lifting for a long time and mountain bike as well. I eat extremely well and clean. I have hashimotos. I do not sleep, its awful, terrible, feels like death is around the corner. I have yet to stop workouts but am beginning to think they might relate, what a bummer. After long mtb rides I don’t just feel tired, but sick, same with workouts, then not sleeping only makes it worse. Doctors are the worst, they look at me with googly eyes and shuffle me out the door. Endo’s are kind of LOL bad too, my endo gave me the book definition of hashimotos and sent me on my way, thanks pal. Any way I want answers, been tracking everything myself now.

    • Why so fixated on the gym for high intensity training? If you like being active, why not bring it down a notch and go for a bike ride outside with a friend, or join a racket club? I don’t mean to be trite, I just wonder about your other non-gym related options such as social sporting activities… such as a softball league etc. Perhaps your are bored and use the gym to busy yourself. I don’t know. What did people do before gyms came into existence, think about it and try something else that you might enjoy almost as much. Good luck.

    • Hi Scott,

      I suffer from the exact same thing. Was an avid runner, triathlete etc, but after a stress period in 2010 I am still not able to do hard exercise yet (and at times not even moderate, unfortunately). I am actually back home right now as I took a very hard MTB-ride Sunday – simply could not decline an old friend’s offer to take a ride. The result, I have not slept for two days straight.

      I know however the solutions at hand which helps me a lot on a daily basis:
      1. Yoga
      2. Meditation
      3. Regular sleeping pattern
      4. Healthy diet
      5. Not too much alcohol (as that also messes up with your adrenaline levels)
      6. Regular walking

      All of the above solutions, however, do not give a solution on how to get back into shape (which is what we both wish to get to).

      The trick is certainly to very slowly and gradually step up exercise from very easy to moderate and then step it up a level at a time over e.g. a 6 months period. However, I’ve found that it’s a very thin line and very hard to follow even though you try to do it in a very disciplined manner.

      I’ve come to realise that the easiest solution would probably be to measure cortisol levels after exercise and even better, during exercise, to make sure that you can stop in time so as to be sure that your body can manage to get the cortisol/adrenaline levels down again, before sleeping.

      The key question is, however, is there a device which quickly and accurately can measure cortisol/adrenaline levels daily without too much hassle?



  17. I am 53 years old. I began ramping up my exercise routine about three months ago. Prior to that, I would go to the gym three times a week and would do a moderate workout. 60 min aerobics and once or twice a week I would add weights. The past three months I have been at the gym 4-5 times per week. I have always struggled with my weight and figured “its now or never”. Currently I do 90 min of aerobics 4-5 x per week, often combined with weight training. So, basically I am at the gym about 2.5 hours each visit. Just back from vacation and yes there were days of bad eating, but I went to the gym 9 days out of 10. Returning to work tomorrow. Tried some clothes on to get ready for the am and I can just about button the pants. They are also tight in the hip and thigh area!!!! Help!!!! It is like my body shifted over the past month. I have always carried my extra weight in my waist, but it seems worse. Wondering if cortisol is to high. Thoughts? Thank You

  18. Hi!

    I see I need to reduce exercise. Right now I am doing the 3 major lifts in weights. Squats, OHP/bench, and deadlift 3 times per week. Should I reduce to 2? Or better do 1 lift a day? Any tips or advice is welcome 🙂

    • Have you increased your calorie, carb, water intake, protien, and vitamin & mineral intake? If you haven’t, you probably need to. Recovery comes down to food, water, nutrients, and sleep. When you exercise you often need more of all of these. As an older athlete myself, I find I need to force myself to drink more water and eat more, specifically carbs and proteins. I also have to take vitamins and supplements to help me recover. I also have to sleep 8-10 hours a night. My body is very sensitive so I have to be very vigilant. Try increasing your healthy foods, water intake, and sleep, and also get yourself some supements

  19. I used to run marathons and ultras – up to the 100 mile Western States. I later spent some time in gyms, trying to repair the cortisol-induced damage to my muscle mass. More recently, I’ve begun to question the entire lore of exercising. It seems that we’ve simply been handed “truths” by the exercise and diet industries and forced to swallow them. I’m now doing my own research into Less is More and If Every Instinct You’ve Had Has Been Wrong… Here are some of my findings.

    1. “Fit” means “capable”. Fit for Ironman, say, means capable of completing one in a given time. Such “fitness” has no practical or physiological use in any normal life area. “Fitness” at the high end won’t help a normal person to live normal life better or more efficiently. Cardiovascular fitness is pointless, outside of what you are artificially training for.

    2. All types of stress produce cortisol. Cortisol is physiological enemy number one, and should be kept to a minimum. That should be everyone’s PRIORITY. You don’t have to feel “stressed” in order to be producing cortisol. Dieting is a major stressor – never do it. “Exercise” is a major stressor – never do it. Boredom is a stressor. Watching too much TV is a stressor. Working at something you don’t like is a stressor. Waiting is a stressor. Etc.

    Instead, gradually cut out harmful diet items that you don’t want to consume. Instead, purposely move and use your body somewhat intensely in less than 30 sec periods, followed by lots of rest, throughout each day. Since you need muscle mass, do bodyweight strength training, following a Grease the Groove non-regimen. Bottom line: “Diet and exercise having no stress as THE priority”. So, for example, cut out soda entirely and do a 70% max set of push ups, with a smile on your face, every so often throughout the day. And walk places, with a smile on your face. Who wants to be cross fit?

    3. 10 means nothing. 26.2 means nothing. 3 x means nothing. 40 mins means nothing. 20 laps means nothing. All of that has been invented by the various “fitness” industries to appeal to your love of numbers and control. Get rid of your watch. Get rid of your tape measure. Get rid of your heart monitor. Etc. Move when staying still is getting old (listen for the ants in your pants – shake them out with a few pull ups or bodyweight squats – done with a smile on your face and your tongue lolling out). Stop moving when moving doesn’t continue of its own volition. That is, if you no longer feel like moving for the sake of feeling the movement, stop moving. Also, move in the clothes and shoes you happen to have on, wherever you are.

    4. Eat what you LIKE. Promise yourself that you’ll always eat, and drink, whatever you like. Consumption is anti-stress. Once you lower the stress, the cravings will subside somewhat. Don’t stress your body with huge meals, or meals on the run. Graze. Use a small plate. Promise yourself more soon.

    5. Build a muscle mass (not bulk) and a neuromuscularly awake system to provide a metabolism that can burn up what you’ve consumed. Do it gradually and gently, however. It’s a journey, not a goal. You can build muscle mass on a few gentle sets of push ups, spaced throughout a day. Yes, that other “performance” stuff was all lies.

    6. In everything you do, cooperate with yourself, don’t compete. Competition is stressful.

    7. Did I mention reducing all stress and cortisol should be your life priority?

    • Your comment so resonated with me today. I’m a natural athlete. Competitive my nature. Been paleo and exercising daily for about 2.5 years. I’m as lean as I could possibly be but my hormones are wrecked, my adrenals are wrecked and my adult acne is crazy from the hormonal disruption. I keep saying “but I”m not stressed”! You’ve inspired me to put up the running shoes for awhile. Take off the fitness tracker for a while and start healing my body. Thank you!

    • On the whole this is a nice positive answer, with some blind ignorance thrown in.
      But then there is other more dangerous pseudoscience in comments sections like above.
      Eat what you like is something no one who is serious about training, fitness and heath could agree with, whether a nutritional expert or naturopath. Maybe you mean eat what you like within a set of healthy food? Or for you is a diet of pure GMO processed wheat, corn and soy a low stressor because if we crave these poisons, they must be good?
      I doubt you agree with this. And it seems that in some areas the variation in people is large. The pseudoathletes who say eat more carbs, perhaps dont know what they are talking about…do inuits have the option to eat more carbs? Did any native stone age people in winter? No, because carbs are irrelevant or toxic. People are correct that to minimise the cortisol is key, but many clearly dont realise what other problems raise cortisol – all electromagnetic pollution from mobile phones, towers and wifi. Heavy metals are perhaps the most destructive toxin to sport recovery, closely followed by chronic infection due to root canals and such. Probably all fillings of all sorts are infected at most of the time. Try getting a dentist to look or admit this and replace fillings.
      Then there is the deficiency no one mentions and perhaps most cant comprehend. In my deep research into nutrition I had to read veterinarian theses from Münich because for some reason the academics there have a special interest in ultra rare elements in biology and keep asking their students to look into it. Most of the references are from Chinese researchers. The implication is that we do need f-block metals for some essential and other optimal functioning. You wont here this from your government diet advice or even your online guru. Which foods have what elements? Well if I was American I might say pay to consult with me hundreds of dollars, but in reality much of it is a lottery and you get the minerals by eating the variety of food, unfortunately many of which would be organ meat and seafood, those most likely to be polluted with toxic metals and organic residues.
      If you want to discus more contact me, I wont write so much as this discussion might have closed long ago.

  20. I am 41 male and have always excerised, play football, gym, cycling etc. After the London olympics I upped my cycling and started doing 100 mile sportives and time trials. I did a huge amount of training. This was whilst going through extremely stressful time at work and having a new baby boy. After 2 years of this and some family issues I developed major insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks and depression. I wanted to commit suicide most days. I went to the doctors and he said I was stressed, gave me sleeping tablets and put me into counselling. The sleeping tablets made things much worse and counselling did nothing. I always had a thought the excercise may be the cause so in the end gave it all up a month ago. Since then, in a short amount of time I am feeling much better, sleeping better, not having panic attacks and life is feeling good. I have started playing golf which means I have not totally given up sport and gives me something to focus on. Just wanted to pass this on incase anyone else is having the same issues in did.

    • When you experienced insomnia did you happen to feel completely out of it 24/7 as if you had one to many beers or felt spaced out? I developed insomnia after a bout of Life stress (financial, school, work, personal life) and to top it off before my body hit a wall I had changed up my workout program from my normal 5 day a week bro split (legs, chest,back, off, shoulders, arms, off, repeat) that my body was accustomed to – to 3 days a week( mon off wed off thurs off off repeat ) HIGH intensity output strength training that had me in the gym anywhere from 2-3 hours focusing on the 5 big lifts ( deadlift, overhead press, bench, heavy rows, and leg press for 5 heavy sets of 5). Which my body was previously not used to. Throughout my time on this program I felt my body becoming exhausted after each session and i always felt tired but i kept going workout after workout because in my mind i though i could push through it and keep making progress. Anyway, on that last workout i was doing deadlifts and i pulled a back muscle (which has recovered now) that made me stop and go home. But that day seriously felt like “damn this is way too much for my body” and the next day i woke up feeling super hot, not with a fever or anything but warm and out of it like if i was hungover. I thought i was coming down with a flu so i took a week off and nothing resolved… i had multiple blood tests etc and they say its all in my head and that i’m fine. I believe i took 3 weeks off training and everything still felt the same. but the major trend was that i was not sleeping well. I don’t and haven’t since got deep restorative sleep and wake up frequently at night. I feel super fatigued and tired all day and feel like im high 24/7, with under eye bags and my face looks pale. (this never happened when i would get deep sleep). I returned to workout after the 3 weeks that didn’t fix my “supposed over training” issue because i didn’t want to lose my muscle gains. So fourth months later which is now 7/27/2016 and i still feel the same and can’t sleep well. I workout 5 days a week but nothing crazy and i’m still growing day by day and people say i’m looking bigger and my weight hasn’t went up or down, although i find it hard to lose weight and my muscle aren’t as full as they once were. I have no pain what-so-ever when i workout or during the day and my lifts have not plateau’d. Wired right? I thought someone mentioned that over training you would either decrease in strength and not be building muscle. In my case I go to the gym to try and stay healthy and keep muscle on my frame. I’m 25 weight 205 lbs and Male. Any suggestions? can over training cause insomnia with still getting stronger and putting on muscle ? Should I quit working out for a few months to see what happens? I feel like this insomnia will kill me soon and its creating depression and i constantly feel like i’m running on adrenaline “the on edge” feeling. thanks.

  21. Thanks for the info. I’m wondering if I need to cut back on running.
    This is really hard for me to consider because I’ve been a big runner since I was in elementary school. I’ve never really taken a break from it, training competitively ever since. The last few years I’ve been running marathons, including an ultra. I’m currently on an Air Force MAJCOM team for the Air Force half marathon in September but in the last year have developed some health issues which I believe are rooted in years of stress. I went to the Air Force Academy where I was constantly stressed for four years while training for marathons and now have many symptoms of adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, estrogen dominance, hypoglycemia, etc.
    I’m fatigued a lot and running has become difficult where I feel like it takes me days to recover from a work out and I’m usually extremely sluggish when I try to run.
    It would be hard for me to take a break from running and get even more out of running shape than I already am, so I’m just trying to figure out if would really help….. I need to heal myself

    • Kindly, give your body a break. As someone whose body fell apart from stress (mental stress from grad school and living with a stressful room mate situation and physical stress from training a lot and also some nutritional stress like not enough dietary fat and in general not enough rest), I am still not 100% 7 years after I crashed and burned. Yes, you would lose some fitness if you stopped running now, but as you’ve pointed out, your body is desperate for a break. Every pro athlete has an off season to rest and rejuvenate their bodies.

      You would benefit from seeing a practitioner to help you through the adrenal fatigue and other hormone problems you are experiencing. My husband had similar hormone issues as you, and his naturopath encouraged him to minimize plastic in his life, lift weights moderately heavy to heavy 2-3x/week to increase testosterone, and meditate and do yoga to decrease stress hormones. That ended up not being enough, and for a while he was taking an estrogen blocking drug in addition to an injection of testosterone 2x/week, plus thyroid hormones and some other supplements. He is heavier now and not as fit (also perhaps related to us having a child and less time now!), but he also has a better hormone profile, good energy, a better memory, is sleeping better than he has in 20 years, and isn’t malnourished from digestive problems like he had been.

      Read the other stories on here. If you keep pushing yourself you may find yourself so exhausted you can’t even work full time anymore. Give yourself a real break for several weeks- just walking, stretching, gentle yoga, and with the guidance of whoever you find to help with the hormone imbalances, you can begin to build your exercise again. But you may need a longer break of more like 6 months. You may find you need some psychological help with this- I was my own worst enemy when it came to my recovery, and it took me years just to change my mindset from thinking I needed to go bike a couple hours each weekend to get a workout in. (Now I might hike 2 hours instead- but you will find what works for you).

      Also check out the most recent issue of Velo magazine- it details heart problems (such as death from heart attack and heart arrhythmia) that can arise from years and decades of too much endurance exercise. Not enough rest as we get older (40s, 50s and beyond) seems to be a big part of developing these problems.

      Good luck!

  22. Hi
    I have been High Intensity strength training for 20 years using Nautilus training principles. this means the training intensity is very high. About two years ago i started a palio diet with occasional fasting. i also increased my cardio with the help of squash, training every day. This all went very well for a few years, reaching single digit body fat levels etc. Then one day while playing squash while fasting i had my first palpitation. This sent me to the A&E hospital. I then over the next 4 months suffered reflux problems, palpitations, numbness, groin pain, fatigue and a whole host of other problems. due to the fact that i was in peak health the doctors could not find anything wrong with me so have diagnosed me with health anxiety. Not one doctor has so far told me why this has happened so i have had to do a lot of reading only to conclude that HIIT+HIT strength training+Palio = sympathetic overload. i have also learned that once you compromise your nervous system it can take months/years for it to recover. so in summary moderation is key to health.

    • Hi Steve,

      Thanks for this message.

      Just wanted to jump on what you said to try and understand what is happening to me for the last 3 years now.

      So after preparing for MMA competitions here with work during day and INTENSE HIT and sparring training in the evening, i become something else…

      Started with Anxiety then extreme fatigue then foggy brain weight loss etc, SEVERE exercise intolerance, very disturbed sleep etc…

      Things went a bit better with time (3 years now), i can do paced weight lifting without too many issues but i cannot hit on a punching bag with full power for 20 minutes.. otherwise hardtime sleeping, fatigue, difficulties eating food, anxiety, bowel issues, sleep apnea…..

      Does this relate to you? Do you feel quite similar?

      Went to visit more than 20 doctors they are ABSOLUTELY clueless… what about you?

      Thanks a lot in advance.

      • Hi Adel.
        Basically exercise produces stress hormones to be released into the body, and if it is moderate your body can cope. You could call this a positive stress.

        At the time i had my first palpitation i had had a virus, this was affecting my tummy and chest. But stupid me, i continued to train hard and diet hard, combined with excessive amounts of caffeine.

        I then started to suffer from panic attacks then adrenal fatigue. I continued to get worse and started to experience many physical sensations which sent me to my doctor then hospital for every test possible.

        My doctors don’t fully understand what has happened to me but are assuming it is stress related.

        So i started to research my problem only to find that anxiety can cause all of my problems and yours. i then found a few e books regarding low carb diets and the combination of intense training.

        So basically what is happening here is this, you have compromised your stress response. Anxiety symptoms are actually symptoms of stress. We call them anxiety symptoms because behaving in an overly apprehensive manner is the main source of the stress that causes the body to become stress-response hyperstimulated, and then, symptomatic. If you combine this with HIT training, (which is a stress) and low carb diets, (which causes stress hormones to be released into the body). You then have a compromised nervous system. once your nervous system is compromised all those chemicals, (adrenaline, cortisone etc, etc) start the affect your heart rhythm, digestive system, neurological system etc.

        I am still bang in the middle of all these problems but have realized that rest, and time away from the gym, as well as carbing up, is the only way to full recovery.

        You need to step away from intense exercise and nutrition until you start feeling better, remember that anxiety can lead to depression so getting help now is a must. CBT and possibly SSRI’s can help.

        Check out. http://www.anxietycentre.com and http://www.180degreehealth.com.

        This helped me understand what is going on.

        Hope this helps.

        • Steve and Adel,

          I’m so relieved to see that others have had a similar experience to mine. I’m no athlete but last year for several months I began a fitness journey that didn’t end very well. I was doing 3 hours of HIIT a week (nothing too crazy by most Crossfit athletes’ standards) but I’m learning now that as you get fitter, your recovery time becomes even more important than your workouts. One morning during camp I started feeling extremely fatigued, like my body was shutting down. Then the palpitations started and my heart rate didn’t come down for nearly 3 hours. I decided to take the rest of the week off then got back to camp the next week only to have the same symptoms crop up. I started suffering from insomnia, cortisol levels off the charts, severe anxiety (panic attacks virtually all day every day) and major exercise intolerance (just a walk around the block was enough to set my heart rate up). I was so out of sorts I had to quit my job.

          My trainer had no clue what was going on, and my doctor was even more clueless. He simply prescribed Xanax to help my anxiety, but that only made me feel a thousand times worse. What Chris has described here is the best explanation for what I (and probably the two of you) went through. Exposing the body to constant stress and not letting it repair. Exercise is a “good” stressor, but your body still perceives it to be an attack nonetheless. Imaging running away from a bear for an hour a day 6 days a week!

          I’m nearly healed over a year later but still struggle with anxiety at times, though I’m getting back into an exercise routine and not pushing myself nearly as hard or as often. I can’t say I recommend drugs as they are just a bandaid or make things worse. Only time and rest and nourishing your body will help. Hope that’s beneficial to others.

          • Hi
            Thought I’d check in after more than 6 months has passed since I wrote my story.

            I am still not 100% I have started exercising again and have a reasonable diet, but I still suffer from anxiety. Granted it is much less now but still have palps and panic attacks.

            It’s been a just over a year now and still I have not found any medical conditions I can label myself apart from anxiety.

            Anyone else found that once compromised it takes a long time to get back to normal.

            • Hi Steve,
              Our stories sound really familiar. I was in peak physical fitness at 31 years old until unexpectedly during a 300 lb back squat (I was 142 lbs) I felt as if my legs and entire central nervous system shut down. It didn’t manifest until that evening when my heart began to race and I felt like I had low blood sugar. These symptoms among the myriad of other physical sensations mirrored that of anxiety. Long story short these symptoms eventually did develop into crippling anxiety for weeks. During that time I went through bouts of depression, agoraphobia, health anxiety***, etc etc. I have a history or sporadic anxiety with intermittent bouts of panic attacks. Here are some steps that have helped pull me out of the pits of despair: mediation, faith (for me Buddhism), communicating with loved ones about your anxiety who may not know, plenty of water, lower glycemic but not ultra low carb diet, daily walks, breathing techniques, complete rest from the gym, reducing extraneous stressors like extra work projects-personal life obligations etc, and most helpful was readying “Dare: The new way to end anxiety and stop panic attacks. By Barry Mcdonaugh. I recommend the audiobook version. His system really does work if you wholeheartedly practice and want to end your anxiety cycle. I treated this as if it was my second job, which honestly it was and still is. I also found several herbal supplements helpful as I wanted to avoid SSRI’s And benzo’s. The most useful in order : 1. Ashwagandha (backed by plenty of controlled randomized trials. Was comparable to Atavan, and some of the stronger Benzo’s without the side effects). 2. Kava kava root extract. 3. L-Theanine/magnesium. Play with the dosages to find works best for you. Start with a low dose and work your way up if necessary.
              ***your goal should never to be cure yourself of anxiety, but accept it as a natural part of being human. Ride the peaks and valleys of emotion without judgement. Once you learn to accept the physical sensations of anxiety, you no longer manifest those all too familiar feelings of dread and doom. It takes time, days, weeks, months, years. The sooner you discover the sources of your anxiety, and face them, the sooner you can get back to being yourself and let allow anxiety to control your life anymore. Hope this is helpful, take care and be kind to yourself.

              Best Wishes


    • Mark, i’m 50 and i feel the same when i go to the gym and you have to remember you are not in your 20″s and 30’s anymore..Age plays a big difference in recovery speed which is slower when you get over 40…i was a gym rat for 31 yrs until my muscles start going into spasms and it took days to recover from it… I don’t go to gym for weights anymore i only do cross fit machines and treadmill and i feel much better and less fatigued and stressed out..I also had to wait out of the gym for 6 months to a year for full recovery …

  23. Hi.
    Im concerned about my workout condition acording to what you’ve written above.
    i started my workout 3 months ago. I do 20 min running and 40 min walking fast after that everyday early in the morning and do lifting 3 days a week on afternoon for 1 hour. I recently feel exhausted aNd i also feel like there is no body fat decreasing and seems to be stopped.
    I know im overtraining but i need to keep it going and not to fall into overtraining syndrome.
    what do you suggest?

  24. I suffer from anxiety and depression,my doctor told me that exercise was a good treatment for this,I have been brisk walking 5days a week for 30minutes,but after reading that exercise raises your cortisol levels,I’m a bit worried,

    • Yes, Judy, walking is good, will probably help you feel better. Chris is talking more about over exercise (Crossfitters, people running lots, etc.). Don’t be afraid to walk! I am a physical therapist and agree with your doctor that walking 30 min 5x/week will likely improve your health and mood. You may also want to do some gentle or beginner yoga, either in a studio or there are great online yoga programs like yogatoday.com

    • Your problem is that you worry too much. Stop that.

      You have two parts – your brain and your body. Let your body dictate when you move and when you don’t move. Don’t let your brain have a say in that at all.

      Get rid of the 5 and the 30. Go outside and walk – a bit – sometimes.

      Worrying is part of the profile of a control freak (trying to control the future). Lose control. Lose the numbers.

  25. I am 50 years old & have been doing crossfit for about 18 months. Started out losing weight. Now, yes I am building muscle but also gaining the talked about weight around the belly. Eating more or eating less changes nothing. Extremely frustrating and discouraging. I have been on varied level of synthroid for 23 years. Is it cortisol? Is crossfit to intense for me? Any suggestions or help are needed & appreciated.

    • Lin, I am with you. I am 46, started crossfit 18 months ago. I had never exercised regularly before that time. I am gaining muscle, am a lot stronger…but I also have this gut that has slightly increased and will not budge. I am up about 20 lbs since starting. I love crossfit and have benefited from it, but maybe I should switch to something a little lower intensity? Any suggestions, anyone?

      • You can do crossfit, but less frequently at a lower intensity. I worked with Scott Hagnas of Crossfit Portland on this (he is very knowledgeable, and Crossfit Portland was one of the first 25 crossfits in the world).

        Cut back to 2 days a week, possibly 3, and keep your intensity such that you are not straining- no scrunched up face, grunts, or whatever you do when you are going really hard. Also limit the metcons to about 12 minutes tops. You might need a 1 month temporary break, where you are just doing the warm-ups and cooldowns and working on mobility. I guarantee you will still maintain and build fitness even not going balls-to-the-wall- you might even make more gains and lose some fat! I find that I need to limit myself to about 80% of my max to avoid ill health effects. You will need to monitor yourself and figure out what works for you.

        Also I had a crossfitting friend who found she had to increase her carbs to 200+ grams per day- even drinking juice! She did not gain any weight and still looks amazing, but was able to get her period back- she had gone off the pill and hadn’t had a period even a year after being off of it, but it came back in weeks after increasing her carbs.

        Good luck!

        • Thank you, Jenn! I love Crossfit and would be bummed if I had to stop. I think I will try going only 2 days a week, and dialing back the intensity just a little. I do belong to another gym too, and think I will try some other lower intensity classes a couple days a week too. I appreciate your help! 🙂

      • Thank you for this life altering read… It makes sense, it’s thoroughly explained, and it’s exactly what I was looking for. So glad to have stumbled on this community!

    • Yes, crossfit is too intense – for you, for anyone.

      Ask yourself: What am I trying to achieve and why? Anything to do with pride? Pride will raise cortisol and make you fat and unhealthy. It comes before a fall, remember?

      Most people who push themselves do so out of (seven deadly sin) pride.

      Do a few push ups. Later, do a few bodyweight squats. Laugh.

      You need very little exercise.

  26. Thank you for the article. I have writing and blogging on this subject for a year now in regards to Hashimoto’s and Graves Disease. I have been a personal trainer for 30 years, diagnosed with Hashimotos in 2012, so I can personally attest to this 100%.

    My personal training has had to change over the past 10 years and now working with other people with thyroid disease and trying to get them to understand how important this is …can be challenging. Most of them are restricting good carbohydrates too much and over training because their Doctors are telling them they are eating too much and not exercising enough. This mis- information is causing many to suffer even more. SO thank you so much for your support for the autoimmune community,
    Raina Kranz ( Thyroid Trainer)

    • Raina: how can I contact you? I am deeply interested in knowing more about my thiroid condition and what can I do to improve my lifestyle, even though having this condition. I do not accept some answers I have been given lately by doctors. These answers are depressing, and invite people to do nothing but sit in the couch until they have no hair, an enormous waistline and no energy, Please, tell me where to contact you.

  27. Hi there. I have always had an active life style and eaten clean and organic, mostly proteins and low carbs. I used to be a mid-distance runner at my university’s team but for the last 6 months I got a membership from a gym club in order to lose my 9 pounds that I have always had in excess! I got professional support and followed the same diet with more protein. My trainning included 20 minutes of high intensity interval training and 50 minutes of weight lifting, 4-5 days per week. But day by day I realized that my body doesn’t burn fat, but muscles instead! Yes, the thing is my cortisol levels became sooo high as you mentioned in your text.

    My doctor reccommended me to walk and swim only, and maybe yoga. But I feel like since my body got used to trainning hard, it may lead gaining more weight. And I cannot estimate how to eat anymore.

    Any comments to help?

    • I can’t really give weight loss advice. But that last bit about your doctor’s recommendations rang true with me. I have not had a doctor since beginning paleo/crossfit in 2009 who didn’t try to steer me back to classic cardio and eating of whole grains. Bless their tenacious clinging to dogma, but I have never felt better nor had better blood numbers. If I could have guided myself in those early months I would have said to drink more water, get more sleep… perhaps find a new doctor.

    • Who told you the 9 pounds was in excess? In excess to what?

      Exercise related cortisol adds to other cortisol. Get rid of stress in other life areas.

  28. 5’9″ 145 pounds when I started Crossfit 1.4 years ago. Today I am 165 pounds. Am I more fit? Yes. Is the scale continuing to go up? Yes. It alarms me.

    I have hashimoto’s thyroid and am on Synthroid but I don’t blame this on my thyroid only.


    I believe I have figured it out but would like some opinion. I was on VERY low carb, only sweet potatoes at night and didn’t gain weight. 6 months ago I cut out all carbs and was strict paleo and my weight just has been piling on- 10 pounds.

    The last few weeks I’ve added rice and sweet potatoes back in. I weighed in at 162 this week. I’d like to stay around 155-157 which keeps me at a size 6. I’ve cut my crossfit workouts to 2-3x a week with 2 days of spinning and 2 days off.

    I think there is something to do with the conversion of T4 to T3 and needing a clean carb. I didn’t have this weight problem when all I did was spin class.

    I eat white rice a couple of times a week and sweet potatoes on the alternate.


  29. I used to do field hockey and we would honestly train for 2-3 hours each day. Our tryouts were 4 hours longs! In the off season, I would become sad but not extremely sad. When I quit altogether and stopped exercising, I became really depressed (I didn’t even realize it until I had eight mental breakdowns in one month and nothing particularly bad was happening in my life. I would become anxious and over-analyze things and just not feel myself. It started getting to the point where I would wake up in the middle of the night fretting over how someone gave me a mean look five days ago).
    I realized that movement is a big part of my life that helps me stop thinking for a little while but I also learned that exercise also increases cells in the hippocampus (the place that regulates emotions) but they are inhibited. So when I’m not exercising, those cells get activated and my emotions go into over drive. I’m going to try and start incorporating exercise into my life a bit more but not to a ridiculous extent.

  30. My hobby is training and running half-marathons. I study exercise research and read training books written by leading coaches to achieve my goals. (Knock on wood, I am injury free and in good health overall after 32 years of running. Bury me in my running shoes!) HIIT has its documented place in improving certain aspects of cardio-vascular fitness but all of the studies I’ve read about showed that no more than two times/week was beneficial and three was too much, i.e., not only did the athletes studied not improve, they did worse. (The athletes studies were runners or cross-country skiers and college-aged.) It is unfortunate the nuances of HIIT frequency is often discovered after catastrophic health issues occur.

    • Why would you want “cardiovascular fitness”? What do you use it for? I mean, apart from running 13.1 miles for no good reason?

      “Cardiovascular fitness” is a scam. It’s akin to juggling fitness. It only helps you juggle better. It does nothing to improve your non-juggling periods.

  31. I was a workout junkie. 3 hours plus at the gym high intensity workouts. Endorphin high fixes. My adrenals crashed, my thyroid crashed, started to gain weight but lose my mind too. I got addicted to exercise. It’s been 7 years since I was told I had a thyroid issues. Weight lose has been a struggle. Currently found out about AIP diet and Paleo diet could help. I on multiple supplements for all my leaky gut autoimmune issues going on. Getting better but I think I did a lot of damage before I relaxed how to correct it and that what I was doing was wrong. Doctors did not listen to me when I told them I was gaining weight, not losing any. Their advice for me was to exercise more and eat less. Well… I listened thinking it was just me… And I did more damage. Currently I am losing weight. I gained 40 plus pounds TRYING to lose the weight. I am having better results eating right now…. But I do really miss my exercise, just afraid to start and do more damage rather than continue to heal. Not sure where I should begin again or how slow I should start.

    • Our experiences are similar. I too had leaky gut…took 6 months to heal using natural remedies. I have many food allergies so I eat very clean, whole food and make sure I get a solid balance of protein, carbs and good fats. If you haven’t done so already, get your hormones checked. My progesterone was through the roof and my estrogen was non-existent. My cortisol was sky high and night and there was none in the AM. With some natural remedies, I’m feeling human again and the weight gain has stopped. I was doing a 6 day split in the gym for 2 hours a day. Now I do a 3-4 day split and SUP other days…Yoga from time to time. It’s all about balance. Hormone clog can cause huge issues so that’s the first thing you should attack, along with your gut issues. Good luck to you!!!!

      • So, how do you and where do you get all your hormones tested like you did? I want to punch my MD in the nose for telling me, “I bet my house, that if you just joined a fitness center, you would lose weight”.! I eat super clean, so that is not the issue!

        • For hormone testing, try a naturopath. I think you can also do some mail order hormone testing. The Hormone Cure book is also helpful for more of a DIY approach. http://www.saragottfriedmd.com/

          You didn’t mention in your post, but are you having difficulty with weight loss and/or other health challenges?

          Exercise is also needed for normalizing hormones- my husband sees an ND who specializes in hormone replacement, and they focused on diet, stress management, and targeted exercise to normalize his hormones as much as possible before resorting to taking drugs for hormone management.

          Weight lifting 2-3x/week heavy to moderately heavy, sprints or high intensity exercise 1-2x/week, and walking, stretching/yoga is most effective. Preferable to do high intensity exercise in the morning as it can raise cortisol too much if done late in the day.

          If you cortisol is crashed though (Adrenal Reset Diet has some good info on this, or any adrenal book is probalby good), then easy exercise like walking, gentle yoga, easy swimming is needed while your body repairs itself.

          Chris’ post is mostly about OVER exercising, particularly really intense exercise like crossfit and especially in the context of low carb eating.

          Good luck!

  32. I’m training a 58 year old lady who is in good shape but is more and more obsessed with eating well – very little carb, small portions. Yet she wants me to push on with her on same intensity on the TRX. I can’t in my good conscience do that, as I’m well aware she’s not eating enough for the kind of workout, but she refuses to own up to her dieting (she insists it’s just sensible eating), she is not looking as good with sunken face, but she’s so happy with what she saw as weight loss!

  33. I have been doing weight training and running I don’t consider my excercising to be intense. I have had a personal trainer for awhile now also probable a year. Since all this excercise whilst at work I am having trouble staying awake whilst sitting down. It all seems to coincide with the beginning of the excercising. What can I do

  34. Nothing has done more damage to my body over the years than exercise. From muscle ruptures to chronic tendonitis to sprains to stiff necks, to the absolute worst: cortisol-induced insomnia and depression that went on for 20 years, during which no physician, including sleep specialists and psychiatrists, suggested I might be exercising too much and in fact suggested I do MORE. I had to figure this all out myself. Once I cut my exercise WAY back, my sleep and mood normalized completely, although the process took several weeks. Today I might walk or ride a bike for 30 minutes, and I’ll do housework, but my days of heavy lifting, long runs, and any abnormal muscle activity (lifting 200 pounds or more over and over again is not normal) is history. I’m neither ripped nor toned now, but boy does it ever feel good to be happy and sleep well. 🙂

    • I have been concerned to push my body into high intensity aerobic exercise I had adrenal fatigue a couple of years ago, I now feel much better I started a boot camp exercise program and its only been less than a week and I can hardly relax at night , I sleep so agitated I feel exhausted I don’t think I’m helping my body I think I’m causing more damage but want someone’s honest opinion.

    • Mike,

      Glad you’ve been able to recover after so many years of suffering, and I’m glad to see so many others with similar experiences. Just last year I did only a few months of HIIT for 3 hours a week and my body started breaking down–coritsol through the roof, insomnia, elevated resting heart rate, chronic anxiety/panic attacks/agoraphobia and just horrible fatigue. Doctors couldn’t tell me what was going on so they prescribed a pill to mask the anxiety symptoms. I took months off from any physical activity except yoga, had to quit my job and over a year later am just now feeling normal again. Getting back into HIIT once a week along with yoga and other gentle exercise and movement, hoping this is the right formula to get fit but not tear my body down again.

    • Get toned doing 70% of max sets of bodyweight strength exercises following a throughout-the-day, Grease the Groove non-regimen. Push ups, pull ups, bodyweight squats. You’re on the right path.

    • Mike , good for you people don’t think about other factors that too much exercise can harm you ..Too much exercise can trigger your sympethetic nervous system to overdrive whuc can cause multiple symptoms in the body along with stress..I’m a witness to that and yes it can take weeks or months to recover from a damaged CNS..

  35. Hi!

    I believe that HIIT gave me panic attacks and I have been on antidepressants for 3 years now. The mystery was : why do not I get the attack immediately after exercise, but around midnight? I think the answer is: my cortisol levels are quite low during the day and high around midnight (or at least this is how I explain my nocturnal alertness). Also, even on antidepressants, after HIIT, I cannot sleep properly. And no, I do not exercise at night, usually around 3 pm.

  36. Have been to about ten doctors formy symptoms. They includebloated abdomen, low energy, bleary eyes,loss of balance,. In the past year I exercise every day on the recombinant bike 60 minutes daily.every day I exercise and I am usually tired.
    I never considered that fatigue was causing my symptoms.

  37. Hi all,

    I’m hoping anyone here could help me out. I run 2-3 mls, 2-4 times a week. Nothing exhaustive, or extreme. I’ve been doing it (on and off) since my teens. I’m 46 now, and sometimes I’ll have a very tired feeling an hour or so after the run. I feel fine during and immediately after, but as time goes by I run out of gas. I’m fatigued, weak, unfocused and have a general ache throughout my body.

    I take Norvasc at night, and Diovan during the day for HBP. They don’t seem to be the culprit since I’ve taken them the past 5 years without this feeling. Also, last year I had a minor stroke with no deficits. Thanks for any help.


    • I had a similar feeling, I was getting winded after an hour or so of running and would stay tired for days after. Ended up being I didnt have enough potasium. Added bananas, raisins and tomatoes to my diet and I’m good again

  38. I accept that overtraining exists. But from my peer group I would say that it is very uncommon. From the last 4 years of crossfit… the people who show great dedication, hitting WOD’s with berserker-like intensity and show up 5+ times a week are the standout performers of the gym.
    Me (anecdotal data collected over 4 years):
    1 class per week. Multi-day muscle pain, no gains.
    2 classes per week. Slow degradation of maxes and cardio
    3 classes per week. Glacially slow gains in maxes and 5k run.
    4+ classes per week. Maxes are broken, 5k run loses whole minutes.

    The days that I feel the crappiest are pretty easy to spot. They include donuts, pancakes, french toast, a coffee with more carbs than a slice of angel food cake…

    • I’d be interested in seeing Chris’s short list of other far more common things to consider before overtraining. Seeing as we are constantly being told to drink more water and get more sleep, I would guess those get some top spots.

    • Actually, overtraining is not uncommon at all. I’ve trained for years at Gold’s, World Gym and elsewhere. People continually
      complain that their poundages recede and their energy levels drop, i think mostly because they never take breaks. Unless you have fantastic genetics many people overtrain.

      • Your observation hardly makes it valid. Lots of people at large gym chains don’t make gains or lose strength not because of overtraining but because they use faulty or inferior programming. There are plenty of evidence that, although real, the biochemistry of overtraining is rare.

    • Do you think it’s possible that the low frequency trainers you describe here can only train at lower frequencies because they are burnt out?

  39. Do you think one occurrence of excessive exercise could cause these negative effects? I ran a tough mudder 10 months ago and wasn’t prepared for it, got sick 6 weeks later and I’m still not well. Saw 14 doctors since but no one can figure it out. It’s probably just “chronic fatigue syndrome”.

  40. Yes yes yes! I recently had to implement these very things – I’m an avid crossfitter, but deal with a chronic illness (hashimotos confirmed, and unconfirmed chronic lyme disease) which puts me more at risk for dealing with complications. I’ve been crossfitting on average 3 days a week the past couple years, but I added in a 4th day several months ago and between that and attending a new box whose WODs I found to be a lot longer than my previous WOD (the wods were consistently taking me on average 30-40 minutes to complete instead of my previous crossfit gym where the wods took me about 10-20 minutes), I started experiencing fat gain (per hydrostatic body fat testing- about 5 lbs worth in fact- went from 15% bodyfat to 20%- not cool.) when nothing else in my diet had changed. I thought it all through and came to the same conclusions you wrote about – I reduced my crossfit back to 3 days a week, and I started capping any wod I did at 20 minutes, even if I wasn’t done with the workout (which is tough to do! I always desire to finish). Lastly, when things like running or other purely cardio stuff was prescribed, I just did some heavy lifting instead like back squats or deadlifts. While I wasn’t super low carb previously like many are (although I eat no refined sugars or honey or anything else- all my “sweet” taste comes from whole fruits and stevia and very occasional organic corn tortillas), I could tell my body seemed to do really well with fruits and I felt that I was not digesting fats as well as I liked, so I chose to temporarily do a trial with a little less fat in my diet and more fruits (I know! contrary to much of the current stuff out there) but it seems to be what my body does well with it right now- since Crossfit really does seem to be a glycogen dependent workout I really have found the carbs to be imperative with these workouts- otherwise I feel like CRAP.

    Making those changes helped tremendously and put everything back to normal. After some blood testing I am seeing that I am dealing with some low grade adrenal fatigue and an taking Isocort for that, about 17-20 mg of cortisol a day while my adrenals heal, and my free T3 is also lower than it has been in the past, so I am back on my t3 medication once again as well- like I said since I have hashi’s and (I believe) lyme, I feel these conditions make me much more susceptible to these sorts of issues.

    So in summary, I still get to crossfit, but reining things in a bit here and there fixed the issues I was starting to have – no one wants to work their butt off at crossfit and suddenly find their waist line expanding and the number of kipping pullups you can do in a row falling. Not cool.

    Glad you posted this because it’s a little counter intuitive on the surface, but was definitely the answer for me as well!

  41. I was diagnosed with Hashimotos when I was 21, I am 46 now. Eight years ago, a friend and I trained for a marathon to lose weight. I only lost 10 pounds. I went to an endo, a different one as I had moved to a new city, and he said to me “well of course you didn’t lose weight. When your TSH is not stable and constantly changing due to any weight loss, you will not lose as long as that number is moving…yet it moves with weight loss. Cruel. Now I am trying once again and after 3 weeks of exercising 6 of 7 days a week I only lost about a pound. I try different things like just cardio, cardio with exercise without weights, gym with weights 3 days a week, gym with weights only 2 days a week and I chart EVERYTHING. I measure my weight every day, not to expect a drop every day, I am realistic. But you can see during the week my weight rise gradually, and over the weekend, when I rest more and less exercise, my weight drops a bit. The trend shows me that the exercise I am choosing is stressing my body. I have decided after reading this to go Paleo. I have a friend who also has Hashi who follows the principles and has done really well. How do I test for adrenal fatigue? I live in Mexico, is there a way to test cortisol levels at home? My wedding is in December and it just makes me cry to think of being the size I am now for that. Much of my weight is around my middle. 🙁 So frustrating.

  42. Hi Chris, Hi everyone.

    Hope that you are all feeling better and that your health is back.

    I am here to talk to you about my personnal experience and I will try to keep it short to avoid boring you.

    I am 33 years old man and used to be super fit and healthy.

    It all started in April 2012 – before that time i used to be very fit and exercise a lot 5 to 6 times a week – 2 hours.

    – Was doing Boxing, MMA, Silat, WeightLifting.

    April 2012 i was at the gym and while squatting – started to feel tired, nauseous and pale (probably was a vaso vagual).
    I went directly to the doctor and it was all fine.

    Symptoms after that day :

    – Anxiety attacks(never had before)
    – Extreme fatigue, brain fog and memory losses
    – Exercise intolerance / couldn’t perform 15 pushups without feeling dead tired (me who was preparing for competitions before that).
    – Issues sleeping and staying asleep
    – Muscle spasms
    – Intolerance to loud places.

    stayed this way for 3 4 months and then i started to feel better (80% ok) so i went back, step by step, to my old routine. Sustained it for 4 months and collapsed again.

    Since then Feb 2013 my issues are the same : if i exercise with high intensity i collapse – if i do cardio workouts (hit or running etc..) i collapse.
    The only thing i can sustain is 45 min of controlled weight lifting – if i cross the edge i cannot sleep and have very vivid dreams. No boxing or any martial arts as the load of explosivity just kills me for 2 days.

    Doctor results :

    EVERYTHING OK!!! Except one test – the 24h cortisol saliva test – very low in the morining – low at 12 – better at 3pm – low at 6 – good at night.
    What did the doc do about it? Nothing. Sent me back home.

    I then started researching and found some articles about adrenal fatigue – but it is obvious that this condition DO NOT exist.. no science at all behind it.

    So here i am today, with no answer to what i have and forced to control all the energy spendings that i do – sport, party, walks etc…

    Any of you please have any idea about this? Or know someone who lived the same?

    Many thanks in advance.

    • Hi Adel,
      Your story sounds identical to mine. (i was shocked when i saw yours.)

      I am 32, was very much into training, (weight lifting including squats, dead lifts, and usually always full body work outs), as well as having played competitive soccer my whole life.

      In may 2012, after playing a soccer game on friday, and worked out monday, wednesday and the next friday, i felt progressively worse after each workout, to the point where i had to walk out of work on the friday afternoon due to nausea, total inability to concentrate, and what seemed like an anxiety attack (never had this before). I was off work for two weeks after visiting the emergency room, with what was diagnosed as concussion symptoms (due to my history of having had one before and also having headed a few balls during the soccer game played a week before). This seemed weird to me, as i dont remember any head trauma during the soccer game, but as i didn’t know what else it could be, i agreed doctors diagnosis. After two weeks went back to work, and was nowhere near ready to return, (i work as an engineer), and just the sound of my colleague talking beside me was enough to cause another anxiety attack and back to the emergency room. I was put off work another two weeks. Went to back again, and struggled immensely with work, could not concentrate and felt like throwing up if focused too much as well as total inability to be around any noise, loud or not. Had trouble deign groceries, watching tv, etc. Avoided working out for 3 months, then started back after seeing a neurologist who suggested light exercise would be good. Everytime i exercised i was back to the horrible feelings mentioned, as well as total having a very hard time sleeping, putting sentences together, and feeling extremely anxious for 3-4 days after working out.

      This problem has been on going for 2.5 years now, have seen a neurologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, who pretty just wanted to medicate me, although ritalin was essential for me to get back to work. I refused any sort of anti depressant, or anti anxiety meds except for tryptophan which did little.

      I told my family doctor that i also suffered from a decreased libido and difficulty achieving a full erection after working out as well, never had this problem either before and im sure everything is functional from physiological perspective, after all im only 32 and in great physical shape. So he sent me for blood tests which showed cortisol in the high range, but still normal for morning cortisol levels. What was high however, was free testosterone, and prolactin, so he is now sending to an endocronologist for further investigation. I have a feeling the edo appointment will not show anything conclusive but worth a shot, in its two weeks time.

      Anyway, i find it astonishing, how we have same profile, same age, same history of physical activity, same initial trigger, and same triggers after as well as symptoms.
      Ill keep you posted on the findings from the endo appointment..

      • Hi Kevin,

        Thanks for your answer, it is really weird to see someone having what i have – i was kind of feeling alone.. Chocking!

        Here is my email – [email protected].

        Please send me an email so we can discuss without annoying the rest 🙂

        waiting for your email.

        Thanks Kevin.

      • Hi, Kevin,

        I took me 2 years to see the pattern that exercise hurts me. It goes against everything we have been told, right?

        It triggered nocturnal anxiety attacks, worsened depression, the only thing that helped was Luvox. Being on AD for the first time was great actually, I could even exercise, although I would face fatigue and a little disrupted sleep. I would definitely recommend trying it.

    • I don’t know what you’re reading, but why would you say there’s no science behind it? You’ve given up yet want advice to help you not give up? Fact is, this does exist and there’s plenty of science. But the real issue for you is this: Do you have clinical symptoms of adrenal fatigue – the same symptoms that many doctors have written about? Or are you going to believe what the mainstream medical establishment tells you – that you’re fine? Do you feel fine? Start with answering those questions and only then can you move forward.

    • Adel,
      I just wanted to let you know the same thing was happening to me, and was eventually diagnosed as severe, complicated migraine aura, but almost never got a headache with it. Extreme exercise absolutely brings on these “anxiety attacks” which is really just aura symptoms. Exercise causes changes in blood pressure, hormones, body temperature and heart rate, which are all triggers. I find I can do the exercise I want if i monitor my heart rate and keep it around 165, for no longer than 20 to 30 minutes. You should defidently consider visiting a neurologist that has experience with complicated migraine auras without headache. They are apparently somewhat rare.

    • My advice for you and others with these symptoms would to get a blood test for Lyme disease and all associated co-infections with lyme. Get the lyme Elisa igG and IgM and as well as western blot. My background is laboratory medicine. Lyme can mask a host of other diseases. Considering its prevalence, I believe the Lyme assay should be ordered yearly during a physical to rule out this debilitating disease. I hope this helps!

  43. Great article Chris! I’ve experienced this first hand. I was eating low carb around 50-100 grams a day and weight training about 4-5 times per week. My weight-training has always been pretty high intensity. My workouts center around the big compound Olympic lifts; squats, dead-lifts, bench press, shoulder press, bent over barbell rows, weighted pull-ups, etc…I always try to increase the amount of weight when doing any particular lift the following session. However many days I’d have to lower the weight because I just didn’t have the energy to lift any more. After feeling so rundown and lethargic for over a year now, I finally realized that I’ve most likely been overtraining. One of the most significant things I’ve done is to increase my carb consumption. I’ve always tried to stay low carb, but since I recently started eating more of them, I feel so much better. My workouts feel productive and I no longer wake up feeling so exhausted. I used to be scared to eat too many carbs, now I’m not. I’m starting to believe that if you train hard, carbohydrates are a necessity.


  44. This is exactly what happened to me and I’m so glad to see this because it explains so much! I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue about 21 years ago. After being in a long remission, I started exercising again. It felt great. I worked up to walking 3 miles a night (5 nights a week) at a fast speed. I was doing 5k races 3 times a year. I was hiking with a friend about 6 miles once a week and biking 8-10 miles on the weekends with my son. Then it hit me like a brick. My joints and ligaments gave out. My blood pressure spiked and I was hit with crushing fatigue and a 20 pound weight gain in the matter of 2 months. No doctor was able to tell me what was wrong. I went to endocrinologists and cardiologists and everyone said I was fine! I knew in my heart it was from over exercising. This just proves I was right! Now what do I do to lose the weight and start exercising again? ( I have started gently walking again)

  45. Not to talk about ¨myself¨ but it may help others that are similar….I do HIIT OR functional & balance training OR strength training in the winter 2x per week for about 3 months. I run 6-10 miles in the spring, summer and fall 2 or 3x per week. I cycle/spin indoors year & 1/2 hour of weights after year round 1 or 2x per week. I never do all of this in the same season or more than 4/5 days per week all together. The few times I have (6 or 7 days per week and too much HIIT, weights, running, etc..) I’m exhausted, slow, crabby, heavy leg feeling and slight weight gain. It’s so obvious that my body is overworked at this point that I need to completely rest by only walking, yoga, rollerblading for about a week. Everyone has different levels of fitness, you really need to listen to your body.

  46. My problem is that I get sick every time I try to exercise. I walked 5 minutes for 4 days, 10 minutes for 7 days, 10 minutes and then a couple hours later 5 minutes on the 12th day and that night laid on the couch with congestion and coughing and asthma and a fever that lasted for a month. I battled it out not wanting to use antibiotics, trying to support my adrenal glands. So 2 months later – 2 months of Vit C, B, multi, magnesium, adrenal support – I walked for 5 minutes for 5 days. On the morning of the 6th day (yesterday) I had slight congestion. Didn’t walk yesterday, not walking today, but I’m going to try another 5 days of 5 minutes. sigh. I finally found a site that said not to do very much exercise as people suffering from adrenal fatigue don’t have much energy. I was thrilled beyond belief to read that, I felt vindicated. Nobody believes me when I tell my story. But at the same time, I read that exercise helps the immune system…so I will walk and see what happens. Because 5 minutes is better than no minutes…I used to run…sigh…

    • Hi,

      Just a suggestion on your walking routine. I am a physical therapist, and I used to work with individuals in chronic pain, fibromyalgia, etc. on progressive exercise routines. Sounds like you are doing too much for your body. Try something like this:
      walk 5 min for 2 days, then 1 day of rest. Do this cycle 4 times no matter how good you feel and think you can do more. (so 12 days). Then do 3 days walk for 5 min, 1 day of rest. do this for 3-4 cycles. (so 12-16 days). Then increase the time on the 2nd day to 7-8 min. So 5 min Day 1, 7-8 min Day 2, 5 min Day 3, rest day 4. Also do this for 2-4 cycles, depending upon how fast you find yourself recovering. Then increase to 10 min on day 2. Keep the 3 days on/1 day off cycle going. Let me know if this plan is helpful, I can help you extend it out as you increase your endurance. It also may need to be modified in some way depending on your response, such as 2 days on/1 day off while increasing walking time.

      Also, I believe you are experiencing more than “adrenal fatigue.” Do you have a physician or practitioner that you work with? This sounds more like chronic fatigue syndrome and their are alternative treatment methods that can help you recover.

      • Jenn, THANK YOU :). I had already decided not to ‘barrel through’ on the exercise, and your program looks lovely. I will start this tomorrow and am pretty excited. It looks like a very nice way to build endurance. And I am impressed with me – the 12 program was me being all tough and walking it off…not so cocky now…grin. I also appreciate your mention of CFS. I gave it a look before replying, and I THINK that isn’t me. I seem to be responding, slowly – but responding – to the adrenal fatigue program. I don’t have any pain and only got the sore throat when I over exercised and even then it was mild. I am sleeping okay and the naps I am able to get during the day don’t affect my night and do seem to help. I will do more looking at CFS just to be sure. And unfortunately I don’t have a doctor with whom I can work…when I went to see him and discussed what I was doing he was all for exercise, in spite of my getting sick. He is a good doctor, but I think that what I’m reading is true – not a lot of belief in Adrenal Fatigue. I live in a tiny, small, notbig, miniscule country town :). But thank gods for the internet and people like you. Thank you a lot.

        • You are welcome.

          Sounds like your best bet would be working remotely with a practitioner. I live in the Portland, OR area and ND’s are everywhere here, though it gets expensive paying out of pocket. Adrenal fatigue an be caused by a myriad of things- anything from nutritional deficiency, over exercise, chronic infections, chemical exposure and environmental toxins, psychological stress, etc. A practitioner can help untangle all that and do various testing to help you heal faster and more completely.

          I have been recovering from chronic fatigue myself and didn’t think that I fit into that category, but an ND did, and he has helped me quite a bit in the last 5 years. 3 years ago I saw a fantastic, progressive internal medicine doctor (they see complicated cases all the time)- I paid $500 out of pocket since he is not in network with insurance. He said he believed that I didn’t feel well, but couldn’t find anything wrong, saying I “was a very healthy sick person.” Mainstream medicine only has so much to offer. He also encouraged me to exercise more, since at the time I wasn’t doing a whole lot because I felt so terrible.

          You may want to look into using heart rate variability (HRV) technology, such as with BioForce HRV for monitoring recovery or Wild Divine’s programs for improving meditation and parasympathetic activation/stress management. They are really cool tools!

          Good luck to you on your journey! Just reply to this thread if you have more exercise questions down the road.

  47. I’ve been exercising mainly cardio everyday 5-6 times a week 45 -1 hr sessions for 2 years. Only 1 month ago I woke up not feeling well, depression, fatigue, flu, insomnia. My body could not longer cope with all the stress, my adrenals overrun, cortisol through the roof. I do believe it’s a health risk and that there should be much more awareness raised against this crazy movement towards over obsessing with exercise and the detrimental effects it can have on our body.

  48. 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.


    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.

  49. 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. 🙂

  50. 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

  51. 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.

  52. 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?

    • I started a new job about 6 weeks ago, walking upto 28-30km a day. Getting fatter, even though food is clean, no energy or time for gym. Walking is gay.

    • Brit , 20 minutes of walking is all you need..People if you are over 30 , your body will not recover like you were in your 20’s…If depends on what type of work you do as well .If you have a slow pace job like desk work , 30 minutes is max for walking >>if you have a full labor job , then 10 minutes of walking if all you need…

  53. 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. 🙂

    • 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.

  54. 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?

    • 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.

      • 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??

        • 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.


      • Hi Jenn,

        Reading some of your comments on the thread and I would love to get your opinion on my condition please.

        About 5-6 years ago I was really obese. Then over 5 years I lost 100+ lbs. I became a fitness dude. Things like running 10Ks 2-3x a week, lots of strength training, cycling etc. During that period I was also probably undereating. For a 5’11” – 28 year old guy I was on no more than 1700-1900 (net calories).

        Then around a year ago I started getting all forms of tendonitis issues all over. Achilles, pectorals, groins, etc. All my training came to a screeching halt. Then about 3-4 months ago I decided I needed some PT to get myself back on track. And that is when disaster struck. One day while seeing my PT, he made me do a whole bunch of strenuous exercises, stuff I wouldn’t normally do when healthy. Then he did a “back cracking” massage to “release tension”.

        Over the next 3-4 days I started developing flu-like symptoms, extreme fatigue, headaches, muscle aches and pains. Every day I would feel like I have run a marathon the previous day. I am able to do basic stuff and get to work (desk job) but I can’t walk sustained for 10-15 mins+ without really feeling it, especially 3-4 hours later. I always feel “depleted”.

        Anyways, long story short, I saw a functional medicine practitioner. We did many tests and it turns out my liver isn’t doing great and I have omega-6 and zinc deficiency with very low omega-3 levels. I also seem to get cortisol spikes in the morning and afternoons but DHEA is normal.

        Magnesium, Vitamin B12, Iron, etc were all normal. Vitamin D was on the low side.

        The FMP thinks I have plenty of deficiencies from the years of overtraining/undereating. I would like to believe him but I a m a little skeptical as the results dont show major deficiencies. I also was feeling ace (without the tendon problems) up until that PT session.

        As a PT yourself who also seems to have had fatigue, do you reckon he is right? Is my issue just food really and I have to just keep eating my way out of this?

        I’ve turned Paleo since my issues started, prior to that I was on a low fat diet I would say, I tried steering clear of anything greasy/overtly fatty. I ate carbs though and focused LOADS on lean meats. Like athlete level maybe.

        I donno, I am so lost. I am not functioning very well these days and I am filled with dread and anxiety. So much so that I struggle to do the most basic things at work these days. Worried about my future and if things will ever get back to where they were. Or worse, if I will get back to being fat again which is my worst nightmare.

  55. 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.

  56. 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!!

  57. 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.

  58. 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.

    • 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.

  59. 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

  60. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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?

  61. 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!

    • 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.

  62. 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.

  63. 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!

  64. 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.

  65. Hi Chris and all! Thanks so much for everything you do 😀

    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.

    • 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.

      • 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!

        • 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!

          • 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!

  66. 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??

    • 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.

  67. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

            • 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.

              • 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.

          • 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.

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

        • 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.

      • 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!

        • 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.

  68. 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?

  69. 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?

    • 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.

      • 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-

        • 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.

          • 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?

  70. 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.

    • 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!

    • 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.

      • Ken do you think that following a TORQ, Super TORQ or 4X program is better than heavy weights for someone who is trying to recover from adrenal fatigue? I’ve read so many conflicting opinions but you really seem to know your stuff so figured I’d ask. Jason Ferrugia claims that high reps/light weight are tougher on the CNS than low reps/heavy weight. Others say the opposite. Would appreciate your thoughts!

  71. 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-

  72. 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?

  73. 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.

    • 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.

  74. 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.

    • 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.

  75. 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.

    • 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!

      • 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!

        • 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!

    • 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.

      • 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.

  76. 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?

  77. 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.

  78. 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.

    • Any type of stress will cause a psoriasis flare for me. This includes any type of high impact exercise. The bad effects outweigh any type of good result from high impact training, so I stick to low impact. Its just not worth the stress for me.

  79. 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.

    • 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!

  80. 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.

  81. 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.

  82. 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.


  83. 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.

  84. 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!

  85. 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.

  86. 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 🙂

    • 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! 🙂

  87. 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.

    • 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 🙂

  88. 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… 🙁

  89. 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.



    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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?

    • 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-

  90. 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.

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

  91. 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!


    (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’)

      • 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!

    • 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.

      • 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!


        • 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.

    • 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!


  92. 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.

  93. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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-

        • 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,


  94. 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.

    • 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.

  95. 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.

  96. 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!

  97. 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.

  98. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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. 😉

  99. 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.

    • 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!

  100. 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!


    • 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.

      • 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?

        • 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


  101. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  102. 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.

  103. 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.

    • 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.

  104. 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?

  105. 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.

    • 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).

  106. 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.

    • 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.

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

      • 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.

        • 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!

          • 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.

            • 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.

              • 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.

                • 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.

        • 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!

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

            • 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.

              • 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

  107. 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.

  108. 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!

  109. 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.

  110. 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.

    • 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?

      • 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!

        • 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!

          • 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.

      • 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.

  111. 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.

  112. 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.

  113. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

        • 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!

          • 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. 🙂

    • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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 ?

    • 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.

  114. 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.

    • 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?

      • 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

      • 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).

        • 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.

    • 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?

      • 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?

        • 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?

        • 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.

          • 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.

            • Everybody gets sick at some time or another. The point is that they get better and get back to their daily routine.

              How many older people do you know who hold the philosophy of getting on with life even when you don’t feel like it? I know lots of them.

              I agree about correlation research and I’ll even go one further to suggest that the link we’re seeing between reduced activity and early death may be because the person’s already chronically sick. Because these studies usually also mention the amount of fidgeting a person does. I don’t know about you, but I never make a conscious choice to fidget or not to fidget; it is largely an unconscious activity. So how is it that a person who doesn’t fidget is doomed to die sooner? Less available energy, I believe, because the body is less than healthy.

              That said, maybe there’s something to the idea of “fake it til you make it.” One of the problems with these studies is they don’t look at conscious choices to exercise despite how a person might be feeling–they just measure total activity. Not the most terribly useful information when you get down to brass tacks.

              Still, until we know for sure, one way or another, whether a naturally inactive person choosing to exercise will increase their lifespan, best to behave as if it does. I mean, what do we have to lose?

      • Just for the record, I’m forty and I know how to crack a dictionary or use Google. I already knew what lunation cycle meant and I can look up the other word.

        Refusal to research or lack of sufficient curiosity to research is the fault of the reader. It’s nice to see someone out there not talking down to me like I’m a dummy.

  115. 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!

  116. 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!

  117. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  118. 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.

    • 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?

      • 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!

  119. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  120. 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.

    • 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\

      • 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

        • 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

          • Julie it sounds like you need to avoid carbs for a while. Try to go about 6 weeks on zero grains, fruits, starches, or sugar. If you are craving sugar you aren’t setting yourself up to lose inches or pounds. You should look into going full ketosis for a bit to force you body to start using fat for energy instead of glucose. You might have a strong insulin response to carbs and you are just replacing the fat with what you lose from your workouts. Your body wants to stay in hemostasis. Don’t let it!

      • I too have been working out 3 days a week, I teach class 2 days and take a West African Class once a week. I have not lost any weight in fact I have gained. This is very depressing what is the solution?

      • Julie, have you ever been tested for an Auto-immune disease called Hashimotos? It can take years to diagnose. High-intense cardio is not good for it, you might gain weight and it’s impossible to lose weight. I have Hashimotos.

        • I have to disagree with this post from Trish “High-intense cardio is not good for it… (meaning Hashimotos). I was diagnosed with Hashimotos 7 years ago – I participate at my Crossfit box 5 days a week and have for over 5 years now, and take my thyroid medication like instructed and I am the fittest and healthiest I have every been in my life. I don’t have bulging muscles and I am no where close to being the strongest person at our box – but I love my workouts.

      • Just a quick response to Julie’s “craving sugar at night” because I’ve been there! It usually happens for me if I’ve been eating carbs for breakfast. So I would suggest eating a protein based breakfast to get you away from the sugar/carb cravings at night. Try for a week and see if you notice a difference. It’s a quick fix and totally unrelated to high-intensity exercise. Because I tend to get bored of eggs easily, I will instead eat a bunless hamburger for breakfast to get away from the eggs. Best of luck to you. Weight loss can be complex, but sounds like you’re doing the right stuff, might just need a little tweak here and there to see some results. Best of luck to you

    • As a personal trainer for the past 30+ year, and a female I totally agree with you! I have a real issue with Crossfit, I do believe it will pass as quickly as it arrived. Slow and steady, strength and cardio and balance is the key in my book. Great post:)))

      • Thank you for your advice. I recently found out I have hashimotos and have had to remove gluten from my diet. I also have changed thyroid medications and am now on NDT. My weight has changed much but I am not gaining any weight either which makes me grateful. I now have some answers to the way I have been feeling and am working on changing things. I am on my second dr and if this one can’t help me I will move on to another till I find answers. I find your thoughts on sleep very helpful as you know being hypothyroid sleep can be elusive and I struggle in that area as well.

        Happy New Year and here to good health in 2016,

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