Settling into the new year with the high demand of our employment, family routine as well as trying to gain that cycling fitness back can be very stressful on us emotionally, mentally and physically. A consequence can be tiredness, reduced motivation and lowered exercise performance, all resulting in a negative effect on our adrenal health leading to adrenal depletion.
What is Adrenal Depletion/ Exhaustion
The adrenals are made up of glands that secrete glucocorticoids (cortisol), catecholamines (noradrenaline and adrenaline) and adrenal androgens, which form part of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. When our bodies are ‘over-stressed’ (eg attempting to get back into the swing of our normal routine), it can lead to imbalance of the HPA axis, where target organs become overstimulated, immune function declines, blood sugar imbalances and your body turns into a energy-deficient state.
Cortisol is utilised as our ‘stress hormone’ and is regulated through the adrenal glands and levels should be at their highest in the morning on waking and lowest in the middle of the night. Cortisol rises dramatically during times of stress, whether they be emotional or physical stresses. During time of adrenal depletion or exhaustion there is an initial increase in cortisol, which is followed by a later decline below normal that results in adrenal function decline and are therefore unable to meet the demands of stress we put on our bodies.
Signs of Adrenal depletion
- Tiredness / Fatigue
- Waking unrefreshed
- Low energy
- Muscle lethargy
- Cravings: sweet or savoury
- Hormonal imbalance
- Moodiness, Irritation, Restlessness
- Declined immune function (cold or flu like symptoms)
- Sleep irregularity (eg alert in the middle of the night)
- Cognitive decline or fogginess
- Require the use of stimulants to function
Key nutrients to support adrenal function and decrease fatigue are vitamin C, vitamin B, magnesium and coenzyme Q10.
- Vitamin C is our adrenal nutrient. It feeds the adrenals to restore function from a depleted state (refer to http://pedaltorque.com/fundamentals-vitamin-c-cyclists/, for more information)
- Vitamin B complex is used for energy production, carbohydrate metabolism and as cofactors for our neurotransmitter function. B vitamins also assist in alleviating stress, as unfortunately when our bodies are stressed our B vitamins decline rapidly, hence the importance of B vitamins at these times.
- Magnesium is the important mineral that assists in muscle fatigue, nervous system tension as well as being a cofactor for our neurotransmitters and cortisol. Perfect for supplementing after a cycle to increase rate of recovery and before bed to assist in sleep regulation and quality.
- Coenzyme Q10 is a catalyst in the conversion of food to energy within the cells. Deficiency in CoQ10 can contribute to fatigue, therefore supplementation of CoQ10 increases energy levels and is important in the treatment of fatigue or adrenal depleted states.
Adaptogen herbs are vital for adrenal depleted states. Adaptogen herbs increase the body’s resistance or adaptation to physical, environmental, emotional or biological stressors and promote normal physiological function. They regulate the stress response via the HPA axis, increase endurance during exhaustion and prevent further neurotransmitter and immune decline. The 2 best and safest herbs to use during this time are Withania somnifera and Rhodiola rosea:
- Withania somnifera: this herb is a general tonic to the body, anti-inflammatory, anti-stress immune modulation, mild nervous system sedative, anti-anaemic and adaptogen. It has also been used as a liver support and restorative. Withania works amazingly to support your energy levels throughout your cycle whilst also improving recovery from weakness and fatigue.
- Rhodiola rosea: is a key adaptogenic herb, which highly assists the regulation and nourishing of adrenal function. It has been shown to reduce fatigue, depression and anxiety as well as increase work and exercise performance. Rhodiola is used to increase physical fitness and decrease cognitive fatigue and stress.
- Low Glycemic Index (GI) diet is best at times of adrenal depletion to avoid blood sugar spikes and drops. Low GI foods are slow energy releasing foods.
- Reduce or avoid stimulants such as coffee, energy drinks and caffeinated teas, as will reduce further drains on the adrenals
- Reduce fruit intake to maximum 2 pieces per day
- Increase Fibre to assist in slowing down the release of sugar from carbohydrates and fruits
- Increase protein foods to reduce carbohydrate cravings and provide amino acids that are utilised for neurotransmitter function – Protein smoothies are highly beneficial here (obviously protein powder with no refined sugars, ask your health food store for a quality product without the harmful nasties)
Depending on the degree of fatigue, a visit to your health food store to seek further naturopathic advice or contact your local naturopath to complete a full health assessment would be beneficial to identify contributing factors and ensure a speedy recovery that is individually suited to your condition.
Alternatively, feel free to contact me through this post.