Return to site

How To Train When Dealing With Adrenal Stress

· Training

by ICANS Editorial Team

When stress becomes overwhelming, most people react in one of two ways: They either quit training altogether, lapsing into a sedentary lifestyle, or they overtrain, engaging in all-out high-intensity workouts, sprints, strongman, or endurance training.

 

Neither of these approaches will pay off in the long run. Instead you need to adjust your training to minimize the negative effects of stress on the body and build up your body’s ability to cope with stress. This tip will explain the body’s stress response and provide training tips for overcoming high cortisol.

 

When you are under stress, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis sends a message from the brain to the adrenal glands to release the stress hormone cortisol. Under normal conditions when stress is a temporary experience, the HPA axis is activated infrequently enough that it is able to stay healthy and responsive. The HPA axis operates on a negative feedback loop. When cortisol is released from the adrenal glands, it sends a message to the hypothalamus to stop releasing cortisol so that levels normalize.

 

However, in people who suffer chronic stress, cortisol levels will be persistently elevated. The body’s cortisol receptors become resistant to cortisol’s signal and the HPA axis becomes desensitized to the negative feedback telling it to “chill out.” The result is chronically high cortisol levels, which cause the following negative symptoms:

 

  • Difficulty sleeping despite being fatigued
  • Getting dizzy when you stand up quickly
  • Craving salt
  • Frequent illness
  • Difficulty getting up in the morning
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Excess body fat, especially belly fat
  • Frequent injuries or inability to recover from workouts
  • Low exercise tolerance
  • Anxiety and a racing mind

 

In this situation, training needs to be tailored to minimize the negative effects of stress and build up your adrenal reserves. Here are some recommendations:

 

Elevated cortisol has a catabolic effect on the body so your number one training goal should be to maintain muscle mass by training with weights.

 

Strength training should be our primary exercise, with reps in the 3 to 8 rep range, with most sets around 6 reps. Loads should correspond to rep ranges such that you should be reaching near failure by your final rep. For 6 reps, loads should be in the 80 to 85 percent of maximal range.

 

Start with longer rest intervals in the 180-sec range. Over the course of 4 weeks, progress down to 90-sec rest intervals. Now you can use a work-to-rest ratio of 1:3 with work sets below 30 sec each.

 

Use a low to moderate volume to start and progressively increase as you build up your adrenal reserves over time. Start with 2 to 3 sets, progressing to 4 as the HPA axis begins to reset.

 

Training sessions should be separated by at least 48 hours to allow for adequate recovery. Body part splits are a good way to allow for more complete recovery between workouts.

 

Walking is ideal as a recovery mode. Hiking in nature has been shown to significantly lower cortisol and help buildup adrenal reserves.

 

Avoid training modes that put stress on the adrenals: CrossFit, steady-state cardio, endurance training, strongman exercises, and sprints should all be saved for full adrenal recovery.

When stress becomes overwhelming, most people react in one of two ways: They either quit training altogether, lapsing into a sedentary lifestyle, or they overtrain, engaging in all-out high-intensity workouts, sprints, strongman, or endurance training.

Neither of these approaches will pay off in the long run. Instead you need to adjust your training to minimize the negative effects of stress on the body and build up your body’s ability to cope with stress. This tip will explain the body’s stress response and provide training tips for overcoming high cortisol.

When you are under stress, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis sends a message from the brain to the adrenal glands to release the stress hormone cortisol. Under normal conditions when stress is a temporary experience, the HPA axis is activated infrequently enough that it is able to stay healthy and responsive. The HPA axis operates on a negative feedback loop. When cortisol is released from the adrenal glands, it sends a message to the hypothalamus to stop releasing cortisol so that levels normalize.

However, in people who suffer chronic stress, cortisol levels will be persistently elevated. The body’s cortisol receptors become resistant to cortisol’s signal and the HPA axis becomes desensitized to the negative feedback telling it to “chill out.” The result is chronically high cortisol levels, which cause the following negative symptoms:

  • Difficulty sleeping despite being fatigued
  • Getting dizzy when you stand up quickly
  • Craving salt
  • Frequent illness
  • Difficulty getting up in the morning
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Excess body fat, especially belly fat
  • Frequent injuries or inability to recover from workouts
  • Low exercise tolerance
  • Anxiety and a racing mind

In this situation, training needs to be tailored to minimize the negative effects of stress and build up your adrenal reserves. Here are some recommendations:

Elevated cortisol has a catabolic effect on the body so your number one training goal should be to maintain muscle mass by training with weights.

Strength training should be our primary exercise, with reps in the 3 to 8 rep range, with most sets around 6 reps. Loads should correspond to rep ranges such that you should be reaching near failure by your final rep. For 6 reps, loads should be in the 80 to 85 percent of maximal range.

Start with longer rest intervals in the 180-sec range. Over the course of 4 weeks, progress down to 90-sec rest intervals. Now you can use a work-to-rest ratio of 1:3 with work sets below 30 sec each.

Use a low to moderate volume to start and progressively increase as you build up your adrenal reserves over time. Start with 2 to 3 sets, progressing to 4 as the HPA axis begins to reset.

All Posts
×

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!

OKSubscriptions powered by Strikingly