“I don’t know why, but I just feel kind of tired today…” Do you find yourself saying this more often than you should? I definitely hear people complain about low energy levels too often. I, myself, have struggled with this, and being tired when you “shouldn’t” be, is SUPER annoying! Low energy levels could be a symptom for a ridiculous amount of underlying issues, but as hard-training athletes (especially with all dem “dailies” goin’ around), a common problem is adrenal fatigue (in short, when your body stops producing enough cortisol [a stress hormone that keeps us awake]), or at least the path to adrenal fatigue. Luckily, there are a few basic steps you can follow in order to improve this, and then you can train ALL DAY ERRY DAY!

How you reach adrenal fatigue:

>Long version: TL;DR (too long didn’t read) aka summary:
Our bodies are programed to endure short bursts of cortisol release, but are not built for long term, constant release of this hormone. Cortisol release helps keep your blood glucose levels elevated, and helps you retain sodium, so that you can maintain a high blood pressure. These are things you need in an emergency, fight or flight situation, but obviously not things you want going on inside you 24/7. Prolonged stress, will lead to chronic cortisol levels, then to low cortisol levels (because your body simply cannot keep up with the production), and THEN to adrenal fatigue. If you’re not getting enough sleep, or not sleeping at the right times, then drinking caffeine, then stressed in traffic, or at work all day, then you train hard, and on top of that, aren’t eating correctly (not eating enough carbohydrates for example [I’ll go into this in more detail in a different post, but just as a reminder, you don’t have to eat bread to get your carbohydrates… sweet potatoes are your friend]), this is a perfect formula for adrenal fatigue.How Cortisol is produced in the body:Cortisol Ginger Bread Man Our bodies are built to handle short bursts of stress, here and there, but not to be constantly stressed out. If you’re constantly stressing your body out, you can reach what we call adrenal fatigue, where you feel tired all the time.

If this sounds like a problem you might be having, the first thing you’ll want to do, is try and identify what stage you’re in. You can get your adrenal & cortisol levels tested through a saliva test, if you wanted to know for certain, but here are a few common symptoms for the 3 stages:

Ideal (normal cortisol production)
  • You have plenty of energy (high cortisol levels) in the morning, and it tapers off during the day, so that you can sleep at night (low cortisol levels).
Stage 1 (high cortisol production):
  • You feel awake all the time, even at night, when you should be tired.
  • You may also notice some weight gain around your belly.
Stage 2 (dysfunctioning cortisol production):
  • You feel tired in the mornings, and throughout the day, and awake at night, and have trouble staying asleep, once you do fall asleep.
Stage 3 (adrenal fatigue):
  • You feel tired all the time.
  • You get dizzy/light headed/tunnel vision when you stand up (low blood pressure).
  • Increased allergies/asthma symptoms, long-lasting upper respiratory infections, or you get sick a lot.
  • Brain fog
  • Cravings for salt.

*Obviously these can all be signs for a lot of things, but if you’re noticing multiple ones, along with off energy levels, you could be experiencing adrenal fatigue, or at least the stages leading up to it.

Now let’s go over solutions for whatever stage you’re in:

Stage 1 (high cortisol production):
  • Be aware of as many stressors in your life as possible. For a lot of people sitting in traffic is an obvious one, but it’s important to also be able to identify the less obvious ones, such as staying awake until 2am writing articles about adrenal fatigue… I’m not talking about myself, of course, but ya know, someone else might do something ridiculous like that…
  • Once you have these identified, think of solutions. For me, if I’m sitting in traffic, I roll down my windows (yes, even when it’s snowing), and sing out loud to my music. Not only does this entertain me, but it tends to lighten the mood of those who catch me doing it. So it’s a win-win for all parties involved! If you’re a night owl, like I am, try to go to bed 30 min earlier than you did the previous night, until you’re hitting the pre-midnight mark. This is the most noticeable one for me. When I got to bed at 3am, even if I get 8 hrs of sleep, I still feel tired the next day. If I got to bed before midnight and get 8 hrs of sleep I feel amazing the next day. Eating poorly is also a stressor, as well as training too hard, too often. Rest/light days are SO very important!
Stage 2 (dysfunctioning cortisol production):
  • Do not BINGE on carbs, but if you are very active, which most of us are, make sure you are eating enough QUALITY carbs (150-200 grams/day is a good general range). Keep in mind you may have to make adjustments based on your lifestyle.
    Some quality carb sources include: Fruit:
  • FruitStarchy Plants:
    starchy plants
  • If you get hangry (blood sugar crashes between meals), eat more often. A handful of olives, a piece of fruit, a sweet potato, and some sardines would be an excellent snack (carbs, protein, and fat).
  • Eat plenty of QUALITY salt (sea salt), especially if you are sweating a lot. Your adrenals need salt to function well!
  • Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C, because every time you get stressed, your adrenals loose vitamin C. Oranges, and other citrus fruits, along with kiwi, are good sources of vitamin C.Some quality Vitamin C sources include:
    Vit C content
  • Magnesium also gets depleted during chronic stress, so make sure you are getting enough of that as well. It is always best to get nutrients from food, but if that’s not possible Vitamin C and Magnesium supplementation is another option. In fact, Magnesium supplementation is recommended, by Chris Kresser, for everyone, since it’s so hard to get enough of through diet.
  • Taking a vitamin B complex is also highly recommended for those with adrenal fatigue.
  • Getting those probiotics in, either through diet (fermented foods), or supplementation, is necessary for good gut health, which has a profound effect on your overall health.
Stage 3 (adrenal fatigue):
  • Everything mentioned for Stage 2.
  • There are certainly herbs that you could take to help with adrenal fatigue (such as licorice), but talk to a practitioner specializing in herbs and adaptogens (reading an article on LIVESTRONG doesn’t count) before taking them, because herbs can have very strong effects, and could cause more harm than good if not used properly.
  • >Avoid strenuous exercise 3 hrs before bed, light exercise is okay, however those experiencing severe adrenal fatigue should avoid strenuous exercise in general, until they see improvement in their adrenal health (not that any of you would follow that, even if you were in stage 3