Always running around, or running on empty? Learn how to support your adrenals to maintain energy, balance stress levels and avoid ill health.
28% of 1996 Summer Olypmics participants and 10% of 1998 Winter Olympians reported overtraining as a significant reason for their competitive difficulties.1
Overtraining, overworking, traumas and stress can all drain your adrenals, to the extent that this may affect your performance and your health.
You may already be noticing some symptoms. Do you rely on coffee, sweet foods or a hectic schedule to push you through the day? Or perhaps you have low energy, or hyper energy, aching muscles or joints, low blood pressure, low sex drive or find it difficult to deal with stress.
If you carry on in this direction, you run the risk of not just poor sports performance, but also chronic fatigue, hormonal problems ranging from infertility to depression and a host of other health problems.
Your adrenals sit on top of your kidneys, and release hormones that regulate your stress response. So if you are juggling a hectic work/life/family schedule, for example, or faced with any kind of stress, you will be firing off a lot of “fight or flight” hormones. These will send messages to your body to prepare for physical exertion: so energy and resources get diverted away from your digestive system and reproductive organs, for example, and sent instead to your heart, lungs and the muscles in your arms and legs. Actual physical exertion, such as running and heavy training, can elicit a similar response.
In the process, your body will be using up a great deal of proteins, essentially fatty acids (omega oils), and a whole array of minerals and vitamins, as well as fuel. If you don’t have the resources and energy to provide these, or replenish your stocks afterwards, then you may be playing a dangerous game. There may come a day when energy just falls completely flat – and then it’s much harder to then pick things up and get going again.
The Chinese talk about depleting your Jing energy. Jing is the ancestral vitality passed down to you through the generations, and it is your responsibility to conserve as much of it as possible. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. To avoid depleting your Jing essence, you need to make sure you have enough energy and vitality from food sources and from breathing well to support your daily activity. Interestingly, your Jing essence is said to be housed in your kidney-adrenal area.
The wisdom you can take from this is to make sure we have enough stores of energy and resources before we go for that run, set off for the gym or launch into another hectic day. That way, you are always in credit.
Tip no. 1: ALWAYS start your day with a protein-rich breakfast, be it a nut-based smoothie or a vegetable omelette
Tip no. 2: Eat plenty of fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds to provide adrenal supporting nutrients
Tip no. 3: Never exercise on an empty stomach, or on a full stomach. Have a light snack maybe half an hour or so before.
Tip no. 4: Schedule in times to rest, relax and recover. It may feel strange to be “doing nothing”, but you are actually paying into your bank of vitality – which will make you even more productive, and a good deal happier, than if you just push on through.
Tip no. 5: Keep hydrated – or your body won’t be able to transport nutrients and hormones to where they need to go if. Aim for around 1.5-2 litres spread throughout the day.
1. Shane M. Murphy The Sport Psych Handbook,Human Kinetics 2005
Published in The Whistler, January 2012