It’s almost that time: New Year’s Eve. This holiday means one thing to my profession: New Year’s Resolutions. I am a personal trainer and a nutritionist, and we all know that the world LOVES waiting until January 1st to finally commit to the goals they’ve always strived for: smaller waistlines, increased endurance, stronger arms, less gluten free cookies…the list could go on and on.
I personally love the feeling of starting new, but in my opinion as not only an athlete and a coach, but as a Nutritional Therapist, I find that there is one common thing with many of my online and in-Denver clients: New Year’s comes around, they run themselves into the ground trying to lose weight by way of lifting, running, or all the above, and results come ever so slowly (if at all).
I want to address this frustrating resolution cycle before we all crash, burn, fail again, and fall straight back into that guilt cycle of feeling like we just can’t stick with something or aren’t meant to have the body we want.
We all live very stressful lives, and the term “adrenal fatigue” has been thrown around quite a bit the last year. I do not like using the phrase “adrenal fatigue”, because that is a rare condition when adrenals do not function at all. I do, however, believe in adrenal issues. Our adrenal glands are meant to keep us thriving, surviving, alive and well. When we are stressed, when we push the gas pedal hard, and we never really recover, things are bound to get wacky. Simply put, there are two types of adrenal dysfunction: we can have excess of cortisol, or we can have a lack of cortisol. Our cortisol rhythms being off affects more than our results in the gym. It plays a roll in our mood, in our ability to handle stress, and in our mineral balance. It must be addressed before things get worse.
Here are some great ways to keep you and your adrenals healthy this New Year:
- Never skip breakfast, especially if you are about to work out. If we start our day with no food, our body and brain will think it is truly starving, and it will work those adrenals even more. If you are used to working out without food in the morning, eat a spoonful of nut butter and a boiled egg with a shot of apple cider vinegar to help you digest.
- Become aware of your energy when it is NOT on caffeine. Would you die without it mid-afternoon? Being a die-hard coffee lover myself, I am not advocating everyone should cut the most wonderful substance in the world, but we might need to cut back. Herbal teas are fantastic during 2 or 3 pm when you need a pick me up.
- If you are having trouble sleeping and winding down before bed, turn off all technology at least an hour before bed. This allows your melatonin levels to rise as much as possible naturally. I have also had great success with my clients taking a form of phosphatidylserine if I know they tend to have higher cortisol levels in the evening.
- If you are a giant slug in the morning and waking up is very hard for you, try a cup water with added sea salt as soon as you wake up, with a great breakfast high in protein and good fats soon after.
- Be smart about your workouts. If your cortisol rhythm is off, then we might just be making things worse! Cortisol can affect our ability to build and maintain muscle, not to mention adrenal issues can cause hip shifts, hip pain, leg length differences in many of the athletes I work with. These are all related to our pelvic floor and glute muscles that can be fixed when you heal your adrenals. If this is speaking to you, try going lighter in weight and taking a few more rest intervals between sets instead of long grinding workouts.
- Vitamin C is a must, no matter what rhythm you are. Think not only oranges, but kale, broccoli, peppers, and my favorite: rose hips in my herbal tea.
- Be aware that some people need more supplementation. Pantothenic acid, adaptogens like rhodiola and ashwagandha, or even glandulars might be needed temporarily. Remember that there is always an answer for YOUR needs, and knowing which pattern you are, whether high or low cortisol, is important before you start supplementing.
- Probably the most important: BE GENTLE ON YOURSELF! We beat ourselves up on the daily, and we work hard. When we want a goal it’s hard to see anything but imperfections. Make it a point to be proud of yourself for one thing every day, even if we aren’t quite where we want to be. It is a powerful process that will not only help lower stress, but allow you to start living in the moment.
This New Year, set a goal to be the HEALTHIEST version of you. Listen to your body and follow the steps above. If needed, find someone to help find what supplements might be key for your adrenal health, and most importantly, do not allow stress to be the driver in your life for 2016.