Signs Your Adrenals and Cortisol Aren’t Helping your Athletic Performance

I was on my way to becoming a professional marathon runner when all of a sudden I got knocked off course by my out-of-whack hormones.


Okay, so maybe I wasn’t exactly a professional, but I ran my first marathon in Honolulu in 2009 and finished without dying!! I think that is pretty professional, and it makes for a much better story than the truth; I was a recreational runner who ran a few races, got the itch to run faster, train harder, do speed workouts, and increase the long runs but ended up dizzy and dehydrated with a painful IT band, low cortisol and imbalanced hormones instead.


Is anyone else in this boat? A lot of us are, but if you are thinking, “Not me, I am in my prime!” then this is the perfect time for you to get ahead of the game. You can find any small imbalances and restore balance before you would have suspected they might be there.


Many of the practitioners in the holistic health field spend a lot of time trying to help other people avoid making the same mistakes that they made, and I am here to do the same. Symptoms are the last thing to occur as a sign of imbalance. This means that we may have lost 30% of our optimal function before our body gives us a sign! Using functional lab work, we can find and correct this imbalance at its earliest stages.


For an athlete, this is exciting. This is a chance to make sure we are getting the best possible performance out of our body, maximizing our potential and endurance, while also fending off the potential for burn-out.


Top signs your body is sending you that your adrenals might be struggling include:


1)   Brain Fog – Did I take my vitamins today? I think I did, but I am not sure. Sound familiar? Or maybe you can’t remember  🙂


2)   Slow recovery from exercise – I used to think it was normal to have a headache and need a nap an hour after a hard workout. If you are still trying to recover from a workout more than 30 minutes later, then your adrenal glands might be struggling.


3)   Up and down energy and mood swings – Sleeping at your desk in the afternoon is a true sign of adrenal dysfunction. You might tell yourself that it is only because you had a hard workout that morning, but often it carries over to days that you don’t work out. Ideally, our cortisol level is highest in the morning, which gives us enough energy to get up and go, and be able to keep up for the rest of the day.


4)   Carb and sugar cravings – Hitting up the vending machine or taking a quick trip to Starbucks no matter how many times you tell yourself you will quit tomorrow. When our cortisol output is low due to chronic stress of all kinds, we turn to carbs and sugar for quick energy.


5)   Loss of libido – Although we are talking about athletic performance, performance could be lacking in other areas as well. When all of our hormonal resources are used for cortisol, the stress hormone, our sex hormones are often depleted.


6)   Trouble sleeping – ‘Tired but wired’ is a classic sign of adrenal dysfunction. Ever feel so exhausted but once lying in bed you can’t seem to sleep because your monkey mind starts jumping from one crazy thought to the next? Or do you feel like you are tired all day and then get a second wind around 8 or 9 pm? Elevated nighttime cortisol, when it is supposed to be going down so that you can sleep, is a really common finding with my clients.


7)  More allergies and sensitivies – You never used to have a problem with hay fever or gluten but now you do. Instead of just blaming this on the seasons or your new dog, consider this a warning sign from your body.


8)  Digestive issues – When your body is in a state of stress, the fight-or-flight reaction kicks in and digestion takes a back seat to survival. This is great for the occasional life-threatening chase by a bear, or when you are about to win the Boston Marathon, but not so great when this is your day-to-day life. For runners with digestive issues, we know how horrible (and embarrassing) this can be.


9)   Weak immune system – Chronic infections are the name of the game for people with adrenal fatigue, and include bacterial, viral, fungal, yeast. I was in the “best physical shape of my life” yet came down with shingles at age 28 during my marathon training. Don’t ignore the signs that your body is giving you.


10)  Training harder with little improvement in muscle tone – Making gains quickly in beginning, but then plateauing or getting worse, is a dreaded situation for an athlete. DHEA and testosterone are important for muscle building. Most of my client’s have very low DHEA and testosterone since the master hormone pregnenalone has been consumed by the constant need for cortisol.


11)   Injuries – For me , it was IT band issues. The dreaded pain in your knee when you are 10 miles out on a 20 mile run! Although an injury might seem completely unrelated to your hormones, the more injuries stacking up, the more we suggest you get those levels checked.


Wondering how to get your hormone levels checked? It is quite simple, and there is no need to drive to a lab or get an appointment with your doctor. As a part of my 4 month program I will send you an easy at-home test that requires you to spit into four vials during the day. All you do is seal them up, put them in the self-addressed return package, and drop them off at FedEx. In 2-3 weeks, when I receive the lab results we will discuss how well your lovely hormones are doing and help to balance anything that has gone astray!



  • Chelsey
    June 11, 2014

    I said yes to all of these! How do I sign up to receive the test for my adrenal glands??

  • June 11, 2014

    Hi Chelsey! I will send you an e-mail with the details, but check out the work with me page in the meantime.

Post a Reply