The events since 2020 have been stimulating our cortisol systems (Adrenals) heavily, placing us in a fight or flight response more than in the past. Due to the extra stimulation, it is important to learn how to better manage the adrenals to allow your body to rest, digest and heal when it is appropriate to do so.
Balancing activity and stimulation of your adrenals with rest and restoration is important to overall health of your mind body and spirit.
Exercise is important since the movement of the muscles charges your body with energy to help it run efficiently; however, depending on how exercise is used it can help or hinder your ability to manage cortisol, and thus your ability to recover and heal the body.
Before delving into the cortisol response of the body with exercise, lets get a basis of understanding of the natural rhythms of cortisol in the body. As a natural response, the adrenals dump a large amount of cortisol into the body in the morning to get you out of sleep mode and moving for your day. This is a natural response of the body, and if you notice significant lethargy in the morning, it can be an indicator of adrenal fatigue. Understanding the natural trend of cortisol can help you work with the body with exercise rather than against it.
So, what happens to your blood cortisol levels when you exercise? Challenging, or strenuous exercise, stimulates your adrenals to respond, causing a short term increase in your cortisol levels. This cortisol increase can help you discharge some general stress you may be feeling during your workout. Following your workout there is a slow tapering down of cortisol levels allowing your body to more effectively rest, digest and repair itself leading to a good nights sleep at the end of the day. If this is used in conjunction with your body’s natural tendency to have elevated cortisol levels in the morning, then you will have the ideal cortisol response. This will allow your body to discharge the stress and get moving for the day and then taper off through the day for a restorative nights sleep.
If you have sleeping difficulties, whether it is falling asleep quickly, or awakening up throughout the night, a cause could be too high of cortisol levels. In this case, working out at the end of the day will spike cortisol levels more without allowing adequate time to taper down and allow for a restorative nights sleep. If you fall in this category, then a morning workout would be ideal since it will allow you to discharge your stress early in the day and give the body enough time to taper down the cortisol to allow for a restful nights sleep, all while strengthening your body’s natural cortisol trend.
Endurance training, where you exercise for multiple hours consecutively, can raise cortisol levels for several days or longer. If you have a stressful lifestyle, or are just under a lot of stress at the time, it might help to keep your workouts under an hour to help to regulate the cortisol levels in your body. In addition, it would be best to work with your body’s natural rhythms and perform a morning workout, rather than in the evening.
However, life is not ideal. Sometimes the only time you can find for a workout is in the evening. How can you make the best of this situation. You may have to support your body a bit more in this situation. Taking adrenal support herbs / vitamins in the morning will help with any adrenal fatigue you may sustain from overstimulation of the gland. Your adrenals are located above your kidneys and are about the size of a walnut. They are not big, so it is easy to see how they can get easily fatigued. Adrenal glands utilize a lot of B vitamins, so supplementing with a good B complex along with adrenal support will get your body moving for the day. If your body has difficulty processing B vitamins then using the methylated form is ideal. You can click on this link here for the suggestions through Natures Sunshine, which I support due to their stringent attention to quality control.
If you have to workout later in the day, then what can you do to help to bring your cortisol levels down in order to rest and recover that night? Natures Sunshine has a product called Nutri Calm that promotes a sense of peace and calm and supports your body in times of stress using a blend of vitamins and herbs. NutriCalm may help bring you down from your high of working out, and stimulate your cortisol drop to happen at a faster pace.
Melatonin has an inverse, or opposite relationship to cortisol. As this hormone is released, it stimulates the body to prepare for sleep. When cortisol levels are high it can negatively affect the body’s ability to secrete melatonin. Supplementing with melatonin can help reduce cortisol levels and allow the body to rest. However, it is important to take this early in the evening, ideally as soon as it gets dark outside, because this is the natural time melatonin gets released in the body. If you take it too late then melatonin can make you groggy and lethargic in the morning. It will be difficult to shake off that grogginess and get moving with your day since your cortisol levels may be suppressed from the melatonin being in your system too late in the morning.
If you tend to awaken in the middle of the night then it is not ideal to take melatonin at this time for reasons I explained above. In this situation, Natures Sunshine has a superb product that helps calm the mind and allow it to rest called Nerve Eight. This mind calming effect allows you to fall asleep without feeling groggy in the morning. You can even take this product a few hours before you have to get up in the morning without adverse affects when you awaken.
If you awaken feeling jittery, feeling like your heart and/or mind is racing, then the cause of your awakening may be due to fluctuations in blood sugar. Cortisol plays an important role in how your body regulates blood sugar. In this case, supporting your blood sugar with supplementation will help immensely along with eating something that has a high fat and/or protein content, which will digest slowly and release a steady amount of blood glucose. Natures Sunshine has a great herbal supplement called Blood Sugar Formula and it utilizes Ayervedic herbs to support the body’s glandular system and regulate glucose levels. Taking this product when awakening in the night allows the blood sugar to be restored to normal levels and you can fall back asleep quickly and easily.
And last but not least, when you workout there are extra demands on your body, including an increased need for protein and hydration. If these building blocks are not available, additional stress is be placed on the body, thus making it more difficult to lower cortisol levels following the workout. Utilizing a good protein supplement is ideal so that the body can build the muscle as it is stimulated to do in response to strenuous activity. Natures Sunshine has a protein powder designed for athletes. Along with essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids it also has a specific herbal blend that simulates mTOR and AMPK which facilitates the body’s natural breakdown and rebuild of muscle tissue that occurs with strenuous exercise and utilizes either whey or plant protein to provide 20 grams of clean protein per serving.
Your body also needs adequate hydration and electrolytes for adequate recovery following exercise. AIVIA hydrate has a unique blend of essential electrolytes and trace minerals to optimize recovery. It contains alanyl glutamine to enhance water and electrolyte absorption in the intestines along with multiple other quality ingredients to maximize your recovery. Natures Sunshine has another product called Solstic Revive which is an electrolyte support with an array of B vitamins to support adrenal function along with vitamin C and E. It also contains glucosamine to support joint integrity. Both of these products are great choices depending on your specific needs.
Remember, when you perform a strenuous workout the needs of your body also increase. Yes, this seems like a lot to have to do to exercise; however, you are exercising to support your body’s health so make sure your body has the building blocks needed to make the most of the strenuous activity of the workouts.
I hope you have found this article to be informative and if I gave you too much information at once then I apologize. There is so much information to share I just do not know where to stop. I would be happy to do a consultation with you to help with any overwhelm you may be feeling and determine specifically what may help you with your needs. Just reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to helping you out in the future.
In Abundant Health,