How should you be exercising when you’re struggling with low energy and fatigue?

Does exercise make you feel energized, giving you that feel good endorphin boost that so many people rave about? This feel good boost can come from lifting weights, running or any combination that allows you to get your sweat on. If you’re shaking your head right now and saying “no,” my energy is worse after exercising or I’m wiped out after an exercise session then you need to take a step back and assess what could be going on.

I’m in a unique situation as a coach where I get to work closely with clients in the gym setting and also as their health coach through my Functional Diagnostic Nutrition practice. I get to see firsthand whether or not a client is benefiting from the exercise prescription or if they are compromising their health because of it. This topic is near and dear to me as I struggled with this very issue myself. I’ve been a devotee of physical culture, aka exercise, for over 20 years now. My passion is lifting weights and mountain biking, and not too long ago I hit a wall with my energy levels and had to do some digging to figure out was at the root of this issue.

Like most physical fitness enthusiasts I tried to push through the fatigue and would brush it off attributing it to getting older and low testosterone levels (which have plagued me for years). It just so happened that I was going thru my FDN® course at the same time this was happening and it forced me to take a deeper look at what was going on and not just brushing it off as being something that I had to get used to. Upon further investigation I was able to see from an Adrenal Hormone test (DUTCH®) that I had what is known as HPA Axis (Hypothalamus Pituitary Adrenal Axis) Dysregulation. This is a mouthful and to simplify it, basically it’s a situation where my adrenals weren’t putting out enough cortisol for me to have the energy I needed to get through my workouts let alone my days (it was a rough couple of months). Having this information was hugely important when it came to programing my workouts. If I didn't adjust what I was doing in the gym I was going to continue putting on body fat while also feeling so fatigued that eventually I might have just stopped exercising all together, that’s how bad I felt.

Once I had these objective test results and a game plan on how to address the situation (targeted supplementation, nutrition, rest and stress relief, basically a lifestyle approach) I worked with my coach at the gym to modify my exercise so that I wasn’t doing anything metabolically demanding for at least 3 months. We also adjusted my rep range and focused on low reps higher sets. This change in addition to daily walks to help reset my HPA Axis Dysregulation was the change I needed to come out of this on the other side.

I know this mindset can be hard for some people to accept, but letting off the gas for a little while can allow you to make huge strides overall. I didn’t lose any strength and actually went on to set a PR in my bench press and also become certified in StrongFirst® Kettlebell instruction a few months later. I never would have been able to accomplish the physically and mentally demanding requirements of that certification if I didn’t address my adrenal status and correct it.

Getting an outside opinion and working with a Health Coach trained in FDN® who’s also a certified trainer can help you get the answers you’re looking for when your exercise is leaving you drained instead of energized. Pushing through these issues or ignoring them completely will set you back far more than assessing and addressing them.

If you want to take a deeper look at why your workouts are leaving you fatigued instead of pumped, connect with me so we can take a closer look together.