Testing for Cortisol – Avoid Adrenal Fatigue and Overtraining


Overtraining is probably the most common reason for hitting a plateau or for some type of nagging injury to occur or not go away. Unfortunately, a lot of people can’t seem to believe or imagine that they are overtraining. But if you’ve hit a plateau or injury you can’t seem to shake, you might want to take an honest look at yourself and make sure you are not overtraining an already exhausted body.

If you’ve taken the stress test and didn’t do so well, you should consider having your cortisol levels tested to accurately determine if stress is truly impacting your fitness results, as well as your overall health.

FYI – Exercise is a form of stress. The more intense the workout, the more stressful it is on the body and the more cortisol and adrenaline your adrenal glands have to pump out.

Cortisol is one of your primary stress hormones produced by your adrenal glands in times of stress. The constant demand for additional cortisol from your adrenal glands as a result of a hard workout or hectic lifestyle may be continually signaling your body that it is in the “fight or flight” mode.

The body is designed to handle stress, but constant stress that many people are under these days keeps the body in a “catabolic” breakdown phase. This is in direct conflict of what most people who exercise are looking for, which is the “anabolic” rebuild, growth phase that occurs when you sleep, relax and are not working out.

Why Measure Cortisol
Measuring cortisol and DHEA levels are the most accurate way in determining how stress is affecting your body. Many people who are constantly struggling with fatigue, weight gain, cravings, hormonal imbalances and the inability to add lean muscle are usually dealing with some type of adrenal overload as a result of prolonged stress.

The constant production of cortisol indicates that you are always burning and churning throughout the day, which is okay but it also means you are keeping your body in a “catabolic”, not an “anabolic” state. This simply means you are constantly breaking down instead of re-building tissue.

cortisol-overtrainingThe problem is that your body can only handle so much tearing down before it gets into trouble. This is why it is important to measure your cortisol levels, because you don’t want all those stress hormones interfering with the release of your growth hormones.

One reason why you don’t find many traditional doctors measuring cortisol levels is because in order to get an accurate reading, you need to measure cortisol four different times in a 24 hour period, which is hard to do by way of drawing blood.

The reason you measure it four times is because your cortisol levels fluctuates that much in a 24 hour period. If you only measure it once, you are only getting a snapshot of your cortisol levels as opposed to a moving picture.

What’s incredibly beneficial about the “moving picture” concept is that it lets you know if your cortisol levels are rising or falling when they are supposed to. Are your levels moving up, when they should be going down or vice-a-versa? You can’t answer that questions with a one-time blood or saliva sample.

Using a 24-Hour Saliva Test allows you to measure your cortisol four times a day. There is no needle or any drawing of blood involved. You simply have to collect your saliva four times in a day, the first being when you wake up in the morning, again at noon, dinner time and before you go to bed.

How many people want to get stuck with a needle four times in a day? How many people want to be at a clinic at all those different times? As you can see, it’s not very convenient for either the individual or lab tech to accurately measure cortisol levels by way of blood draws. This is one of the primary reasons why mainstream medicine hasn’t investigated the effects of stress too much. Also, the way to help restore or replenish someone’s cortisol levels is with nutritional supplements, rest and proper diet.

One of the big benefits with measuring cortisol by way of saliva, is the convenience. You collect the samples at home or work and then send them to the lab. The fear of being stuck by a needle is stressful enough for many individuals that it may artificially raises your cortisol levels, when they would otherwise be normal.

There is an old statement that says, “You can’t defeat your opponent if you don’t know who it is.”

With regards to exercise, strength training and fitness, so many people don’t realize that everyday stress combined with all the physical stress they are throwing on their body may be enough to exhaust and deplete your adrenal glands. This will result in hindering your fitness results. Once you realize that your problem is too much stress, you can take the appropriate action and modify your workout. This is very important, because as noted earlier, exercise is a form of physical stress and the last thing you want to be doing is adding more stress onto an already exhausted body.

I didn’t say you have to quit working out. You just need to find the proper amount of strength training and aerobic conditioning so you avoid adding too much stress onto your depleted body. You can still exercise if you discover you are struggling with adrenal fatigue, but it is important that you make sure you don’t over do it. This is why it is important in seeking the correct health advice from a qualified doctor or fitness trainer who has dealt with adrenal fatigue.

The bottom line is that if you are at a sticking point or troubled by some nagging injury, you might be overtraining an already exhausted body struggling with adrenal fatigue. If that sounds like you, look into having your cortisol levels tested with a 24 Hour Saliva Test.

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About Author

Dr. Len Lopez is a nutrition and fitness expert. An athlete and fitness enthusiasts all his life, his background in sports medicine, nutrition and fitness training gives him insight to help those who are struggling with both their health and fitness levels. See my profile page for more information!

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