Is Doing MORE Killing Your Progress?
The desire for quick fixes in the fitness and nutrition space has resulted in countless “trainers” blanketing exercise plans and meal templates onto hundreds of clients. These plans have the clients running themselves into the ground with workouts multiple hours a day and eating less than 1500 calories no matter their age, height, gender or weight. And the sad part is that this will work for many people….until it doesn’t.
The clients feel like they are doing the right thing too because more is always better, right? If working out for an hour a day is good, working out for 3 hours must be better. If eating at a calorie deficit is good, then eating at a bigger calorie deficit must be better!
Well at first, it totally works. You’re losing weight like crazy, you think that you’ll be down that 50 lbs in no time, until you start to wake up with achey joints.
And then the next week you just don’t feel like working out.
And then the hunger pangs start to arrive.
And then you find yourself raiding the fridge at 9pm at night because you just CAN’T HELP YOURSELF!
So what gives? Why did it stop working? Why did the weight loss stall? Why do you find yourself missing easy lifts that you used to make with your eyes closed? Why do you feel like you need a chiropractic appointment every week just to be able to workout and walk right??
Well the funny thing is that it isn’t necessarily a result of over-training, as it is a result of under-recovering. Exercise is a stressor. And if you exercise intensely (i.e. CrossFit, HIIT, Orange Theory, etc.), it can be a detriment vs. a benefit. The problem is not the stress of exercise so much, it is the compounding effect of that stress on top of all of the other stresses you have! Working overtime, getting less than 7 hours of sleep, relationship problems, getting sick, traveling for work, etc.
Understand that over-training isn’t a matter of you being weak or not strong enough to handle all of the working out. It is a matter of you not allowing enough time/action for recovery! Our body is smart, and believe it or not, it can handle A LOT, but if it is feeling like it is getting pushed too hard from too many angles, then it has systems in place that will shut us down. Some things that will start to happen from this response in the body (stemming from the Central Nervous System) are:
- Inflammation in muscles, joints, gut, and overall throughout the body.
- Hormone dysregulation – Your ‘feel good’ hormones and muscle-building (testosterone and HGH) hormones start to decrease. Your stress hormones (cortisol) start to increase. Your sex hormones get disrupted.
You may experience this in the following ways:
- Mood and energy ups and downs (as a result of blood sugar spikes and drops)
- Depression or anxiety
- Sleep disruption – either not being able to fall asleep, or waking up frequently throughout the night
- Strong food cravings and inability to control your eating
- Slowed metabolism and weight loss plateaus or even weight gain (due to thyroid disruption)
- Loss of women’s cycles and loss of sex drive for men/women.
So if you are experiencing these symptoms, you are no longer in control, your body has sternly told you that it NEEDS to slow down (by doing it for you). And the harder you go, the bigger these symptoms can become and the longer they can take to fix.
The hard thing is that we don’t want to stop! Does one of these situations sound like you?
1. Large amounts of strenuous exercise make us feel like we are doing something beneficial. The harder the workout is, the better and faster it will work for my goals .
2. We use exercise as either a stress reliever from all of the other stresses in our life.
3. We use exercise as a way to ‘punish’ ourselves for behaviors we are ashamed of, like over-eating.
4. Exercise is the one area of our lives that we feel in control with.
5. We don’t know any better and don’t realize that the exercise may actually be doing more harm than good.
Here’s the thing, you aren’t alone and it is never too late to start making positive changes for yourself. So if you are feeling some of these symptoms, or find yourself in some of these mindsets, I challenge you to try some of the following ways to move yourself to a healthier balance and in turn, closer to your goals.
1. Commit to ONE recovery method each week. That can be a chiropractic appointment, an Epsom salt bath, a spa day, a day lounging by the pool or going to see a movie, etc. Something that gives your body a break and is ADDING to the bank of your health – not taking from it.
2. Skip a workout when feeling achey, choose light activity instead. If you are feeling beat up, but want to work out, opt for a long walk or a slow swim in the pool. Stay active, but don’t run yourself into the ground with a HIIT, CrossFit, or heavy lifting workout that day.
3. Bring Yourself Out of a Calorie Deficit Temporarily – If you are seeing a plateau in weight loss, or you have started to gain weight and you know you are at a proper calorie deficit, bring yourself out of it for 1-3 months. Sometimes the body just can’t take it and needs a break from a calorie deficit to feel READY to shed body-fat again. So if you are unsure of how to do this – hire a coach to help you do it properly, but get back to eating! Your body is begging you!