How to exercise with Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal Fatigue Recovery

When suffering from adrenal fatigue, it’s important to understand how your gym habits are effecting your recovery. We’ve already covered how working out can impact our cortisol levels (read the post here), so this post is for all of the other exercise addicts out there who just can’t bare giving up your daily workout!

Ok so we admit it, continuing to workout when you are suffering from severe adrenal fatigue may not be in your best interest. In fact, working out when you’re suffering from stage 3 or stage 4 adrenal fatigue might seriously worsen the state of your health. If you are in either of these stages you really should give up exercise until your symptoms improve (and seek professional help).

However, if you’re in the early phases of adrenal fatigue some exercise might be beneficial to your recovery. But it’s all about how you workout.

As your cortisol levels are at their highest in the morning, it’s better to get your exercise in in the morning, rather than in the evening. This way your body will be better able to handle the stress impact from the spike in cortisol.

Instead of a high intensity workout, try a less strenuous exercise like yoga or taking a walk around the block. If you are seriously addicted to exercise and would find this change too difficult to deal with, you could start incorporating there exercises into your workout plan by taking a yoga class one day a week instead of a spin class.

Progress with your recovery will take time. As you make these changes to your workout, try to keep a journal on how your symptoms respond. If you feel more stressed after yoga, try tai chi instead. Finding what works best for you is the most important thing.

Working out with Adrenal Fatigue


Working out, and working out hard, is healthy right? Well not always…

High intensity workouts cause a rush of cortisol to be released by our body. Our body then reacts to this the same way it would if we were under stress (think fight or flight mode). Whilst typically healthy people can manage this spike in cortisol, those of us who suffer from adrenal fatigue can’t and the response can really mess with our healing progress.

Unfortunately, people suffering from adrenal fatigue often get a surge of energy in the evening. So instead of winding down after a busy day, we’re tempted to use this energy as motivation and head to the gym for a workout.

However, high intensity workouts at night can disrupt our body’s natural cortisol cycle (read more about your cortisol levels here), as our cortisol is starting to lower. This can worsen your adrenal fatigue (not to mention, interrupt your sleeping patterns further, lowering your mood and even causing weight gain).

In the really severe stages of adrenal fatigue (read about the 4 stages here) it might be best to skip the workouts for a while. This should let your body recover from the added stress of high intensity exercise.

Don’t get us wrong, exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But, just like any healing plan, finding what works for you is the most important thing.

If you really can’t give up the gym, read our next post on how to exercise with adrenal fatigue.


Improve your sleep with this one easy task

What does your average day look like? Is it filled with rushing around, trying to fit in everything? Do you sacrifice an hour or two of sleep just to make sure you can tick those jobs off your to-do list? We definitely do.

But have a think about this…how do you feel when you don’t exercise for a week? Sluggish? Lazy? Tired? Ok, now have a think about how you feel when you don’t sleep for a week…that’s right, you probably can’t think! Or function for that matter!

Sleep is vital to everything we do. It’s our body’s way of recovering.


Unfortunately, in today’s fast paced world we often sacrifice sleep to get our jobs done. Or when we do sleep, it’s often broken or disturbed. Who can remember the last time they woke up feeling well rested and ready to take on the day? Hmmm, not us.

That’s where a sleep diary comes in. Keeping a sleep diary can help you to identify things that happened during the day that may be impacting your ability to have a good night’s rest. It might seem like a pain, and just another thing to tick off your to-do list, but it can really help.

Here’s how to start one:

Draw up a simple table, divided by morning, during the day and at night. In each section, record particular events, such as:


  • What time you got out of bed
  • What time you wake up properly (because how many of us really wake up as soon as we jump – or roll – out of bed?)
  • Whether or not you feel rested when you wake
  • Any aches or pains not felt the previous night, especially jaw/tooth related aches

During the Day

  • The amount of caffeine consumed (type e.g. coffee or tea, amount and what time was it)
  • The amount of alcohol consumed (again, type, amount and what time it was)
  • Any stressful events (what kind of events were they, work related, family related? Do you think they will continue tomorrow or were they a once off?)
  • Exercise (what exercise did you do, at what time and for how long)
  • Did you have any daytime naps (if so, what time of day and what was the length of nap)
  • Any medications taken, whether they worked and how they made you feel the next day

At Night

  • What time you went to bed
  • The last foods eaten before going to bed, including the amount of each food
  • The estimated time it took you to fall asleep
  • How many times your sleep was disturbed and how long it took to fall back asleep
  • The total time spent sleeping (not lying in bed)
  • Anything else about the night you feel is relevant to record.

It’s important to make sure you are consistent with this diary. Ideally you should keep one for a couple of weeks to help accurately determine the root cause of your sleep problems.

By being diligent about updating your sleep diary throughout the day, you can also start to determine what is inside and outside the realm of your control. Hopefully keeping this diary will help you realise what is impacting your sleep. If after a couple of weeks of recording your sleep you can’t pinpoint the root cause of your poor rest, take it to a doctor or sleep specialist and they may be able to help with diagnosing a particular sleep disorder.

Why I Love…Sleep

Unfortunately, the fast paced, Western world we live in is interfering with our natural sleep patterns. Not only are we sleeping less than we did in the past, our sleep quality has also decreased.

We all know that a bad night’s sleep is not beneficial. Besides the dark circles under the eyes and a foggy brain, lack of sleep can actually increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, obesity and negatively impact your immune function!

Sleep is vitally important, not only for your health, but also your wellbeing. Here are some of the reasons why we love sleep (we say ‘some’ because our list of why we love sleep would top at least 100).

Recover from Adrenal Fatigue

  1. It can help to balance your hunger hormones

You know that feeling of endless hunger, where no food will satisfy your cravings? You’ve probably experienced it after a late or restless night. Studies show that sleep deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories. A good night’s sleep helps to maintain a balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) and full (leptin). When we have a poor night’s sleep, this balance is disrupted, leading to poor appetite regulation.

     2. It can reduce inflammation

Sleep loss has been linked to long-term inflammation and cell damage. Poor sleep can adversely impact our body’s inflammatory responses and increase the risk of inflammatory disease recurrence. Studies have shown that patients with Crohn’s disease who were sleep deprived were twice as likely to relapse compared to patients who slept well. On the other hand, solid sleep helps the body in its recovery process and keep inflammation at bay.

     3. It can help to improve your workouts

Have you ever tried to workout after a night of poor sleep? Yep, not that great. That’s because sleep has been shown to improve athletic performance, including reaction time, speed and accuracy. If you really want to improve and make decent progress with your exercise plan you may want to consider getting more shut eye.

      4. It can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke

Did you know, sleeping less than 7 hours a night has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke? Both sleep quality and duration are believed to drive chronic disease. Get some rest!

       5. It can improve your immune function

A good night’s sleep can improve your immune function and ability to fight of disease – especially the common cold. Even a minor loss in sleep can impair your immune function. Studies have shown that people who sleep less than 7 hours a night are almost three times more likely to catch a cold than people who sleep 8 or more hours.

Copper Toxicity and Adrenal Fatigue

Copper and Adrenal Fatigue (AF) are deeply intertwined. Even a slight imbalance in the copper to zinc ratio can set up a positive feedback loop between copper, stress and AF.

Using technical, scientific language:

Zinc is required for the production of adrenal cortical hormones. Therefore, if zinc levels are too low, or copper levels too high, the production of these hormones decreases – and quite rapidly!

Copper is needed for our body to form ATP (aka energy). However, in order to do so, it has to bind to either metallothionein or ceruloplasmin. These two substance though, are only produced when our adrenals send a signal to our liver to do so. When our adrenals aren’t working properly (in the case of AF), they get a little bit slack (slackness depending on your stage of AF) and don’t do their job. Consequently, instead of being used by the body, copper accumulates in the blood and/or tissue.

But copper stimulates our nervous system and brain function increasing the response of our fight-or-flight mode. As we become more sensitive to stress we lose zinc quickly and our adrenal glands become even more depleted. But as our adrenal glands become more depleted less copper is utilised, perpetuating the problem!!

Furthermore, excess copper impacts the functioning of our liver causing it to not be able to produce the copper binding substances. When these aren’t produced, we have trouble forming ATP and fatigue entails.

If that got a bit confusing, here is a diagram to show the feedback loop between copper toxicity and adrenal fatigue.

Copper Toxicity and Adrenal Fatigue



Adrenal Fatigue vs. Addison’s disease – What is the difference?

Here at Healed by Bacon we suffer from a myriad of health problems – autoimmune diseases, adrenal insufficiency – you name it, we’ve got it! (All jokes aside, if we didn’t have them we wouldn’t be able to help everyone else struggling to find answers about why they feel the way they do).

If you have read my About section, you would know that I have Addison’s disease – an autoimmune disease whereby the body attacks the adrenal glands and therefore can’t produce enough cortisol. Addison’s is quite rare; affecting only 1 in 100,000.

However, in the later stages of adrenal fatigue the line between AF and Addison’s (or adrenal insufficiency) can become blurred.

While the two conditions are etiologically different (that is the causes are different), the symptoms they produce are quite similar – both resulting in the dysfunction of the adrenal glands (i.e. feeling like crap!).

addison's disease

So what is Addison’s disease anyway?

Addison’s is a hormone, or endocrine, disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol and aldosterone. Adrenal insufficiency can be categorized as primary or secondary. Addison’s disease is the common term for primary adrenal insufficiency. Secondary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the pituitary gland fails to stimulate the adrenal glands to produce enough of the hormone cortisol.

Approximately 70% of diagnosed cases of Addison’s disease are caused by autoimmune disorders, where the body’s own immune system gradually destroys the adrenal cortex (the outer layer of the adrenal glands).

Symptoms of Addison’s disease

The symptoms of adrenal insufficiency usually begin gradually and can often be confused for the later stages of adrenal fatigue. Common symptoms include:

  • Salt cravings,
  • Irritability,
  • Muscle weakness,
  • Hyperpigmentation and/or vitiligo,
  • Hypoglycaemia,
  • Dizzy spells or fainting (due to low blood sugar),
  • Irregular or non-existent menstrual periods,
  • Loss of libido (especially in women),
  • Depression, and
  • Extreme fatigue (often chronic fatigue).

Diagnosing of Addison’s disease

In its early stages, adrenal insufficiency can be difficult to diagnose (due to the similarity of symptoms with the later stages of adrenal fatigue). Generally, the presence of hyperpigmentation and/or vitiligo will provide a significant indication of suspected Adison’s disease.

A diagnosis of Addison’s disease is made by biochemical laboratory tests. The aim of these tests is first to determine whether there are insufficient levels of cortisol and then to establish the cause. X-ray exams of the adrenal and pituitary glands also are useful in helping to establish the cause.

Adrenal Crisis

Sudden, severe worsening of adrenal insufficiency symptoms is called adrenal crisis or, when suffering from Addison’s disease, an Addisonian crisis. In the majority of cases, symptoms of adrenal insufficiency become serious enough that medical treatment is sought before an adrenal crisis occurs.

Common symptoms of adrenal crisis can include:

  • Sudden, severe pain in the lower back, abdomen, or legs,
  • Severe vomiting,
  • Severe diarrhoea,
  • Dehydration,
  • Low blood pressure, and
  • Loss of consciousness.

If not treated, an adrenal crisis can cause death.

How is adrenal crisis treated?

Adrenal crisis is treated with adrenal hormones. People with adrenal crisis need immediate treatment. Any delay can cause death. When people with adrenal crisis are vomiting or unconscious and cannot take their medication, the hormones can be given intraveneously.

A person with adrenal insufficiency should carry a corticosteroid injection at all times and make sure that others know how and when to administer the injection, in case the person becomes unconscious. They should also wear a Medicalert bracelet detailing their illness and medication requirements.

Adrenal Fatigue (AF)

If you have read my about me, you would know I suffer from Addison’s disease, which is also known as adrenal insufficiency or hypoadrenia. Addison’s is a disease whereby the adrenal glands are unable to produce sufficient cortisol to support normal bodily functions. This can leave you with extreme fatigue, electrolyte imbalance, hypoglycaemia, reduced muscle mass, insomnia and lethargy, depression, brain fog, decreased productivity and a feeling of overall life discontent.

Whilst Addison’s is a relatively rare disease, adrenal fatigue (or Non Addison’s Hypoadrenia) is in fact, quite common. Adrenal fatigue is the result of severe, acute or chronic stress whereby the adrenal glands can no longer keep up with the increased cortisol demand. In a nutshell, adrenal fatigue occurs when the amount of stress overextends the body’s capacity to recover from the stresses. This results in the same problems which occur with Addison’s.

Adrenal fatigue is becoming increasingly common as a result of the stressful western lifestyle; we are constantly stressed from study, work, family, money and never take the time to de-stress, relax and heal our bodies.


AF – What causes it?

Adrenal fatigue is caused by any stress (internal or external) that taxes the body’s adrenals. The main sources of stress, and therefore the main causes of adrenal fatigue include:

  • Death of a Loved One
  • Financial Pressures
  • Chronic or Acute Infection
  • Emotional and Psychological Stress
  • Caffeine (especially when used as a stimulant when tired)
  • Poor Diet (high in sugar and grains)
  • Wound Healing
  • Inadequate sleep and staying up late despite being tired
  • Smoking
  • Over-Exertion and Perfectionism

Whilst a number of these contributing factors are out of our control, lifestyle (including diet, exercise, sleep and emotional stress management) is an extremely important component of Adrenal Fatigue recovery.

What to eat with AF

Given the hypoglycaemia that occurs with adrenal fatigue, it is important that carbohydrates are not consumed in isolation, as this leads to a rapid blood sugar rise and fall, leaving the body starving again. Eating carbs alone enhances stress placed on the adrenals and can actually induce an Addisonian Crisis in those with Addison’s! Meals should ideally be a combination of protein, fats and maybe some starchy carbs, however I feel best eating purely fats and protein.


Salt, particularly Celtic sea salt, in an imperative addition to each meal. Electrolyte imbalance (sodium is wasted and potassium retained) is a common symptom associated with adrenal fatigue and salt cravings are simply the body calling out for what it needs most. So if you have a salt craving, get the salt shaker out and use it! I even add 1tsp of Celtic sea salt to each 750ml bottle of water I drink!

If you are worried about your salt intake, please don’t be; when we are having enough salt, our bodies will tell us by dulling our cravings and losing our taste for it.

Conversely, foods high in potassium should be avoided (especially in the morning – this means no more fruit for breakfast, sorry)! High potassium foods worsen adrenal fatigue by enhancing already existing sodium-potassium imbalances. If you are going to eat a high potassium meal, it is important that an adequate amount of salt is consumed with it. For example, if you are going to have a piece of fruit, make sure you sprinkle it liberally with Celtic sea salt. This may sound incredibly bizarre, but most people with poor adrenal function will find it actually tastes better!

Poor adrenal function lowers hydrochloric acid which is required for the adequate breakdown of food, particularly protein. Given protein is critical to adrenal recovery, it is best to take a HCL supplement with meals to assist in digestion. The best sources of protein are organic and grass fed meats and eggs, which all place the least strain on the digestive system.

Whilst many of us love fruit, people with poor adrenal function should moderate fruit consumption. Fruit exacerbates pre-existing hypoglycaemic issues in those with adrenal fatigue, and particular fruits such as banana, are very high in potassium, which puts our electrolyte balance further out of whack! If you absolutely love fruit and don’t want to give it up, I would recommend eating your fruit later in the day (after lunch) and consuming it with a heap of fat (coconut cream or nut butter work well here) to slow the digestion of the sugar and avoid the rapid insulin spike and fall. Any fruit (and vegetable for that matter) should be organically grown as people with adrenal problems are particularly sensitive to chemical sprays and pesticides used in commercial farming.

When to eat with AF

Diet and Adrenal Fatigue
Diet plays a crucial role in adrenal fatigue, whether it’s a poor diet causing adrenal fatigue or a good diet assisting in recovery. Three dietary components, when to eat, what to eat and how to eat, all play a major role in healing adrenal fatigue.

When to Eat
It is absolutely imperative that people with adrenal fatigue eat before 10am. Not eating soon enough after waking is the worst dietary mistake you can make if you suffer from poor adrenal function. If you do not feel like eating in the morning, a nutritious snack is better than nothing, but a meal of good quality protein and fat is best. If you do not have a good meal before 10am, your body will be playing catch-up for the rest of the day, which is very stressful for the adrenals.

An early lunch, slightly before noon, is ideal as your body will have quickly used up the energy from breakfast. A good snack, high in protein and fats, should also be consumed between 2-3pm to sustain the cortisol dip that usually occurs between 3-4pm.

Dinner should be consumed between 5-6pm and a few bites of a high quality protein and fat combination should be eaten just before bed to prevent any sleep disturbances that may occur during the night.

Additionally, those suffering from adrenal fatigue should not skip meals or follow any intermittent fasting protocols. Skipping meals only stresses the adrenals more and therefore worsens symptoms.