Adrenal fatigue is a condition that occurs when the adrenal glands become unable to meet the stress demands on the body. It can be caused by chronic stress, a serious illness, or by an intensely stressful event. For athletes, adrenal fatigue can result from excess training without proper recovery. The adrenal glands are directly wired to the nervous system, and they respond nearly instantaneously to any kind of stress.
When the adrenals become fatigued, they are no longer able to make adequate levels of the ‘stress’ hormones that it normally makes, particularly cortisol. When a person has adrenal fatigue, they become fatigued to the point that a good night’s sleep doesn’t restore their energy. They cannot function without large amounts of sugar and caffeine – these are needed to get them moving in the morning, and to keep them awake the rest of the day.
Hallmark signs include exercise intolerance, overwhelming fatigue, intense sugar cravings, and non-restorative sleep. Athletes can experience poor or very slow recovery, elevated resting heart rate, increased injuries as the body can't control inflammation, and weight gain around the waist.