We thought running long distances made everyone fall asleep by 8:00 p.m.
It felt normal that endurance training would totally fatigue the body and make the runner tired the rest of the day.
My husband took the opportunity to train for a 25K run this spring, and as has happened before with running over an hour for him, he experienced severe fatigue on the long run days, feeling completely wiped out physically and mentally for the rest of the day. He would often go to bed by 9:00 – not that I was complaining about getting my laundry room organized while chatting with my mom, but it was a little odd that he was falling asleep while praying with the kids at bedtime and unable to roughhouse with them after work.
My good friend was training for the same race, and when I found out that contrary to what we expected, she was not physically exhausted after every ten-mile-and-up run – just sore legs – I realized some of our assumptions might have been a little off.
Then we discovered that my hubby didn’t just have “white coat syndrome” when the blood pressure cuff came out – he actually had consistently high blood pressure this winter. White coat syndrome is a colloquial term for the experience of blood pressure going through the roof because the patient is affected by being in the doctor’s office and nerves about the blood pressure cuff. In my husband’s case, it meant that it’s possible his high blood pressure was missed just because it was always high at the doc’s.
With his family history of early heart attack and a little research online suggesting that distance training might be a lethal combination with high blood pressure, we became concerned about his training regimen.
He was deciding whether to throw in the towel or try to figure out how to train safely for his heart when I happened to ask Lydia Shatney, Nutritional Therapist from Divine Health from the Inside Out, if she had any experience with high blood pressure and endurance running.
We were emailing about something else entirely but ended up talking about endurance training and adrenal health, similar to what Bethany reported in this overexercising post, and Lydia offered to let us test out her hair analysis program to see if my husband had any mineral imbalances.
She explained that while running such long distances, the body’s stores of glucose will get used up, and then the body draws on its stored energy – in the weight loss community, this sounds like a great plan, but that also means using up minerals your body needs and causing the adrenal glands to work overtime, secreting the adrenaline that takes over when the glucose energy runs out.
In a way, he had been using up the energy and hormone function he was supposed to have for the rest of his day – and that’s exactly what it felt like!
We weren’t sure how this would all play out, but it was a relief to hear someone explaining the cause-effect relationship between the distance training and fatigue that made perfect common sense to us – and even better that there might be a solution.
The Pain of Giving up a Dream
For a few days, it was really touch and go.
I could tell my husband was really quite distraught by the idea of just giving up on this goal he had set, both because of all the training he had already put in and the competitiveness in him to finish what he had started.
He decided he would continue to train but monitor his heart rate carefully during runs, keeping it within a safer range, which meant slowing down a bit more than he usually would. Better to finish the race than not try at all.
He also agreed to try a hair analysis, so we cut his hair and sent in a sample to the lab for Lydia to evaluate.
His results would be specific to the time period in his life – a snapshot of current health, not an overall picture of total lifetime health. That’s what you want though as you try to balance your minerals properly for your current needs. We knew he had this fatigue to deal with, possible pre-hypertension or worse, and of course we’ve already battled Crohn’s Disease and high triglycerides.
Lydia explained to us that the running may have depleted his adrenal reserves on account of him likely drawing on those reserves for each long run – the hair analysis would explain more, but it would also change when he stopped training – which was unfortunately a week after we got the results.
Feeling the Burn
“Burning calories” is again a major goal in the weight loss community, but burning through one’s fuel stores is actually really hard on your health.
My husband came back on the hair analysis as a “fast oxidizer,” which meant he was burning through his fuel very quickly – it explains why he would be out of energy even when he was working hard to eat appropriate before and after run meals and snacks and increasing his calories throughout the day.
Being a fast oxidizer is not a synonym for what people often refer to as a “high metabolism,” those people who seem to be able to eat massive quantities of food and still remain thin as a rail.
On the contrary, Lydia suggested that my husband might have trouble losing weight and keeping it off (he does) because his adrenal glands weren’t producing the appropriate amounts of adrenaline and cortisol. His cortisol production was possibly high from the running, causing inflammation, which his body would have to deal with. It may hang onto extra weight for additional reserves, expecting him to need them during those endurance runs.
He DID lose weight during the 25K training, and he has lost weight before when training for a half marathon, doing P90X or Insanity…but it seems like as soon as he lets up just a tiny bit on working really, really hard on both exercising and diet (grain-free usually makes good progress), it starts to come right back on.
He’s gained 5 pounds or so since the race a month ago, so we’re not happy about that upward tick at all…but it doesn’t seem alarming. Yet.
Lydia’s main concern was his Na/K ratio, and she said he needed to take at least a week, maybe more, of rest without exercising after his 25K run was over.
He did, maybe two weeks, and then he started P90X 3, which is 30 minutes a day of mostly high intensity interval training (HIIT). That sort of workout is often billed as better for heart health than pure cardio, especially intense, endurance cardio.
But How Can a Haircut Show Anything About Your Health?
We have to back up a little bit and tell the story of doing the hair analysis and what it was like.
Hair is used as a window into the body because it shows a picture of a certain time in your life – the time the hair was growing – so your practitioner can see the amounts and ratios of minerals in your system and whether you have any heavy metal toxicity or not.
Doing the test itself was super easy – we just did a regular haircut (my husband wears a short-cropped buzz cut) and collected the appropriate amount of hair to send in to the lab. If you have longer hair, you just cut a bit right from the scalp on the underside of your head so no one can really see that it’s missing. (There are detailed instructions in the kit you’ll receive.)
We had an hour-long phone call with Lydia to go over the results, what they signaled about his health, and the dietary and supplement protocol she recommended for him to get back into balance.
I really liked that this would be a unique-to-him supplement regimen that would address what he actually needed, instead of just shooting in the dark and trying things we read about that sounded helpful.
We’ve probably spent a lot of money on supplements over the years with little to show for it but feeling like we’re doing the right thing.
(For example, Lydia mentioned that a good quality ghee would have about the same nutrient profile as fermented cod liver oil, but far less expensive.)
- Sodium was elevated, which can impact blood pressure. It’s not that he was eating too much salt; it’s a stress response. BUT he should be careful a little bit with salt. Avoid adding it at the table if possible. He needs electrolyte drinks (which I completely forgot about because he wasn’t endurance training anymore. Writing this post is a good reminder to re-tweak the diet and look over the notes again).
- “He’s kind of in adrenal exhaustion but also showing acute stress. So it’s tricky….” says Lydia.
- Potassium is very high. She thinks it may come down quickly after the race. It’s associated with retention of potassium in tissue as stress response; the level doesn’t mean he’s eating too much potassium (although he does love a banana every morning!).
- Phosphorus being low tells us he needs digestive support. B enzyme (on Amazon) is a good idea and on his supplement list.
- His metals were pretty clean, just aluminum and arsenic. “Everyone has aluminum; you never can avoid it in the world we live in.” He is supposed to find a deodorant without aluminum to reduce his exposure (I offered him a few to try but I don’t think he’s switched over…). Arsenic is similar, unavoidable, but you just try to be aware of where it comes in and work to reduce it. “Arsenic [in the hair analysis] is becoming more common because it’s getting sprayed on our food everywhere. (I was thinking our Berkey filter got that out, so maybe our exposure is less? Although we also don’t eat all organic produce, so it probably gets in there too.)
- We need to understand the metals in light of trying to support the mineral balance – she recommends one Epsom salt bath a week. That’s one way to assist elimination of heavy metals. Aluminum is excreted through kidneys mainly, which is why the number one recommendation (and one we have the whole family doing as part of our summer morning routine) is…
Drink a glass of water right away in the morning (even if you don’t want to)! Force yourself to do it. That gives your body a chance to detox from whatever happened overnight and sets you up for hydration throughout the day. We adults drink 15-20 ounces and the kids drink whatever size glass they choose.
Oh, and drat – I almost forgot what Lydia underscored as the most important thing to get the body back in balance…if you listened to our interview on adrenal health I bet you can guess…sleep.
We really should be going to sleep at 10 p.m., or at least by 11.
He’ll look over at me at 10:00 and say, “Well dear, it’s 10:00. If we were doing what we’re supposed to be doing, we’d be in bed right now…”
He’s sarcastic because typically we’re just barely finishing up in the kitchen with dishes or we’re just starting “date night” together or…or…or…
I know we should…and I wish we could…but we’re just not doing it.
The Nutritional Protocol
During our phone consult with Lydia, I could feel that my husband was initially quite encouraged by what he was hearing. Usually a very reserved guy, he became more animated going back and forth with Lydia. I felt like he was finally hearing some explanations for some of the annoying things we was experiencing, and it was exhilarating to finally have a thread of hope that he could figure them out and root them out.
Then as the list of lifestyle and dietary changes began rolling out, I could tangibly feel his discouragement. Summer is a hard time to give up so many foods (both socially and agriculturally, with get-togethers and fresh fruit in season, etc.), and he was just coming off a Whole30 for 40 days (Lent) so understandably he was not looking forward to continuing to omit fun foods.
He was also realistic about how difficult getting more sleep would be for us.
With my time disability, I was like, “Oh, yes, we should totally do a sleep challenge and go to bed early and get up at the same time every day, blah blah blah…”
Yeah, right, Katie. Who’s the first to break THAT resolution!??
As for the dietary changes, he was labeled as a “fast oxidizer,” and the goal of the dietary plan would be to stabilize his oxidation rate, i.e. balance his metabolism.
“By balancing your metabolism, you may lose/gain weight, your brain will work faster and your ability to detox will improve. Your overall health will improve as well.”
One of his mineral ratios that was low indicated impaired sugar and carbohydrate tolerance, so avoiding grains was part of the program.
Another ratio also indicated he was in the exhaustion stage of stress (see the video interview for an explanation), so decreasing stress and sleeping more were indicated there (but really – who doesn’t need to reduce their stress and sleep more in our culture today?!).
We already typically avoid all soy, bad fats/oils, most processed foods and refined sugar products, so that part wasn’t a huge change (except for those social situations).
She recommended that he cut down on the coffee or try going “half-caf,” which he has no problem.
Then there were some intricate pieces about balancing proteins, avoiding histamine fruits and veggies and high phytic acid foods, some foods he should include more of (magnesium and zinc-rich foods, amino acids that improve calcium absorption, and organ meats).
He should eat 6-9 cups of cooked vegetables a day but only a few starchy veggies. If he feels tired or craves sweets after a meal, it’s likely he ate too much starch, the game plan states.
Cooked kale, pumpkin, cruciferous veggies and root veggies should all play a major role and nightshades reduced or eliminated.
Bone broth and should be incorporated often, at least a cup a day of broth.
He should eat slowly and mindfully, not too late at night, and get some outdoor physical activity 10-15 minutes a day in the morning and afternoon.
It’s been almost six weeks since our consultation with Lydia about the results of the hair analysis, and I admit we were slow to get going.
It took me a while to order the five supplements and for them to arrive, and of course it’s a little bit hit and miss in taking them – new routines are always tough to begin 100% accurately. So the six weeks has probably been more like 3-4 of really getting the supplementation, and I never even got to read all the way through the 12-page dietary game plan, just my husband’s Cliff’s notes.
We’re not very good students!
Here’s what I wrote to Lydia when she did the one-month check-in to see how we were doing:
He’s remained mostly grain-free but for rice, he’s had maybe 2 Epsom salt baths and we’ve been working hard on the water habit. Bone broth has been lacking for sure 🙁 but we were better at that at the beginning of the Whole 30 in Feb/March. I haven’t sourced chicken livers…
So are we falling down on the job or making enough of an attempt that we should see “some” progress at least, to know we’re moving in the right direction? He hasn’t been as fatigued, but of course he finished his endurance training right after we spoke!!
He took 2 weeks off working out and then started P90X 3, a 30-minute a day HIIT style training. Much different, much shorter, and he hasn’t felt the fatigue. But since we changed two elements at once, who knows what did it?
Alarmingly, his weight is ticking up a little bit, but it’s also hard to say whether that’s gaining muscle from the weight training or if he’s actually gaining back fat he lost while running and keeping a more perfect diet (too many opportunities to drink beer and socialize right now…plus ice cream) 😉
And sleep…10p.m. comes really early when all our kids aren’t even in bed until after 9! Excuses excuses, I know, but suffice it to say that we haven’t been good on the bedtimes.
I guess our only question is prioritizing and will we make a difference?
Lydia’s response was gracious and positive:
I’m all about being as thorough as possible in the most manageable way – so I would not say this is a failure at all. Progress can be slow -think of the turtle 😉 It’s all good! Sleep, rest and not overdoing it, supplements and eating enough are key!
The weight gain is very common, though you are right, beer and ice cream can do it 😉
Some people may gain a bit of weight (when first starting out on their HTMA protocols) before they lose it in the long run. I know this is a concern for many. But trust me, your body may need to gain first before it can safely effectively lose weight long term.
It’s possible that your body is holding on to weight because your cells are actually starving for nutrients. This can be the case in high calcium individuals because the calcium makes cells less permeable. Once the body gets more nourishment via food for the adrenals/thyroid and they start to repair and the calcium comes down the body will be better able to lose weight.
Another possible HTMA marker for the body holding on to weight is acute stress either in a faster oxidation rate with a high sodium-to-potassium ratio. Even high potassium alone (which correlates with cortisol) could cause one to hold on to tummy weight.
SO, the moral of the story is……you have to balance out the whole body and improve the oxidation rate as well as balance Ca/Mg, Ca/K and bring down calcium, acute stress (elevated potassium and a high sodium-to-potassium ratio) for the body to safely and effectively lose weight.
You have to get healthy to lose weight, not lose weight to get healthy. I think I heard that from Sean Croxton ages ago and it’s needs to be reiterated time and time again because many people get stuck in conventional thinking about weight loss. It’s not a linear thing, weight loss that is……hang in there!!
It’s more important to restore your energy glands FIRST, then the weight will follow (and it may ebb and flow and you may need to be okay with that, it’s the body’s way of working things out).
Weight gain is your body’s mechanism for dealing with unwanted toxins that it doesn’t know what to do with, it stores it in fat to deal with later.
Weight will not come off and/or stay off without correcting one’s underlying metabolism and biochemistry (mineral imbalances). Insulin resistance and thyroid hormone resistance (aka: high Ca/K ratio) must be resolved to enjoy lasting weight loss.
It’s a lot to digest (pun intended), and we will be attempting to right the ship a bit more at this midpoint in the process, adding a few more lifestyle and dietary pieces that I was reminded of by going through everything to write this post. (The follow-up hair analysis is after two months for his metabolic type.)
The Blood Pressure Conundrum
We were as shocked as could be when the blood pressure readings at home kept coming back high and higher. They were only low/acceptable immediately after a run, which is normal for runners according to Dr. Google.
You wouldn’t think stopping running would positively impact blood pressure…but his readings have been almost 100% normal since the race!
So either endurance training was giving him hypertension or the supplements he’s taking, even in the relative absence of other dietary and lifestyle changes (we’re probably doing about 30% of what was recommended?), are doing something in the right direction.
We’re really curious to see where this takes us, how his energy levels and weight continue to change, and what the hair re-test will demonstrate.