You’ve probably heard the term adrenal fatigue before, but what does it look like and what does it really mean?
Is adrenal fatigue real?
We know that CrossFitters put their bodies under a unique amount of stress by combining high-intensity and heavy weights, and understanding what that stress can do to our body in combination with internal stressors is important for providing adequate support to recover and continue making progress in the gym.
HPA AXIS & HOW IT WORKS
It’s first important to understand how your HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis works to connect your central nervous system and endocrine glands. When we understand how our body is meant to work, it’s much easier to know what signs and symptoms tell us about how the system is working as a whole.
The HPA axis is made up of your hypothalamus in the brain, the pituitary gland within the hypothalamus, and your adrenal glands which sit on top of your kidneys. The HPA axis is responsible for creating the neuroendocrine component of the stress response.
When our body and brain interpret something as a stressor, a stress response is initiated. This response is characterized by the release of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) from the hypothalamus. CRH binds to receptors located in the anterior pituitary, triggering the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). In return, ACTH stimulates the release of cortisol in the bloodstream by the adrenal cortex.
Under normal circumstances, the hypothalamus and pituitary are able to sense when there are adequate levels of cortisol in the bloodstream and alter the amounts of CRH and ACTH being released to regulate cortisol accordingly as needed based on stressors.