Clinical Nutritionist and SB Tri Club member Chris Latham shares her 3 Part Nutrition Series:  Conditions Commonly Seen in Athletes.  For more information on Chris and her services, visit

Conditions Commonly Seen in Athletes (Part 3): Adrenal Fatigue 

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Athletes are known for pushing themselves hard, resulting in fatigue and tiredness. Adrenal Fatigue is a condition caused by chronic mental, physical, and/or emotional stress. These stressors tax the hormone production of your adrenal glands and wipe out your energy levels. Fatiguing stressors include physical and emotional stress, high volume and high intensity exercise, and environmental items such as pesticides.

Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include difficulties falling and staying asleep at night, headaches, difficulty waking up, cravings for sweets and caffeine, a weakened immune system, and dizziness when standing. Even with a good night’s sleep, an individual with adrenal fatigue feels tired all the time.

What Are the Adrenal Glands?

The adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys. These glands make the following hormones:

  • Cortisol: regulates metabolism and helps your body respond to stress
  • Epinephrine (otherwise known as adrenaline): increases your heart rate and rushes blood to the muscles and brain. It also spikes your blood sugar level by converting glycogen to glucose in the liver for energy.
  • Norepinephrine (also known as noradrenaline): works with epinephrine in response to stress.
  • Aldosterone: controls blood pressure by maintaining a balance of water and salt

How do You Test for Adrenal Fatigue?

A common way to test for adrenal fatigue is to do a cortisol/saliva test. This is done four times throughout the day to measure your cortisol pattern. Cortisol should be high in the morning and decrease throughout the day in preparation for bedtime when melatonin (the sleep hormone) starts to rise. When cortisol rises melatonin decreases and vice versa.

What Can I Do Nutritionally to Help with Adrenal Fatigue?

Taking an adaptogen is a great place to start when trying to decrease adrenal fatigue. Adaptogens are natural substances that help a person’s body adapt to stress. Adaptogens help the body regulate hormones.

Common adaptogens include:

  • Ginseng (also known as Siberian ginseng): Increases the use of fatty acids, spares glycogen, decreases stress, and is a natural energy booster.
  • Ashwaghanda: Helps with blood sugar management and keeps the mind sharp.
  • Holy Basil: Prevents an increase in cortisol, and is a powerful anti-inflammatory, as well as gives you a sense of well-being.
  • Rhodiola (one of my personal favorites): Increases the central nervous system, decreases depression, enhances cognitive function, decreases mental fatigue, and increases the immune system.

To Summarize…

  • Recover properly
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Sleep
  • Don’t over train!