Chronic over exercising and under eating are major stressors. They can cause physiological disruption and metabolic disturbances leading to inflammation and increased cortisol, which can trigger a cascade of hormonal imbalances and issues (insulin resistance, hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, etc.). How do you know if your healthy habits aren’t so healthy anymore? Read on!
1. You Feel Softer Instead of Stronger
When the body isn’t getting enough overall calories, it switches into starvation mode—a stressor that increases cortisol. Overproduction of this stress hormone may cause the body to become insulin resistant. Instead of burning fat, your body targets lean muscle mass leading to a slower metabolism.
Eat More: Calories. Eat above your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)—the minimum amount of calories that your body needs for essential physiological functions. A shortcut formula to calculate your RMR is to multiply your ideal body weight (IBW) in pounds by 10. Remember, this quick formula doesn’t account for physical activity. Most active women need between 1600 and 2000 calories per day total depending on their IBW, workout intensity, and duration.
Exercise Less: Take it easy on the cardio and focus on building metabolism-boosting muscle tissue.
2. You’re Always Getting Sick
If you view “rest” as a four-letter word, you’re creating opportunities for harmful bacteria and other germs to thrive. After moderate and intense exercise, the body repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue, but without a break from those tasks, it can’t fight infections as easily.
Eat More: Sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso. The GI tract is home to nearly 70 percent of your immune system and you can support it by maintaining healthy gut flora. Include daily food sources of probiotics to nourish the intestinal lining and vitamin C to strengthen immunity.
Exercise Less. Take at least one or two rest days a week to allow your body time to recover. If you must workout, opt for light walking, restorative yoga, or foam rolling.
3. Workouts Leave You Exhausted, Not Energized
After a grueling sweat session, it’s totally normal to feel wiped out but also invigorated from mood-boosting endorphins. Feel like you were hit by a truck or struggling to maintain your usual level of endurance? Fatigue and exhaustion are commonly associated with consuming too few calories. If your carbohydrate intake is also too low, that alone can exacerbate the body’s stress response.
Eat More: Carbohydrates. Try nutrient-dense, non-starchy vegetables, low-sugar berries, whole grains, sweet potatoes, and beets. Generally speaking, women need at least 100–150 grams of digestible carbohydrates per day (even if you follow an ancestral diet!) to support energy levels and hormone production.
Exercise Less: Keep HIIT sessions to no more than twice a week and eat more carbohydrates on those days—especially within two hours before or after exercise to maximize muscle glycogen.