Exercise and Weight Gain

exercise and weight gain, gaining weight working out, cortisol and fat, stress and fat, stress and weight gain, Colorado Natural Medicine and Acupuncture

“I just finished my workout. It was 30 minutes of HIIT, right in my own home courtesy of a link on YouTube. Five years ago I would have cringed at the rather low intensity of it, the relatively short amount of time, and the fact that I did it in my living room.

But today?

Today I know that it’s the toughest workout I will do all week and that I will feel better because of the short amount of time and less intense stress on my adrenal glands. For that, I am grateful for the recognition and advice Dr. Graves provided me in changing my perspective on everything I thought was right in order for me to strive for my own personal optimal health.”

– CNMA Client

This client came to us a few years ago as an avid exerciser. Doing what she had been told by studies and the media, her week consisted of at least one hour of intense exercise 6 days a week. She was lifting weights and taking cardio and cycle classes that were providing a great outlet to burn off steam and sweat out toxins!

However, after years of this schedule, she began to notice some unusual physical symptoms. Never having to think about sleep in the past, she started to have difficulty falling and then staying asleep. She was up around 1:00am every morning, counting sheep for at least an hour before falling back into a slumber.  Primary care doctors also saw her blood pressure rising, something she had never suffered from before.

And not only that…but she started to notice weight gain.

With everything else staying pretty normal, she couldn’t figure out where it was all coming from.  It wasn’t until a visit with Dr. Graves did she learn about the connection between her workouts and her cortisol levels, realizing the changes she had to make.

This client’s challenge is not uncommon.  We see it frequently at CNMA and it usually comes as a surprise to people as our culture typically associates intense exercise with good health and fitness.  However, this society norm may not work for everyone…especially when it comes to taking care of our adrenal glands.

What do my adrenal glands have to do with working out?


When your body is put under stress – whether that is because of work, kids, traffic, or yes, even workouts – your adrenal glands produce cortisol.  Cortisol gets the body prepared for fight or flight and can be of great benefit in providing energy and getting us ready to go to battle.

However, when you stress your body too much or for too long of a time, your adrenal glands can become unbalanced, producing cortisol at inappropriate times and at excess levels (such as not lowering cortisol levels after a workout or an increase in production in the middle of the night).

This can lead to unusual symptoms such as:

– a feeling of not being able to slow down

– high blood pressure

– sleep disturbances

– weight gain

and yes, you read that right.  Weight gain.

Cortisol stores fat so the more excess cortisol you produce, the more likely you are to suffer unwanted weight gain.

How do I know if my cortisol levels are too high?
At CNMA, we conduct simple saliva tests that analyzes cortisol levels throughout the day.  The results can tell us how the adrenal glands are functioning and provide insight on how to best heal them if need be.

When we tested the above client’s cortisol levels, we learned that her body was producing too much cortisol and at non-ideal times of the day.  Within 1-2 weeks of her test, we were able to analyze the results and get her started on an easy naturopathic protocol that made a significant impact on her health. Her weight stabilized, her blood pressure came back to normal, and her sleep issues went away. It wasn’t an overnight process, but one that healed the root cause of her issues in a natural way.

How do I heal my adrenal glands?
If it’s determined that your adrenal glands are producing too much cortisol or functioning at less than optimal levels, there are a variety of naturopathic options.

First and foremost, you may need to reconsider your workout routine.  A 20-30 minute workout of HIIT (high intensity interval training) can be a great source of exercise without getting cortisol levels too high.  The short breaks in between repetitions allow for cortisol levels to come down frequently.

In addition to HIIT, active rest movement is key. Walking, yoga, paddle boarding, hiking, snow shoeing, stretching, and leisurely biking can all be exercise workouts that are helpful when it comes to staying healthy and active without stressing the adrenal glands.

A combination of HIIT and active rest are highly recommended for reducing high cortisol levels and keeping them level.

In addition, the following can help restore appropriate cortisol levels:

Acupuncture: typically, within 3-6 sessions we see a significant lowering of cortisol levels with acupuncture

Adaptogen Herbal Supplements such as: Adrenal Response™ by Innate Response, AdrenoMend™ by Douglas Laboratories®, Cortisol Manager™ by Integrative Therapuetics®, and Enerphos® by T.S. Neesby help support adrenal functioning and can help heal unbalanced adrenal glands

self care: relaxing activities such as an epsom salt bath, reading, writing, and meditation

“After my cortisol levels were tested, Dr. Graves performed acupuncture treatments, prescribed me Adrenal Response™ and Enerphos®, and encouraged me to change up my workouts.  After the first week, my body began to crave the new routine and within one month my sleeping issues disappeared. Not to mention my blood pressure went down before the next time I saw my primary care physician!

Since then, I am aware of what the best type of exercise is for me, the symptoms of when it’s been too much, and what to do if I overdo it.  My workouts are limited to 20-30 minutes most days of the week and I do a lot of walking instead of intense running. I think it’s been just as good for my mind as it has been for my body!

I am so thankful for what Dr. Graves has taught me.  It has truly changed my life.”

Are you experiencing unusual symptoms, even weight gain, and wonder if it could be excess cortisol levels from stress or exercise?

If you live in Castle Rock, Castle Pines, Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Centennial, Parker, Larkspur, Monument, Colorado Springs, or the Greater Denver Metro area and would like to learn more about getting your cortisol levels tested, please call us at (303) 688-6698 or click here to schedule a free 15 minute phone call with Dr. Graves to talk about what you are dealing with.

Don’t wonder any longer…let’s figure it out!

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