Posted by in fit, wellness

Can Too Much Exercise Cause Adrenal Dysfunction?

by Sean Croxton and Reed Davis

If I could turn back the hands of time and become a personal trainer again, I would do a LOT of things differently.

Of course, I would NOT have put my clients on the Food Guide Pyramid diet plan. Whoops!

But in hindsight, I think one of my biggest mistakes was pushing so much cardio on my clients. If you’ve read the intro to my ebook — which you can get for free HERE — you’re familiar with my old “cardio sign-in sheets”.

Each week, I assigned my clients a specific number of calories to burn off on their cardio machine(s) of choice. For example, if the goal was to burn 5000 calories in a week, clients were required to document each cardio session on the sign-in sheet that hung up in my office. For some, a 5000-calorie objective called for five 1000-calorie sessions over a seven-day period. This could take as long as 2 hours a day for my smaller clients. Sometimes, they even had to pull double-duty, coming in twice a day to meet their weekly goals.


What drove me bat-sh*t crazy was the fact that, despite these arduous cardio sessions in addition to severely calorie-restricted diets, most clients wouldn’t drop a single pound. Some even gained weight. It was the most perplexing thing ever!

Fast forward half a decade, and I finally learned the truth about why my approach was failing over and over again. Not only were my clients consuming the wrong foods, but the majority of them actually needed LESS exercise.

My clients were already stressed out enough as it was — emotionally, financially, socially, and spiritually. My methods of gross overtraining were only making matters worse.

While it is true that exercise can be a form of medicine, we often forget that is possible to overdose on it. With overtraining eventually comes a point of diminishing returns — and a ton of frustration.

The impact of overtraining on the hormonal system can be quite extensive. Working as a Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist, I often found — via salivary hormone testing — that the clients who spent the most time exercising had the worst markers, including late-stage adrenal dysfunction, declining cortisol level, low DHEA, and depressed testosterone scores.

Try losing fat with low testosterone. Not gonna happen!

While corrective protocols may vary from person to person, one recommendation remained the same — REST.

It seems counterintuitive to recommend to a client that he or she skip the morning spin class beatdown session in favor of a yoga, tai chi, or meditation class. Most clients are initially resistant to this recommendation. However, after a healthy dose of Croxton persuasion, they concede and agree to give it a try.

I cannot tell you how many of my long-frustrated consulting clients have FINALLY witnessed their bodies change for the better by exercising LESS.

No, I’m not saying exercise is bad – don’t get it twisted — but I am saying that if the time you’re spending in the gym does not match the results you are getting, do your body a favor and give it some time off. While you’re at it, have your hormones tested by a qualified practitioner. See what’s really going on under the hood.

Check out the video below to learn more. And although I brought up the popular workout video Insanity in this clip, I’m not saying that it is a bad program. It just may not be the right program for you right now.

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. If you’re killing yourself with high-intensity Insanity workouts every day without seeing any results, I’d say that the program is certainly true to its name.

It’s time to try something new.

Enjoy the video!

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Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist
Author, The Dark Side of Fat Loss
Dark Side of Fat Loss



2 thoughts on “Can Too Much Exercise Cause Adrenal Dysfunction?

  1. Anthony

    Sean, as a PT, you sucked!
    Only joking, but what you described was cyclical madness. Low cal + excess cardio for minimal losses that can be undone by a bad few days on the food.
    Then repeat. Madly inefficient.
    Was there a moment – a point in which you realised it was all wrong, or was at a gradual process of understanding.

  2. UW Sean Post author

    Ha!! Thanks, Anthony!

    I think i realized it was all wrong when I read The Paleo Diet. The fact that I was recommending that my clients eat foods that our ancestors had never been exposed to dawned on me. I remember cutting out the processed foods and eating real food for a couple months, and found that I felt so much better. That’s when everything shifted.

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