Are You Addicted To Exercise

By Paula Owens, MS

Some people are sedentary, while others are obsessive in their mission for a leaner physique and as a result, go overboard with exercise. Exercise addiction is probably the most contradictory of all addictions. Many compulsive exercisers have behaviors similar to drug addicts, including effects on their mood, tolerance and withdrawal. These individuals define themselves by their strenuous exercise routines. Little do they know, they’re putting their health at risk, especially if they’re radically cutting back on their food intake and watching every calorie consumed. Females who over-exercise and deprive themselves of proper nutrition can experience loss of menstruation cycles and ovulation. This sets them up for risk of osteoporosis, hormone dysfunction and stress fractures.

A compulsive exerciser will stop at nothing to get their “high,” including injuries, sickness, exhaustion, hormonal disruption or damage to their health.

Regular, consistent exercise is definitely a “Winning Formula” for health, vitality, longevity and fat loss. However, when exercise is taken to extreme measures compromising health, the immune system is challenged negatively.

Points to consider:

How long are your workouts? After a 10-15 minute warm up, your actual workout should last no longer than one hour. Spending two hours per workout is futile and detrimental to increasing strength, muscle size, hormonal balance and decreasing body fat.

Testosterone levels peak after approximately 15 minutes of training and begin to level off after 30-45 minutes. Cortisol levels (the catabolic, growth-inhibiting, stress hormone) start rising after 30-40 minutes and anabolic levels (growth hormones) decrease. Extremely high levels of cortisol overtime cause an increase in body fat, particularly at the abdominal skin fold.

Muscle growth and adaptations to muscles occur during recovery and rest, not during the actual workout. Cutting back to 3-4 training sessions per week will induce greater gains in strength and recovery.

Are you getting stronger with each workout? Are you losing body fat? Do you experience chronic aches and pains? Do you schedule in rest days? If you exercise intensely day after day after day, most likely you’re over-training. Even though you may be training different muscles groups, you must take into consideration all systems of your body:

  • Endocrine/Hormonal System
  • Immune System
  • Central Nervous System – The nervous system takes 5-6x longer to recover from exercise than the muscular system.
  • Emotional, Psychological and Spiritual

Individuality regarding your recovery abilities:

  • Adequate rest every day
  • Age
  • Amount of and type of exercise
  • Belief in yourself
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Fitness level
  • Hydration
  • Lifestyle (work/job, relationships, other stressors, etc.)
  • Massage
  • Sleep
  • Post-exercise nutrition
  • Stress management
  • Supplementation

Example: a 42 year old, type-A business person, has a family, travels for work, consumes a bagel and coffee for breakfast (major insulin spike), enjoys a martini or two before getting 4-5 hours of sleep, etc. These individual factors are extremely important to consider when designing an exercise program for this individual. Most trainers are over-training their clients. The wrong exercise program or too much exercise will only create additional stress, hormone deficiencies, and possible adrenal exhaustion causing weakness, irritability, painful joints, fatigue and increased body fat.

Warning signs of excessive exercise:

  • Biochemical depression
  • Body needs a longer warm up time
  • Chronic injuries that don’t heal
  • Constant muscle soreness
  • Craving stimulants, caffeine and sugars. While caffeine is okay before your workout, consuming caffeine post workout increases cortisol production
  • Decreased performance
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diminished libido
  • Disrupted and/or poor sleep quality
  • Elevated blood pressure and/or resting heart rate
  • Worry that you’ll gain weight if you skip exercise for even one day
  • Feeling brain-dead; fatigued; loss of motivation
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Increased body fat from the excess cortisol and decreased lean muscle tissue
  • Body fat levels that don’t lower in response to physical exercise
  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight exposure
  • Muscle cramps, due to mineral deficiencies from over-exercising and stress
  • Relationships and social life are impacted taking a back seat to exercise
  • Salt cravings (symptom of adrenal fatigue)

Recover from your workouts:

  • Avoid extreme amounts of exercise especially excessive aerobic exercise
  • Get on the foam roller before and after workouts for myofascial release.
  • Determine your personal supplement protocol
  • Schedule in rest days. Enjoy personal down time and relaxation every day (meditation, massage, deep breathing, stretching, prayer, reading, yoga, etc.)
  • Fuel your body properly with healthy sources of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats ensuring that your protein intake is at least 1 gm/per pound of body weight
  • Remain hydrated drinking. .7 x your bodyweight = the number of ounces to drink daily. Dehydration leads to higher cortisol levels plus a host of other negative conditions including increased fat storage.
  • Periodize your workouts often. Alternating cycles of 4-8 reps with cycles of 8-12 reps.

Sleep (7-9 restful hours each night). Lack of sleep lowers growth hormone and androgen levels and increases body fat.

Consume post-exercise nutrition within 10-20 minutes post workout. Protein and glutamine supplementation facilitates muscle recovery and can accelerate muscle glycogen resynthesis. Glutamine levels are critical in creating an anabolic environment and in preventing overtraining. Adding a scoop of greens to your post workout shake, such as Nitro Greens of Innate Greens, helps lower cortisol levels.

As with everything, moderation and balance are keys for health, vitality, longevity and fat loss.


Your Ultimate Source for Health, Vitality, Longevity and Fat Loss


About kylesands
Director of Marketing at Fitness Quest 10

2 Responses to Are You Addicted To Exercise

  1. Beth says:

    Thanks for the info. I appreciate it. I don’t think I’m overtraining, i.e. I workout out 6 days a week for about an hour after foam rolling and a 7 1/2 – 8 1/2 hour sleep. However I don’t feel like I’m building muscle like I should. How do I gain muscle without adding fat?

    I also have a bony bump on the top of each of my shoulders so I thought more pushups would build up my shoulders to cover these up. Now I have pain in one of these shoulder bony bumps. I’ve been resting my upper body for the last 4 days trying to heal.

    Your post really makes me think. Thanks for posting it.

  2. PIT says:

    Thank you for this great info. I could not exercise without rest days. Its important to listen your body what it tells you.

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