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When Exercise Can Cause Us to Gain Weight

How working out with muscle tightness, aches and pains can cause the body to be distressed enough to cause the body to gain weight, instead of lose it.

It’s easy to think that all exercise is good for us—that all exercise is equal and that it affects us all the same way. The reality is this simply isn’t so. Not all exercise affects everyone the same way. And it’s not to say that there are necessarily bad exercises out there either. What it comes down to is a matter of a bad choice of exercise relative to the tolerance and ability of the person. Exercise is supposed to be a “eaustress” (or good stress), that causes the body to come up with solutions to better handle that stress in the future, thus making positive changes in the body that fit within our desire for change (strength gains, body fat loss, muscle gains, stronger heart, sports performance, etc.). However, if the body already has a low tolerance to stress because of a muscular imbalance it might be easy for the
stress of exercise to be a “distress” (or bad stress) to the body and nervous system. Because an imbalance usually indicates joint instability somewhere, when exercise over-challenges this stability it can cause the body to be put in a protective state, which can result in things like excess cortisol production.

This happens by way of the HPA Axis, which is the stimulation of the Hypothalamus, the Pituitary Gland and then the Adrenal Cortex. It’s the Adrenal
Cortex that then releases cortisol, which is responsible for converting raw energy storage in the liver into usable blood sugar. Too much cortisol in the system increases the amount of blood sugar that can be used immediately (not to
mention, you don’t want to use this for energy—you want to use fat storage for
energy when trying to lose body fat) and this leads to storage of body fat while
reducing the function of the immune system—all things that are opposite effects
of what exercise is usually supposed to produce. So working out with muscle
tightness, aches and pains—all things that are the symptom of muscle imbalances
and joint instability—can trigger the body to store more fat, thus nullifying,
if not reversing, the positive effects exercise was supposed to produce.

This is why we spend time with each client evaluating their mechanical system before they start a program here. It allows us to identify and treat those imbalances so the body is better suited to handle a wide variety of stress—that coming from a wide variety of exercise. If anything, we have a better grasp as to what we can and can’t do with the body.

Consider that if you have ever had to work really hard to lose weight there might be other stress factors at play here that are causing your body to want to work against itself. In previous posts I talked about how an improper focus can cause this same stress scenario. It can happen from any over-stress environment whether it is mechanical/physical, mental/emotional, or chemical/nutritional. Knowing how to listen to your body (how it moves and how it responds to all foods) and how you feel when you think (listening to your emotional feedback—thinking negative thoughts are your indicator of you working against yourself) will help you find areas that may be working against you in the long run.

For recent posts go to http://fitness-werks.com/blog/

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Wendy June 19, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Interesting post. I've found that when I do an intense cardio or weight training/cardio workout I find I'm more drained than energized and not able to work out optimally the next day. I've heard mention of "overtraining, " but I've never heard about having too much cortisol in the system before. For me, an intermediate workout works best when trying to lose weight. I'm not famished and won't overeat!
Neil Hansen June 19, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Another reason one can have a lower threshold to stress is because of emotional stress. And one of the biggest emotional stressors, which can trigger the same stress response (HPA Axis), is taking the approach of trying to lose weight. The focus on trying to get rid of something negative, like the weight you want to lose, can trigger the stress response, thus making your body's tolerance to more intense exercise can cause overtraining--or better, "over-draining". Trying to get rid of the very thing you don't want causes you to focus on that very thing, which in turn causes you to program your subconscious to look more for the thing you don't want. The more you look for it, the more you trigger the stress response--among other neuro-chemical reactions (like leptin insensitivity). It's like trying not to think of a purple cow with white stripes. You can't know what NOT to think about without having to identify it first. The same goes for trying to lose weight--you have to focus on the thing you don't want to know it is gone. If you know where you would end up if you were successful you would change the neural patterning in your brain, thus your subconscious, and then finally, your neurochemistry (those relating mostly to stress) would reduce as well. It's like going to a travel agent and them asking you where you want to go and you say "not here". More stress on emotional stress leads to distress. More: http://fitness-werks.com/blog/how-setting-the-wrong-goal-can-make-you-fat-2

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