Being a competitive mountain bike racer and triathlete, I often heard competitors talking about how they could eat whatever they want because they trained so much. I would regularly hear phrases like, "I race because I love food so much", and "training allows me to eat whatever I want." In fact, I'm sure I said something like that myself.
Or, I would hear talk of carb-loading and eating junk food after a race. There was this notion that our fuel needed to match our calories. You know..."calories in - calories out."
Now, I am not going to lie. This was a nice luxury in my 20's and 30's. I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted (with respect to maintaining my weight) as long as I trained at a high level. That strategy worked great...until I hit my 40's.
You see, we are all born with a specific set of genes. Enough insults to our body over the years, including a poor diet, will eventually start turning on those "bad genes", which will then lead to maladies like inflammation, poor detoxification, weight gain, etc.
So, what is over-exercising? It really depends on your unique genetic makeup. Some of us do very well with endurance exercise, some do well with HIIT workouts, some do well with heavy weight lifting, and some do well with a combination. The key is understanding the right form and dose of exercise for you, and matching that with your caloric intake. NOT, matching your caloric intake with your exercise (unless you are a highly competitive athlete and need to do this temporarily).
Here are 5 ways that over-exercising will eventually wreck your metabolism:
Long-term stress response: too much exercise is a stress to our body. When we our stressed, our body produces a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is meant to be produced infrequently - like when hunting for a meal. Not as a long, slow drip. Cortisol can turn 90% of our genes into the adverse position. Cortisol also increases inflammation in our bodies, perpetuating our genes being in the adverse position.
Excess hunger and food intake: when we over-exercise, we get REALLY hungry! We start raiding our pantries and justifying excess sweets, or excess food in general. Our digestive tracts are really not meant to take in THAT MUCH food and become inflamed. No wonder nearly every endurance athlete I have met has had digestive problems. Research shows that calorie restriction promotes longevity. You can't restrict calories when you are over-exercising.
Messing up your metabolic hormones (leptin, ghrelin): when we eat too many carbohydrates for our own genetic makeup, this can make us feel more hungry more often because we produce less leptin (which makes us feel satiated) and more ghrelin (which stops satiation). This will lead to overeating, and eventually, weight gain.
Micronutrient depletion: when our GI tracts are inflamed, we absorb less of what we eat. We need vitamins and minerals for a reason! They help our bodies produce energy and help with enzyme function, cellular turnover, and are crucial for our metabolism.
Impaired detoxification: if we eat whatever we want or indulge in alcohol, this slows down our liver function. Our liver metabolizes toxins and hormones. When our liver slows, we start becoming more toxic and our hormones re-circulate. Estrogen dominance problems like heavy menstrual periods, weight gain, difficult menopause, or even cancer ensue.
So, what can we do? We need to learn how to eat for our constitutional makeup. We need to learn how often to eat and what to eat. Then, we can build our exercise around that. Once we get control of our metabolic hormones, we start to become less hungry all the time, and that calories in, calories out balance starts to regulate naturally.
Where to start?
Stop snacking, eat 3 meals per day leaving 5-6 hours between meals.
Learn your individual protein requirements and build your plate around that.
Hydrate! Drink 3-4 liters of water per day.
Add trace minerals to your water.
Learn what type of exercise, and how much is ideal for you.
You may need some support with stopping snacking if you have been grazing for years. I can help you with blood sugar support and getting your macros right.
I can help you determine what type of exercise is right for you, and create an exercise plan to support your health goals.