High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become well known as a successful method for enhancing several elements of physical fitness. However, without adequate recovery, strenuous exercise can cause blood cortisol levels to rise and exacerbate physical stress symptoms, even though training has not been done.
In this article, we discuss what is cortisol creep and whether or not HIIT can cause stress in not performed in moderation.
What is cortisol?
One of the many hormones our body creates to deal with stress is cortisol. The brain begins to sense stress during high-intensity training, and a flood of these substances is secreted. The sympathetic nervous system is subsequently activated by the cortisol release, thus causing a fight-or-flight reaction.
The sympathetic nervous system gives us the instant energy we may require to fight or flee from an enemy. In the past, the sympathetic nervous system's responsiveness to hazards was essential to our ability to survive.
One of the physiological changes brought on by cortisol is the breakdown of lipids and carbohydrates, which leads to an increase in blood sugar and an immediate boost in energy. Not to mention suppressing the immune response so that the body can concentrate its resources on the potentially fatal circumstance it is experiencing.
What is cortisol creep?
Your brain-based pituitary glands are in charge of regulating your cortisol levels. They employ their senses to determine whether the cortisol level in your blood is "just right." If the Cortisol levels in the body are too high or too low, the adrenal glands are instructed to adapt by the pituitary glands.
Your cortisol levels typically follow a circadian pattern, increasing in the morning and dropping by the end of the night. Naturally, they can change depending on what you're going through. Any type of stress will cause the adrenal glands to create more cortisol. This stress may be mental, emotional, or physical, and it may result in the body producing cortisol.
When an athlete has cortisol creep as a result of overtraining or excessive activity, their resting cortisol levels rise during non-exercise periods. This is bad since it could affect performance, raise the chance of illness or injury, and result in more body fat being stored. A surge in the hunger hormone ghrelin, which can lead to overeating and weight gain, is another effect of cortisol.
Can HIIT cause stress?
This cortisol reaction that HIIT exercise will produce is a big part of what makes it so successful at making your body slim and powerful. Your brain begins to get the word that your existence depends on this period as your legs begin pedaling as quickly as they can. At that point, the sympathetic nervous system reacts as a result of the production of cortisol and other hormones. The body subsequently adjusts its metabolic processes in response to this hormonally demanding circumstance.
The issue with cortisol is that it will move more freely in your blood when your body produces too much of it, whether as a result of physical or psychological stress. You'll start experiencing bad symptoms as a result of this.
An increased amount of cortisol may really be a physiological cause of overtraining syndrome. Overtraining's signs and symptoms include anxiety, mood swings, diminished strength when exercising, other signs of chronic fatigue, modifications in sleep habits, reduced immune function, and so on.
What can we do?
Generally, your body should be able to judge when the fight-or-flight response is beneficial and actually necessary on its own. However, while our bodies should be calm and at rest, too much HIIT might confuse the brain and cause it to launch a protective response.
You might experience mild restlessness when performing routine duties like driving to work and packing lunch because your body confuses these stresses with other types of stress.
It's crucial to prioritise recovery and help ensure we're consistently taking in adequate rest between our exercises, whether they involve weights or brief sessions of HIIT since HIIT causes such a potent reaction in our sympathetic nervous system.
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