I was watching the Fittest Man on Earth documentary recently and as impressive as their feats of strength are, I just kept focusing on how beat up and broken down all of the Crossfit competitors are, even at the most elite levels. This brings up a very important point about diversifying your movement or exercise portfolio.
High intensity exercise has some great benefits, but there is such thing as too much of a good thing. All high intensity exercise and no low intensity exercise leave Johnny a broken down, low T, pre-diabetic dull boy.
But isn’t high intensity exercise supposed to be the ticket to reducing body fat and increasing fitness levels??? Let’s use the analogy of taking aspirin for pain relief. You take the recommended dose and you get a little pain relief so you decide that you’re going do that everyday so you stay out of pain. Good idea? Well only if you want to destroy your GI tract and increase your risk of a brain bleed. The same goes for high intensity exercise.
High intensity exercise raises your level of cortisol during and after exercise. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, it tells our body to break things down. Cortisol is made from cholesterol and is a regulator of blood sugar. It helps to break down nutrients to make energy at the cost of suppressing the immune system and pausing the rebuilding of bone and connective tissue.
Too much cortisol release with lots of high intensity training actually will:
- Stop the recovery process, keeping you from benefitting from all of the work you do.
- Keep your blood sugar high because your body keeps getting the signal to make energy.
- Change where body fat is deposited
- Suppress sex hormone suppression leading to Low Testosterone levels for men or reproductive issues for women.
But don’t fear my high intensity exercise junkies, there is a solution that makes it possible to keep your high intensity training. Simply incorporate equal amounts of low intensity exercise like walking, joint mobility, or yoga into your routine. Low intensity exercise tends to lower cortisol which in turn promotes the repair and regeneration necessary to keep your body healthy as you push it to new limits.