I love coffee, even though I know how bad it really is for my adrenal glands. I used to gobble down any fat-loss supplement I could and wash it down with coffee while I was taking anatomy and physiology in college. I stopped once I figured out what I was really doing. Now I occasionally get into the same cycle succumbing to the demands of family and work. The difference is that at 43, I can’t get away with stupid behavior like this without major consequences. Here is how the adrenal-fat-gain-inflammation cycle works. If you suffer from low energy, chronic fatigue, chronic soreness, weakness, fatness, no ambition, etc., read these excerpts from me and a respected fitness writer, Mike Mahler, who explains the real story about adrenal function and fat-loss.
Most people in modern society have chronically jacked up adrenaline levels from day-to-day living, and taking stimulant-based fat burners only increases the load on their already overworked adrenal glands. What if you’re on vacation with no stress in sight? Still, if you take a fat-burning supplement the recommended two to three times a day, you’ll still be increasing your brain’s perception of stress. While epinephrine works in the body, increasing oxygen and glucose levels while suppressing digestive and immune systems, norepinephrine works similarly, but adds a bonus psychoactive element. Thus every time you take a fat burning supplement (or drink a strong cup of coffee) the message to the brain is a consciousness of stress.
Chronically elevated adrenaline always results in adrenaline resistance, a condition wherein the various adrenaline receptors become desensitized. In an adrenaline-sensitive system, adrenaline causes blood sugar to rise (to be burned for energy) while simultaneously releasing lipids into the blood stream (the fat-burning part) thus adrenaline can aid us in breaking down fat deposits for energy. Unfortunately, in an adrenaline-resistant system, since the receptors are dulled, the message is either delayed or worse, never gets through. Thus, the system stores — instead of burning — the available energy sources and, worse yet, tends to store the released lipids into already-existing stubborn fat depots, like hips and thighs in women and love handles and upper back fat in men. In addition to increasing depot fat stores, adrenaline resistance — allowed to run its course — ends with severe energy lows and general fatigue. Receptors worn out by chronic stimulation eventually shut down, leaving you lagging all day. Any zeal you once had for life now vaporized like the Las Vegas job market.
Unfortunately, the effects of adrenaline resistance don’t stop at increased fat storage and decreased energy levels. Chronically elevated adrenaline brings unnecessary inflammation: every secretion of adrenaline triggers a complement of the stress hormone, cortisol — a counter-response to the system’s inflammatory response to adrenaline. Like adrenaline, cortisol — in the appropriate doses — is helpful. The problem, again, is too much of a good thing — when cortisol levels are chronically elevated. In an optimal scenario, cortisol is released to reduce the inevitable inflammation (by way of suppressing the immune response) triggered by adrenaline, and everything is as it should be, thus homeostasis ensues. The problem arises when cortisol is chronically released in response to an adrenaline-resistant system — resulting in a continual feedback loop of stress hormones. Worse, unlike adrenaline, cortisol doesn’t release fatty acids for energy, but goes the quick and dirty route of muscle catabolism. So you see, between the fatty acid storage and muscle catabolism, how adrenaline resistance (at least in the realm of optimal body composition) is truly a worst-case scenario.
For these reasons, I urge you to avoid all “fat-burner supplements.” You cannot out-train a poor diet. Remember, Paleolithic man had a beard and was ripped, but he didn’t get that way from using chemical isolate anhydrous stimulants. What will help you burn fat is a healthy liver, which I will discuss in the next article. To sign up for our newsletter log on to www.midland-fitness.com or call 945-4440.
Steve Wells is owner and trainer at Midland Fitness.