The Tired & Wounded Athlete

You go to your primary doctor and complain of fatigue, but they roll his/her eyes at you when you quantify your fatigue as not feeling up to doing your weekly long run of 10 miles, or squatting 125% of your body weight use to leave you sore for 2 days and now it takes 5 days before that soreness is gone.

Your doctor may even tell you its a function of aging.❌

You insist your doctor please do some labs to make sure your not anemic, have low B12, vitamin D or have thyroid disease. These all come back “normal.”

However, you know something is not right, but are not sure what it is or how to correct it.

  • You tried taking a week off of working out...

  • You tried altering your macros...

  • You tried sleeping more…

BUT this fog of low energy and prolonged recovery is just not budging.

I know how it is.

I get it, this was me!

While I had recovered from the frequent bouts of vasculitis attacking my various organs, I just couldn't kick my booty in the gym without it coming with flaring fatigue and excessive soreness.

It wasn’t until I addressed my mitochondria and my adrenals and created a modified my exercise plan to avoid lactate accumulation was I able to kick my post exertional fatigue to the curb.

I’ve mentioned before, besides thyroid disease, nutritional deficiency, and chronic autoimmune disease there are two commonly underlying factors contributing to fatigue: adrenal & mitochondrial dysfunction. And you must know what is/are your specific trigger in order to effectively resolve the fatigue.

Adrenal Dysfunction

Time and time again, I find that for high performing athletes, adrenal dysfunction is the more common root cause. However, I also see this alongside imbalances in thyroid & sex hormones in conjuction with the adrenal dysfunction. Addressing all components is important to resolving fatigue.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction

The mito piece is generally undervalued or examined component to those “wounded athletes”  who can’t seem to recover from fatigue. Those who are impacted by mitochondrial dysfunction may the person who has an autoimmune disease, has impairments in detoxification and has had a history significant for exposure to environmental or medication related toxins. I also suspect there is often a genetic/epigenetic predisposition, however the research in this area is still emerging.    


Adrenal Dysfunction is caused by overproduction of stress hormones caused by excessive chronic emotional, physical, or psychological stress, as seen in the common condition known as mommyhood or high performance athletics. Adrenal dysfunction is the collumination of oftens years of  inadequate amount or quality of sleep, chronic stressful job and/or personal life, and night shift work, and or over training.

Common Symptoms of Adrenal Dysfunction:

  • Fatigue

  • Mild depression or anxiety

  • Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia

  • Low body temperature

  • Dry thin skin

  • Central weight gain

  • Low sex drive

  • Sleep disturbances

  • PMS, irregular or heavy periods, amenorrhea, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and PCOS

  • Craving salty &/or sugary foods

  • Food sensitivities

  • Digestive issues

  • Chest pain and palpitations

  • Thyroid dysfunction


1. Make time, every day for restorative or relaxation practices. None of these need to be for a long period of time, but it does need to be a regular practice for your parasympathetic nervous system to be activated and to heal the adrenal dysfunction.

  • Deep breathing 3-5 deep breaths before you start to eat each meal

  • Taking 5 minutes to meditate

  • Allowing yourself time to take an epsom salt bath

  • Stretch

  • Pray

  • Spend time in nature

2. Avoid caffeine, smoking, processed foods, high carbohydrate and sugary foods.

3. Laugh, do something fun everyday.

4. Sleep as much as your body craves (8-12 hours if need be)

5. Eat regularly and make sure meals and snacks have some protein or fat and fiber in them to keep blood sugar level.

6. Consider taking adrenal adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, and holy basil.

7. Correct any nutritional deficiencies or imbalances common deficiencies include omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, vitamin C and D, selenium, and the B vitamins.

8. Manage stress, get a counselor, change jobs, delegate tasks or ask for help.


Mitochondrial dysfunction is commonly driven by: oxidative stress, inflammation, total body burden of toxins.

Common Acquired Conditions Associated with Mitochondrial Dysfunction:

  • Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism

  • Cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, high cholesterol, and atherosclerosis)

  • Diabetes (type I, II, & III)

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Myofascial pain

  • Migraine headaches

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Fluroquinolone antibiotics 


Eat healthy fats from fresh sources like avocados nuts and seeds, and from cold pressed oils such as avocado oil, olive oil, and MCT oil from coconuts.

Limit your protein intake to ½ gram per pound of lean body mass. (I know, this is super controversial, but if your body is not fully digesting all the protein you ingest it can result in reactive oxygen species, which will increase the burden on the mitochondria). Here is an  example: if you’re 30% body fat, and you weigh 150 lbs, then you have 105 lbs of lean body mass, and should eat approximately 52 grams of protein per day.

Eat lots of colorful vegetables I suggest no less than 6 servings a day but upwards of 8-12 is ideal. If eating vegetables are hard for your digestive system consider eating more of them cooked or juiced, or consider taking a digestive enzyme supplement containing plant specific enzymes to breakdown vegetables.

Cut out all the prepackaged processed foods, all dairy, wheat, sugar in particular.

Try intermittent fasting. To ease yourself into it, an overnight fast may feel most doable, try a 12 hour fast say from 8pm to 8am.

***Warning, if you have blood sugar handling issues, please seek the guidance of a functional medicine specialist to correct the imbalance prior to implementing any time restricted eating. Blood sugar dysregulation is a common feature seen adrenal dysfunction. Should one have both mitochondrial dysfunction and adrenal dysfunction like I did, implementing intermittent fasting can cause fatigue symptoms to worsen.

So what if you’re a high performing athlete and have BOTH adrenal & mitochondrial dysfunction?

This was the case for me. I had to heal both my adrenal dysfunction & mitochondrial dysfunction after healing my gut and quieting the inflammation that was out of control in my body.

The tired & wounded athlete (3).png

1️⃣Retrain the body to find the “off switch” to the sympathetic nervous system through meditation, breathing exercises tailored adrenal support supplements and sleep optimization

2️⃣Create a flexible exercise program that minimized exercise above the lactate threshold and fluctuated with my individual body’s needs for recovery rather than a static regimented progressive resistance/aerobic exercise program. (Check out my 3 step process here)

Healing plans look very different if the root cause is adrenal or mitochondrial or a combination of both.

Do you need help reducing fatigue & pain and optimizing performance?  I’d love to chat with you more about this during a 15 minute free health consultation.

Schedule here