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Morning Anxiety after Stressful Days and Training

Hey Coach,

after only one hard workout and two days of inadequate sleep (7 hours) in a stressful period, I’m no longer a confident type 2a but an anxiety ridden type 3. I wake up in the morning with anxiety an hour before my alarm goes off and it takes me a week to fix that. Should I stop training hard in stressful periods altogether (progress is still there) if I know I won’t get enough sleep? What can I do to deal with this morning anxiety and fix it?
On the next stressful day I’ll try your melatonin approach after 5 pm.

This happens to me if I don’t have some slow digesting carbs before bed. Do you eat anything before bedtime?

I normally drink a shake with 100g instant oats and whey protein.
Which carb is slow digesting enough to last 9 hours?

None, as far as I know. But maybe you could have steel cut oats instead and maybe casein instead of whey (or one scoop of each). Throw some glycine in there too, or gelatin.

Theanine before bed might help.

The 2A “passionate” has low methylation which gives him a lower serotonin level than the 2A “actor”. As such he is more at risk of anxiety in stressful times because serotonin prevents brain overactivity (which is what anxiety really is).

In your case the anxiety is likely due to an excessive sympathetic (fight or flight)/parasympathetic (rest and recover) ratio. Probably brought up by an adrenergic (adrenaline)activity that is too high for your inhibitory neurotransmitters to control.

If you understand the connection between cortisol and adrenaline, you now that any cortisol release will also lead to a release of adrenaline (cortisol increases the conversion of noradrenaline into adrenaline).

So any stressor (which increases cortisol) will increase adrenergic activity, making it harder for your inhibitory neurotransmitters to calm the brain down at night.

When you are in a high stress period you produce tons of cortisol, when you train you also produce cortisol… and depending on how you train you can produce a lot of it.

If you know that you are sensitive to anxiety under stress, it is likely that training too hard can tip the scales in the wrong direction.

5 elements can trigger a cortisol release in training.

Volume: cortisol is needed for energy mobilization. More volume means more energy requirement which leads to a higher cortisol release to mobilize the required fuel.

Intensiveness: this is how hard you are pushing each set. The closer you get to failure, the more cortisol you will produce. That’s because at that level the brain thinks that it’s about to fail and is in danger.

Psychological stress: any load or exercise that causes some “fear” or uncertainty, or required any psyching up, will release a good amount of cortisol.

Neurological demands: the harder the brain needs to work, the more adrenaline you need (to increase neurological activation, awareness, focus, motivation). More complex movements can thus increase cortisol more than simpler ones. Exercise combinations (A1/A2) will also increase it more than normal sets. Adding new exercises also increase neurological demands. Heavier and more explosive work does the same.

Density: the shorter the rest intervals, the more cortisol/adrenaline increase, keeping your heart rate up. Great to stay in the zone, but comes at a cost.

If you only have a high stress day, I would probably skip training (for example, I never train when I give seminars). If you have a high stress period of several days I would simply decrease the variables that increase cortisol:

  1. Low volume
  2. Don’t go to failure, leave 2 reps in the tank
  3. Stay in the moderate load zone (6-10 reps/set)
  4. Use more machines and pulleys
  5. Use longer rest intervals.

The melatonin after 5pm will help. Glycine 3-5g post-workout and at 5pm will help (by directly calming the brain down and by increasing circulating serotonin), magnesium 200mg post-workout and in the evening can help (by dislocating the adrenaline from its receptors), SAM-E can help (it’s the end product of the methylation cycle, if you are a poor methylator, SAM-E can compensate for that).

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Ok thanks, will try that.
It’s difficult for me to train with lower intensity, I feel like stagnating and weak. I have to discipline myself to not go to hard when stress is high.

Then you can use a high intensiveness (push each set hard) but minimal volume, long rest intervals ad mostly machine work

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It might not be training related at all. Waking up 1 hour ahead of time while feeling anxious is really a bad sign. Did you check your BP ? High Blood pressure can cause that wakefulness. How old are you ?

I’m mid twenties. BP is probably often high because I’m living a quite stressful life. During rest it’s normally low.

Thank you Sir.

I would suggest you to seek medical advice and not consider training overload to be the only problem for your sleep. It is not a good idea to have high blood pressure almost every day.

My blood pressure in the evening and at rest is fine. Drop at night is there too. Don’t worry about that.