T Nation

Neurotransmitters and Overtraining

Hey Coach,

I hope life is going good and you’re enjoying yourself.

My question is, since you said “adrenal fatigue” was just a receptor down-regulation and “adrenal fatigue” has the same symptoms and causes as burnout and overtraining, would you see all of them and treat them that way?

For example one of your clients has severely overtrained, what would be steps he could take to get his body and mind back?

Thanks for all your work and your helpful advice on here.

Well it’s a bit more complex than that. First because you have essentially two types of overtraining, one caused by excess intensity one by excess volume. Both will lead to a decrease in performance and both will make you feel like crap but they will affect different systems.

What us, lifters, most often call “overtraining” (and is not a true overtraining syndrome, it is more often overreaching) is overtraining due to too much intensity (both in the sense of going too heavy too often ot pushing ourselves too much too often).

So in that sense, yeah, neurotransmitters are normally the number one issue.

But receptor desensitization is not the only possible problem. You can also have the depletion of one or several of the excitory neurotransmitters (dopamine, noradrenaline, adrenaline).

So the cause could be:

  • Dopamine depletion
  • Noradrenaline depletion (leading to lowered adrenaline since noradrenaline is the precursor to adrenaline)
  • Adrenaline depletion (more rare)
  • Adrenergic receptors desensitization
  • Dopaminergic receptors desensitization

NOTE:overtraining via too much volume (most often found in endurance athlete) is more associated with depleted serotonin.

And honestly, while you can gather some clues about which one is the cause it is very hard to know which one is your main problem because the psychological/behaviorial changes are hard to differenciate.

For example dopamine depletion/desensitization will lead to a drop in motivation, lethargy, lack of pleasure, drop in confidence while adrenergic desensitization/adrenaline depletion will lead to a decrease in motivation, less responsive heart rate (less HR increase when training), very even behavior/less passionate/more neutral for example. Kinda hard to know which one is affecting you. And don’t forget that if you deplete dopamine, adrenaline will be affected since adrenaline is ultimately made from dopamine.

When talking depletion it’s a matter of seeing how far in the production chain you need to go back to find the depletion. Because if you deplete dopamine or noradrenaline you will also deplete adrenaline because you can’t fabricate as much.

How can you tell which is affected? Well it’s detective work really and while I can give you some clues, a forum post is not the place to explain the whole thing.

The first thing you need to assess is whether the issue is a depletion of one/several excitory neurotransmitters or a desensitization of the receptors.

There are some tests you can do.

Take 7-10g of tyrosine on an empty stomach in the morning, wait 20-30 minutes and assess whether you feel better or not. If you have a big improvement on mood then it is a depletion issue because providing the body with the raw material to fabricated dopamine (then noradrenaline and adrenaline) fixed the issue which means that your receptors are responsive.

However if the tyrosine doesn’t improve your mood it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a receptor sensitivity issue. It could be that your body is inefficient at converting tyrosine into dopamine (this is very often low levels of vitamin B6).

You can try taking mucuna pruriens on an empty stomach. It contains L-Dopa which is the direct precursor to dopamine. So if tyrosine didn’t workbut mucuna worked, then you know there is a problem with tyrosine absorption/transport or a vitamin B6 defficiency.

If neither tyrosine or mucuna made a difference then we are likely looking at a dopamine receptor desensitization issue. Which is actually quite common in our modern society of instant gratification. Keep in mind that blue light (tablets, smart phones, flat screen TVs) are extremely strong stimulants of the dopaminergic receptors. If you abuse them you can desensitize your receptors over time by overstimulating them. The best way to improve dopamine sensitivity is to dramatically decrease the use the the devices mentionned earlier. It can go as far as not using a table, smart phone or TV for 1-2 weeks.

If tyrosine didn’t work and mucuna worked your dopaminergic receptors are fine. It could be another issue too. It can be adrenergic receptor desensitization or noradrenaline depletion.

How can you know which one? That’s a bit harder.

If your noradrenaline is depleted you will have big problems concentrating and focusing, more frequent headaches, a tendency toward low blood sugar episodes. Noradrenaline depletion often occurs when your body chronically produces too much cortisol. Why? Because cortisol increases the conversion of noradrenaline into adrenaline, which canquickly lead to low levels of noradrenaline.

BTW if noradrenaline levels are low, so will your adrenaline levels because you need the first to make the second. That’s why it’s harder to know if the problem is low noradrenaline or adrenergic desensitization. Problems concentrating is normally the big symptom to look at.

So if tyrosine didn’t work but mucuna did. And your concentration is messed up then it’s likely noradrenalin depletion. In which case lowering cortisol would be your best bet since it would decrease the conversion of noradrenaline into adrenaline, allowing you to gradually increase your stores back up. You can also use quercetin to extend the duration of the adrenaline so that you don’t need to produce as much, “saving” noradrenaline.

If tyrosine didn’t work, mucuna did and your concentration is not affected it is either a problem with the adrenergic receptors. And the best way to solve that is to decrease adrenergic stimulation for a while. This means decreasing cortisol, phosphatidylserine, ashwaganda, glycine and magnesium glycinane or taurate will be your best tools.

And in reality the issue is even more complex than that. Because the problem could come from serotonin. If serotonin is too low the body increases the conversion of dopamine into adrenaline (it’s a way to try to balance serotonin and dopamine) and if serotonin is high then you will convert less dopamine.


Holy crap - this wasn’t even my question, but what an in-depth and thought-provoking response. Thank you for being such an educator for so long!


Excellent stuff Christian, thank you very much! At which dosages should mucuna pruriens and/or vitamin B6 be taken to test this?

Wow thanks CT! That’s a ay more than I expected.

From your description it seems I got an adrenergic receptor desensitization. I’m
a low serotonin type especially in times of stress. So therefore would increasing serotonin (through 5-HTP and Vit B6) and decreasing cortisol (ashwaghanda, meditation, glycine, magnesium, probably eating enough especially eating carbs, mostly abstinence from screens) solve the problem and is there a rough timeframe?

Yes that would be the smartest strategie. Depending on the severity of the issue and the amount of stress in your life it could take anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks

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Thank you. This is very helpful and I think your work in this direction can help many more people, the mainstream psychology way of teaching these things sounds like magic and not pragmatic.

In your opinion, is there a difference if the stress stems from purely overtraining or if it is a cumulation of life events and training? Would life events like a lot of stress at work produce the same effects as volume overtraining (low serotonin) or would it effect the system in an intensity overtraining way?

The goal seems to be that every neurotransmitter

  1. is available in good amounts
  2. stimulates the receptors as strongly as possible (high sensitivity)

Do you know how sex works in this overtraining/overstressing equation? Is it a good because it leads to intimacy which leads to an increase in serotonin (?) or is it not helpful because it overstimulates dopamine receptors and decreases motivation even further?


We usually talk about supplements to manage the neurotransmitters, but what about electrolytes?

For instance, failure of energy metabolism or not having the right electrolytes, in case sodium and potassium, to be able to properly use energy to clear glutamate, could be something to consider instead to go directly on supplements.

Could Plazma or Mag10 affect the electrolyte balance when someone has it unbalanced?

Even nutrients like vitamin C, copper, zinc, iron, salt, potassium, calcium, and magnesium or energy metabolism seems to be key for neurotransmitter balance.

Anyway a big topic to talk about.

This is just my opinion but I have taken B6 from 60% of normal daily intake to 1000%. I’d take around 100% (1.3 mg).

I took Mucuna 2 years ago too and I took 400 mg capsules. The problem with L-Dopa is that it gets converted to Dopamine before it gets to the brain, that’s why Parkinson’s medication is always L-Dopa + Decarboxylase Inhibitor. So there’s not much that’s getting to your brain of you take mucuna on its own. At least I didn’t feel anything taking it, but try it for yourself, might have been just my body.
I saw the price really dropped since 2016 so you’re not wasting that much money anyways.

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I have tried mucuna in the past, also paired it with tyrosine. I find tyrosine helpful, but mucuna not so much. So perhaps it is the decarboxylase inhibition that you mention that would make the difference. Any thoughts on how to overcome this?

What I was wondering from Christian’s perspective is at what dosage you should do the test with mucuna with? The tyrosine test is already at 7-10g, that’s already far above what I would use to supplement my nutrition with. Tyrosine I have taken up to 2g per day spread over breakfast and lunch. But at times I would feel very rushed, so I backed down. Usually 1g or 500mg would be enough for me. But the testing with mucuna is really something I would be very interested to know about. Don’t harm others or myself while testing. Have no clue about any negative effects of mucuna.

Oh, and while we’re at it with tyrosine… I have noticed that my testicles feel slightly bigger using tyrosine. Don’t know if anyone else has this effect? I believe I have read somewhere tyrosine and testosteron are connected too somehow (can’t backtrack the source where I have read this).

You could buy mucuna powder and test it at higher dosages. The side effects of l dopa aren’t that serious (nausea, confusion). That’s just my guess: I would take 500 mg of mucuna powder on an empty stomach and see if it works, if not take more. If a few grams don’t work, then it won’t work. Before you start your experiment, read up on l dopa and it’s side effects.

How to prevent conversion in the periphery is easy: decarboxylase inhibitors like carbidopa. But that actually would be risky in combination with l dopa and I would suggest to not try it and leave these drugs to people who have Parkinson’s as the side effects aren’t pleasant.

The thing with tyrosine and testicles, I don’t really know, but higher Dopamine would increase testosterone production. Could be that.

When i use tyrosine 5-10g for example 7 days consecutive, when i dont use it the next sunday , on monday i feel tired and i have headache ! Hard to start the day feels like i need a coffee ! Why it happens ?

5-10g is too much on a daily basis, it is only to test to see if dopamine depletion is a problem. 2g is a normal dose. What likely happens is that you produce too much dopamine and your receptors are desensitized for a short period of time,so when you take a day off you don’t have enough of your normal dopamine production to activate the receptors and you have symptoms of dopamine depletion

Great i will slowdown on tyrosine ! Thank you for you quick answer

Is it the samething with the glycine use ?

No, glycine works mostly by increasing circulating serotonin levels. It should not affect the receptors.

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Glycine, magnesium and inositol have been life savers for me. CT, do you ever utilize inositol?


When a 2B profile take small caffeine or ephedrine, it doesn’t increase HR nor jitters but increase euphoria, focus to keep performing in a task, will to keep exploring new connections and high verbal skills,

what is the relationship to amplify cognitive areas without stimulating the HR?

Another quick question.

For 2Bs could be tricky to take glycine

Let me know if I’m right. When we take glycine we are supplying our cns and our brain and spinal cord to use it in a regulated fashion to control some functions.

What balances glycine (and gaba) is the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate is derived from glucose, and we may need is to produce a glucose spike in our blood that will produce a glucose spike in the cns that will allow to manufacture enough glutamate to balance it.

So to counterbalance the side effects of glycine in 2Bs, it would be a good approach take it with carbohydrates?