T Nation

Why Does Conditioning/Cardio Make Me Cranky?

Starting to wonder if I have some sort of medical condition. I should explain a little - I can do easy conditioning like walking/easy bike ride without many problems. I strength train 3 times a week and generally have no problems if I just stick to that, but the moment I add some conditioning (whether its like circuit based or long distance cardio that gets the heart elevated) - I just become very irritable an hour or two after being done with it. I might be able to add like one day a week and not have it affect me too badly (still somewhat the day I do it), but multiple times a week even moderate cardio makes it unbearable. Even when I add a lot of extra food/carbs, it tend to help but not fix it completely. I don’t really want to give up strength training to try conditioning only but could doing both of them possibly be the problem? I should also add my strength training is not just some curls and crunches - I squat, deadlift, hip thrust, bench, row , etc that does get the heart pumping, just not continuously obviously like cardio does

Ever consider your issue could be psychological, not physiological?

1 Like

Maybe different energy systems. Strength training is anaerobic and endurance is aerobic.

If you have some weakness or deficiency in your aerobic energy system it could be causing you some distress that comes out as “cranky”.

Because neurotype cortisol, dopaminergic undulating wave clusters, boron.

But seriously, I bet CT would have a legitimate answer for this.

My GUESS is that it is related to producing a lot of lactate during conditioning. Too much lactate has been shown to reduce the epinephrine response to hypoglycemia in both diabetics and not diabetics.

It’s possible you are experiencing hypoglycemia from exercise. This would explain why eating more helps.

You could try walking for 20-30 minutes after your conditioning to try and clear the accumulated lactate and get your body burning glucose again and see if that helps.

1 Like

Interesting suggestion. I actually pegged it for some kind of blood sugar problem simply because, like you said, eating more seems to help. I’ve had my blood sugar tested for my yearly bio metrics for my insurance and my blood sugar is not diabetes level and it seems like most blood sugar/exercise advice on the web is catered to diabetics. Do you think HIIT or sprint-like conditioning would have this same effect if given proper cooldowns inbetween each bout? Like sprint 20 secs and walk for 2-3 mins? Interval/circuit without much a rest period seems to have the same effect as steady state cardio for this problem

It’s not psychological. At least, not unless it’s a deeply subconscious level I’ll never be able to fix. I actually enjoy and want to be able to run on a regular basis. I love getting outdoors and hate the fact that I’m regulated to my basement for my barbell training. I appreciate the suggestion, but cardio isn’t one of those things I dread doing. I mean, its not as fun as playing an actual sport but I do find fresh air invigorating

I was coming more from the idea that you feel poorly recovered after cardio because you’ve convinced yourself you will be.

I’ve heard about an app involving tapping your phone screen as fast as possible to measure central fatigue (@duketheslaya what was it called?). You may be able to use this to check if you are actually that crushed post-cardio

Don’t know the name of the app but Dan John did the same thing with a pencil, paper, and a clock. Not quite as convenient but works if needed.


Where are you adding in the food? Before, after…?

That could help and is worth a try. It’s hard to know without seeing what you are doing and running tests.

Well update to you and all who are reading this that not performing any standard no-rest conditioning has vastly, vastly improved the problems. I also have not had to add in as much food/sugary drinks as I normally do when performing cardio to not feel quite so crappy. Still go pretty intense even with swings, battle ropes, etc but I only go for like 30 secs - 1 min “intervals” and giving myself a few mins break inbetween each interval. Interestingly enough the only reason I know of epinephrine is because it’s apparently in the shots that you get at the dentist office for fillings and whatnot and I have such a bad reaction to it in the shot that they have to give me a shot without it…wondering if that’s somehow related to my body’s epinephrine response…

1 Like

Both. Generally about 30 mins to an hour prior I would have some simple carbs like toast or banana and afterwards I would drink chocolate milk and some extra simple carbs like juice. If I didn’t eat/drink a lot afterwards it became very, very intense a few hours afterwards. This helped to alleviate it but not completely

That is interesting. If you don’t mind disclosing, what type of reaction do you have to epinephrine?

1 Like

I get a reaction where it feels like my heart starts racing and I go into panic attack mode. Really uneasy squirmy. It typically goes away in like 5-10 minutes but they started giving me a shot of numbing that doesn’t include it. I guess my mom/sis have similar reactions to it. It reminds me of drinking too much caffeine at once. Heh

I hate to be the one chiming in with a rather oversimplified reason, but I’m a bit certain that it may be the form of cardio you’re implementing is just too much. You’re throwing in variations of cardio that are hella high impact. Especially circuit training and distance running. Coupled with whatever strength training you’ve got going on, I just think they’re clashing with one another and not allowing you to recover.

A lot of us do well with just low impact walking. There’s swimming too, which is practically zero impact, sled pulling, or pushing.

I’d even say that duration is a major part as well. You’re opening the door for cortisol to wreak havoc when you do high intensity exercises for longer periods of time versus shorter periods of time. I’d cut out the distance running, and reduce circuit training to just once a week for something less than 35 mins. Tops. Whatever other day you’d like to do cardio at least keep it as low impact as you possibly can. Something akin to active recovery would probably be better for you as well.


Agree with the above

I was just gonna say cortisol

There was a time I was lifting 3x a week and training with a track coach for sprinting 1x a week on top of that. My dumbass was doing the KIZEN training that has you do AMRAPS after a 3x5. I was fried even though I wasn’t lifting that heavy and it even fucked up my morning wood.

1 Like

Does cortisol increase with duration of exercise? What I mean is not the total amount of time that you’re lifting/conditioning/cardio or whatever but how long you’re doing it for instance running for 10 or 15 minutes vs a lifting session for 40 mins? Only reason I ask is I seem to be able to do something very intense just for short periods even exercises normally reserved for circuit style training like sleds/ropes…but I have to give myself big breaks in-between doing it for like a minute or otherwise the irritability comes on quickly

Conditioning taps more heavily into the CNS than steady state cardio. Conditioning makes me irritable and less able to cope with stressors and I think that’s why. I had the same type of reaction when I was hardcore into powerlifting and pushing my limits. Just a thought.

1 Like