An Athlete with Hypothyroidism

The diagnosis: there’s something terribly wrong with me. But we all suspected that a long time ago. HAHA GOOD JOKE KENNETT.

I just found out that I have hypothyroidism. It explains a lot. Don’t worry, it’s not contagious. It can’t be spread by a cough or anal. It’s genetic, just like herpes. Read along to find out what it is, why you should send me a get well soon care package filled with chocolate and smoked herring, and how the rest of my life will be ruined now that I have a disability other than being a white, upper-middle-class male of above average height.


Choke her out!
“How to remain incredibly calm while being choked out”

As the first image shows, your thyroid is a gland in your throat that has one purpose: to secrete thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones (the main ones being T3 and T4) control your basal metabolic rate, bone growth (in children), protein synthesis, metabolism of fat, carbohydrates, and protein, and how your body uses and reacts to other hormones. Basically, it does a lot of important shit. Mine, however, has fallen asleep on the job. Permanently.

Science talk

The hypothalamus, located up in your head, is the first in the chain of command when it comes to your endocrine system (hormones and stuff). When hormones need making, your hypothalamus gets called up and, like any good manager, delegates the work to other body parts–first the pituitary gland. Don’t bag on the hypothalamus too much. It’s got other, more important stuff to do anyways.

So, the hypothalamus releases TRH (thyrotropin-releasing hormone), which lets the pituitary know that it should start making TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). TSH tells the thyroid gland to start pumping out thyroid hormone, which as I described above, tells the rest of your body how to use energy. There’s a lot of middle management in the endocrine system, which is why I believe there are so many problems with it.

Wikipedia, you so smart. Thanks for making me smart to.

Anywho, my thyroid no longer works. It might be that it’s been out of order for a long, long time. According to my doctor, my thyroid is essentially useless and has “shut down.” I discovered this when, a few weeks ago, I went in to get a prescription for sleeping meds. I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately, especially the past three or four months. My insomnia goes back at least a year but had been getting unbearable more recently.

The doctor decided to test my thyroid, with the initial inkling that it might be producing too much thyroid hormone, called hyperthyroidism with an E, which can lead to difficulty sleeping and an overly active metabolism. I ended up having hypothyroidism with an Ohhh–the opposite problem, but it can also impair sleep.

To test your thyroid function, they suck out some blood and count how much T3, T4, and TSH is in it. TSH, as you may recall, acts as a signal for your thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. So the higher your TSH, the more thyroid hormones your body craves. The lower your TSH, the less thyroid it craves. The normal TSH range for a healthy person is 0.5 to 5 microunits per milliliter. With a TSH of 5 to 10, you’re considered to have subclinical hypothyroidism, which means you probably don’t need to be medicated unless you’re experiencing a lot of the symptoms of hypothyroidism, which I’ll get into in just a second. If your TSH is over 10, you have overt hypothyroidism, meaning you should definitely consider getting treatment since your thyroid is currently on a downward spiral to hell. If left untreated over the years, subclinical hypothyroidism may eventually become overt, and once it’s overt it’s likely that it will eventually shut down altogether. I think. Remember, I’m not a doctor so you should definitely take everything I say as fact.

My TSH was “greater than” 150. One hundred and fifty. What the fuck. Apparently that particular lab’s test only goes to 150, meaning I was off the charts. My doctor tested me again just to be sure, and the second test came back the same.

Hypothyroidism is usually due to Hashimoto’s disease, which is a genetic disorder. Something like 90% of people with overt hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s. As an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s confuses your body into attacking the thyroid gland until it’s dead. You can also have hypothyroidism if you’ve had thyroid surgery, thyroid cancer, not enough iodine in your diet, an inability to absorb iodine, or a few other equally rare scenarios. In my case, it’s Hashimoto’s, as I later had it tested and came back positive with a crap load of thyroid antibodies.


There are a lot of them. The blue ones are ones that I’ve noticed.

Muscle weakness
Inability to focus
Carpel Tunnel Syndrom
Decreased libido
Hearing loss
Dry skin
Hair loss/dry hair
Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep
Night sweats or hot flashes during sleep 
Slow heart rate (mine is 28)
Weight gain
Trouble losing weight
Intolerance to the cold
Memory loss
Abnormal menstrual cycles (hypothyroidism is much more likely to strike women than men by the way)
Muscle cramps and aches
And even more. Basically it fucks you right up.

As you read through this list, you can see how I never thought anything was wrong with me, since these are all basically symptoms of training hard.

How did this happen? 

You can’t get Hashimoto’s without a genetic predisposition, which only a small percentage of the population has to worry about. 3.5% of the population has Hashimoto’s (and 5% of the population has hypothyroidism), with women being 8-10 times more likely to develop it than men. It’s also very rare in young people, with post-menopausal women being the main victims. So why do I have it?

There is a hypothesis that if you’re genetically predisposed to Hashimoto’s (my mom and grandmother have it too), hard endurance training or stress may bring it on earlier in life. So I got it when I was in my 20s instead of my 50s due to hard training, or so the thinking goes. This has not been proven. Another way you can give yourself hypothyroidism is by taking a lot of testosterone or HGH.

Which brings me to the next chapter…


There is a growing number of elite runners that apparently have hypothyroidism. Galen Rupp is on that list, along with a bunch of other Nike runners. You may have come across this Wall Street Journal article that describes the unconventional approach that a certain doctor by the name of Jeff Brown uses when it comes to diagnosing elite athletes with hypothyroidism. Read: “doping doctor.”

At the time of the above article’s publication, Alberto Salazar had coached 30 elite Nike athletes, and 17% of those had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism by Dr. Brown. As you may recall, only 5% of the population actually has hypothyroidism, and most of those people are older women, not young males, and many of them do not need to be medicated as they do not have overt hypothyroidism. My theory is that Brown is replacing thyroid that was originally lost due to testosterone and HGH doping (testosterone and HGH both stunt the thyroid’s output). That, or there may be a small advantage for a healthy, non-hypothyroid person to microdose with synthetic thyroid. This is debatable, as google will tell you. In his rational, Dr. Brown believes that a TSH of 2.0 or higher requires medication. He is virtually alone in the medical world when it comes to this standard. Remember, 0.5 to 5 is considered healthy. My TSH is +150 and I’m still kicking, so I find it very hard to believe that someone with a value of 2.0 needs meds.

Note: synthetic thyroid isn’t even on WADA’s banned substance list since it hasn’t actually been shown to be a performance enhancer. That’s the part that leads me to question if Brown is covering up as well as fixing some of the health problems caused by HGH and testosterone doping.

So how do I deal with it?

Thank you baby jesus for the pharmaceutical industry and America, the land where taking a pill solves all your problems. As long as you have money for insurance. And your problems consist of restless leg syndrome and ED.

I have to take a pill every morning for the rest of my life called levothyroxine, which is synthetic thyroid. It’s the thyroid hormone T4, which the body converts to T3. It takes a few weeks to start kicking in, then a few months to dial in the correct dose. I’ll have to have my TSH values monitored two to three times a year for the rest of my life as well, to ensure I’m continuing to get the right dose. Taking too little levothyroxine will leave me fatigued and depressed. Too much and apparently it’ll be like I’m on crack, without any of the good side effects.

Training as an elite athlete who has hypothyroidism, even while medicated, is supposedly much more difficult than a healthy person’s training. I found some great info about hypothyroidism and endurance athletes from the smart words of world-renown running coach Steve Magness. Check out his website for the goods. His book The Science of Running is incredibly good too. Even if you’re just a cyclist you should still read it.

Anyways, as a runner who has had hypothyroidism since he was 14, Magness, claims that training is made extra difficult by this disease. One day you’re up, the next you’re down. There’s little consistency and it sometimes takes a lot longer to recover from hard workouts than it would for a normal athlete. Looking back, I’ve noticed this.

Since the hypothyroid sufferer’s body doesn’t get a natural, steady flow of thyroid hormones when it needs it, recovery becomes significantly impaired. I’ll take a pill every morning, but I won’t get that steady drip like a regular person, telling the body how to respond minute by minute throughout the day as it encounters stress and physical exertion.

But I’m optimistic. I think that this diagnosis means that I’ll be able to get back to where I was in 2013, and maybe even better. I’ve most likely had this going on for years now, since it’s a disease that develops over a long period of time. If I had to put a date on it, looking back I’d say that I really started noticing that something was a bit off in 2007. I had trained really hard that winter and could never kick the fatigue that came with it. I ended up taking most of the year off to recover, summing it up as just some severe overtraining. While I don’t doubt that I was severely overtrained, I think a part of the reason I wasn’t able to recover was due to my messed up thyroid.

While I continued getting stronger over the years, I’ve always struggled with going too hard and not being able to recover. One week I’d be great in training, then the following week I’d be dead by day two, even on the off chance when I decided to take adequate rest. I’d be shit for two months for some reason and then magically be fast again. This is a natural occurrence for any athlete, especially in a sport like cycling where the season is so long and the training and racing are so stressful. Again, that adds to the difficulty of self-diagnosis.

Things really didn’t start going downhill until 2014, which is when I believe my thyroid might have shit the bed altogether. After a really good season in 2013, I signed for a crappy little pro Swedish team that went belly up part way into 2014. I came home to the States half a year early and really depressed since my dream had been shattered, and I could never get my legs going again that year. I’m wiling to bet that a large part of that lingering depression and lack of fitness was due to my good for nothing thyroid, not just the team folding.

Then in the fall of 2014 my wife Adelaide was out training for an upcoming triathlon and was hit and almost killed by a reckless driver. She was put in a coma for five days and her face was literally torn off. The recovery process took months and months and is still ongoing. My training was essentially non existent that fall and winter, which resulted in even more depression on top of the huge emotional black hole caused by the crash. My complete lack of fitness when the cycling season began in March made me even more depressed. To make things worse, later in the season when I should have finally been able to train hard and consistently, I found that I didn’t have the mental, physical, or emotional energy to do so. I simply couldn’t go for more than a few weeks without cracking. That’s why I switched to an easy sport. Triathlon.

As you can see, from 2014 on it would have been very hard for me to distinguish between the depression/fatigue from all those external issues, and the depression/fatigue caused by something chemically imbalanced within me. Now it seems obvious, but even a few weeks ago, before I even knew what the thyroid gland was, I chalked all those symptoms (depression, fatigue, poor sleep, etc.) to just the regular stress of training or Adelaide having been hit nine months ago. As I’ve said before, I’m sure there is quite a bit of cross over. But damn does it feel good to learn that there really is something wrong with me and it’s not just all in my head. It’s in my throat.

So to all the cyclist, triathletes, runners, and other sports enthusiasts, remember that sometimes things can actually go wrong in your body and what you’re experiencing might not be the normal side effects of hard training. We think that as athletes we’re more in tune with our bodies, but at the same time we’re deaf and blind to anything that we don’t perceive as training related. That feeling of constant fatigue might not just be from the big hours you put in the past month, and that enlarged testicle might not be caused by your worn out chamois.

*Edited January 6th, 2017:

About six months ago, long after I wrote this blog, my brother was also diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. He’s almost six years younger than me (he’s 25 years old as of this writing) and is not, nor has he been, a high level endurance athlete, though he is an elite level rock climber. But his more serious training for climbing didn’t start until he was about 23, so he hasn’t had that much time to “develop” hypothyroidism from training. His TSH was 22. That’s high, but not that high.

After he was diagnosed, I was forced to ponder whether high level endurance training and dieting were actually as large of factors for developing hypothyroidism as I thought (for someone who is also genetically predisposed to Hashis, such as myself). If his TSH is 22 at the age of 25, and mine was +150 at the age of 29, maybe that four year difference was all it took for my TSH (or his if he remained untreated) to rise to +150. Maybe it wasn’t the training at all. Maybe his TSH would have skyrocketed just like mine, whether he was doing high level endurance training or not. I guess the real test would be for him to go off medication for the next four years and get remeasured when he’s 29 and compare the numbers.

*Edited January 2021:

My TSH and other numbers remained steady through 2017 and 2018 if I remember correctly, then it all went to shit in 2019. Because of the high training load I was doing early that winter, I increased my medication from 150mg of armour thyroid to 180mg, trying to keep my TSH below or around 1.0 and my T4 within a normal range. It seems like no matter what I do, my T4 is always way too low.

I made this dose change sometime in the winter of 2018/2019 (though the negative impact took a long time to hit). The long term effect of taking this high of a dose, for month after month, ended up causing me to become hypERthyroid and my TSH plummeted to 0.015. I’d slowly developed many of the same symptoms of being hypOthyroid: fatigue, poor sleep, lack of power on the bike, and low motivation. It took longer than it should have to diagnose what was going wrong. At first I thought I might have mono, or was just depressed, or had some other hormone deficiency. But in the end, TSH testing and working with two different doctors revealed the problem. By the fall of 2019 I figured out what the problem was, but it took months for me to feel normal again (I also broke my neck in October, which is another story).

Fast forward to the end of December 2020 (last week) and I went the other way. My dose of armour thyroid (back at 150mg) was too low for the training volume I’d been doing in November and December, and I was hypOthyroid again (like usual) with a TSH approaching 4 and a T4 of 0.8. It’s a constant battle to keep my TSH around 1, which seems to be the magic number, and I’ve come to realize that I will essentially have to get tested every other month in order to ensure that I’m on the right dose. There is no doubt in my mind that hard training dose “use up” thyroid hormones. The more training you do, the higher dose of medication you need to be on. But, (and I’m hypothesizing here) the difference between doing 16 hours a week and 26 hours a week probably only requires a relatively small dose change, based on the fact that I know 150mg is too little, and 180mg is way too much.

I still think it’s possible for Hashimoto’s to compete at a high level and train their asses off, and I certainly think you should be able to expect a lot out of your body if you have this disease, but since we can’t produce thyroid hormones on our own, we have to be on top of testing and making small modifications in medication—All the time. They key may not be so much in the diet or special herbs and remedies (I am no longer eating gluten free), but in constant testing and getting an idea of where you feel and perform the best at various TSH, T3, and T4 numbers. I will continue to make updates to this blog as I learn more.

44 thoughts on “An Athlete with Hypothyroidism

  1. Interesting details about the thyroid. I would
    never have guessed that yours is low. I didn’t know that Carolyn has it too, and I admit that I too have that malady. Be sure and take the ills as directed, and you will be all right. Grandma Paula

  2. Hey Kennett
    I also got the diagnosis of Hashimoto in february 2014, with its irreversible trait … but my blood values finally came back to normal which is totally against all the medical theory/dogma.
    I won´t develop more here, I just wanted to send you a message of hope.
    (contact me if you want to talk more about it )

  3. Pierre that’s actually very uplifting to hear that from you since you’re still so strong on the bike. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Nice to see an athlete doing so well while surviving this shitty disease, kudos. Three years after being diagnosed I’m still struggling to get out of bed, I haven’t been able to run or swim for almost 16 months now! I seem to be able to build some bike fitness over a couple of months only to be stopped in my tracks by massive downward spiral just when I start to get quick again!! Currently I’m on 100-150mg thyroxine, multiple natual supplements & a strict gluten, dairy, soy & legume/grain free diet!! I am so lucky to have a beautiful supportive wife who pretty much keeps me going. She researchers most nights & communicates with my doctors on my behalf, if it wasn’t for her I’m not sure I’d still be here. Every doctor, holistic gp or specialist I seek help from all tell me to STOP training all together! To me that’s like giving up and I will not do that, I wanted to go around 10:30 for my first IM in Melbourne March 2015 my race didn’t go to plan & thats ok I will get back a high level soon, thanks for posting up your experiences with this.
    Its really refreshing to see someone do so well, keep up the great work & I’ll look forward to following you.

  5. Daniel, that sounds really, really rough. I can’t imagine how depressing it must be to be so messed up for over a year while still on meds. I wonder if there’s something else going on physically that’s holding you back. Some other hormone imbalance. Or, if you have some brain chemistry imbalance. Depression and other mental disorders can be a result of poor dopamine or serotonin reception, and I know that if I’m not mentally feeling well, I can’t put out any power on the bike. I’ve dealt with some mental disorders with friends/family and I think that those can be much more difficult to deal with than even severe physical injuries. In the mean time, keep on pushing. I’m right there with you that you have to continue training and racing if that’s what you’re passionate about. Who knows, maybe the meds will finally kick in or you’ll stumble across the right dosage or type of meds. Keep me updated.

  6. I was diagnosed today, after a month or so of extreme fatigue, night sweats, lack of motivation, and random joint pain. As a trail runner and amateur triathlete in Connecticut I assumed Lyme, maybe even mono, after hearing it was hypothyroidism, something that will leave me possibly dependent on medication was daunting. My levels weren’t nearly as high for TSH, being categorized as subclinical, it’s still unnerving, but hearing how well everyone hear is doing with this gives hope and knowing I’m not alone as a young athletic male makes it a little easier to wrap my head around. Just wanted to say thank you to all who have shared, it’s much appreciated.

  7. Hi!
    I was just diagnosed this week. I’ve been doing a lot of research about it and I’m trying to figure out if this has anything to do with the fact that I have been working out for about a year now (crossfit) and I have made very little progress. I get through my workouts but I haven’t gotten stronger. My weights haven’t increased much. I am okay with my endurance (I was able to run a half marathon with no problems) but my strength is just horrible!! I keep reading that muscle weakness is a symptom of the disease. Has anyone else had this issue?


  8. Muscle weakness is a symptom of both hypo and hyperthyroidism, but usually more so with hyper. If you’re properly medicated I don’t think hypothyroidism should hold you back in crossfit or general strength to a very large degree. How are your numbers looking? (TSH, T3, T4). Hypothyroidism effects metabolism, your ability to recover from hard training, and how your body digests iron (less stomach acid means we don’t absorb iron from our food very well), among other things. Again, muscle weakness can be but is not usually as much of a problem for hypothyroid people as hyperthyroid people. I would suggest the following if you haven’t already done so. Try to do as many of these things as possible on a regular basis:

    Get your medication dialed perfectly to what your body needs. Go back in every 5-6 weeks until your TSH is below 1 and your T3 and T4 are within a good (high) range.

    Make sure you’re consuming 150-200 calories of food within 30 minutes of your hard workouts (should be 3 parts carb and one part protein–or 75% carb 25% protein). This could be in the form of real, solid food or a recovery drink. Don’t skip on the carbohydrates after a hard workout. Everyone knowns to have protein, but carbs are actually just as important and you need more of them in this recovery window.

    Cut out gluten

    Cut out or drastically limit dairy, aside from whey isolate

    Limit your processed foods and stick to a diet high in vegetables, fruit, legumes, rice, eggs, whey protein, nuts, avocado, coconut oil, and a little bit of lean meat

    Get 7-9 hours of sleep on average

    Stay hydrated. Drink at least 2 liters of water every day, if not more.

    After a hard workout, try to get your body and mind to calm down. Listening to soothing music and de-stressing go a long way towards reducing cortisol levels.

    Let me know how this works out for you. My wife is a sports nutrition coach if you want any more help along the way with this.

  9. Grandma, how has Hashimoto’s affected you throughout your life? Did you notice an improvement when you started taking the medication?

  10. I am so glad to find your and other articles that isn’t necessarily uncommon for endurance athletes to be hypothyroid. I, too, have recently been diagnosed with hypothyroidism (along with other things). I was feeling so frustrated because I was in the midst of training for a few Ironman’s and while I know training can be tiring, this just felt different. Mornings were unbearable, I could barely get myself out of bed before 8am. Which while I don’t particularly love mornings I at least am no stranger to 4am wake up’s to train. I could’t describe the fatigue I felt, which was frustrating when you tell something how “exahausted” you are and they say “me, too”, but you know it’s not the same…just difficult to put into words. And my usually super fability to focus and multi-task (are the two together contractidory? ha!) seemed non-existent. I almost feel numb. I felt lethargic and heavy- and my sleep is not good. I am at least happy to know there’s a culprit and, like you, it’s not all in my head. I’m hoping there is light at the end of the tunnel- and think there is. I’m supposed to be in the higher volume training wise right now, and I feel like training is hit or miss. I’m hoping maybe the meds will kick in soon so I can continue as planned. I do have moments where I feel small improvements, but that has also been tied with some setback. So thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts- this gives me hope!

  11. Ally, I’m glad this post helped and there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. Give the medication time to kick in (it takes many months) and really be on top of your doctor to have your blood work done every 5-6 weeks until your numbers balance out. Most people with Hashimoto’s feel best when their TSH is consistently below 2.0. It takes a while to get there, at least it did for me. You may want to consider getting your adrenals checked also since you’ve been training hard throughout all of this. For that, you’ll probably have to see a naturopath or order a test on line, as your regular doctor will just say, “Your adrenal glans are find. If they weren’t, you’d be in the hospital right now.” I actually recommend seeing a specialist for all of this. An endocrinologist would really help. A general practitioner’s job is to make sure you don’t die. A specialist will give you back those last few percentage points that really matter for an athlete.

  12. Thanks for the reply. It’s funny/interesting you mentioned adrenals. You’re spot on there. I have actually been working with a Naturopath. She did a variety of tests and my adrenals are also completely shot. There were other tests, too, but just all in all, seems a lot of reasons for the extreme fatigue. So interesting how one little gland can cause so much destruction if it’s off!

  13. Hey, this article is a god send. So I used to do triathlons and a lot of running through to my mid thirties when I became pregnant. A year after the birth, I took myself to the GP to say I think I’m anemic because I was so tired, and had heavy ‘dead’ sleep which never made me feel refreshed. Going for a run was like wading through treacle. My tests came back severely hypothyroid. So zoom to 6 years later and another kid made, I’m gluten and dairy free, stable on meds and well read about the condition, I’m ready to train again and have started. What stops that 24 hour after exercise crash??? Have you any nutritional advice or supplements to recommend please? Thanks so much, and cheers for a light hearted & informed article.

  14. Glad you enjoyed the article. Since you’ve already cut out dairy and gluten, and your numbers are good from meds, you’ve cut out all the easy fixes. As far as supplements go, you can start eating seaweed a few times a week for the iodine and Brazil nuts for the selenium. Those two nutrients are directly related to producing thyroid. You may also want to consider taking T3 in addition to T4 if you do not already. I take Armour thyroid, which has T3 in it. I also take a large dose of Methylcobalamin B12 once in a while, as well as 5,000-10,000 IU of vitamin D a few times a week.

    Another thing you could try would be to increase the amount of thyroid medicine you’re on. Tell your doctor about your fatigue and go up a dose to see if that helps. I take 180mg of Armour, which is a lot more than they started me out on. I have no evidence for this, but I have a feeling that if you train hard, you go through more thyroid than a normal person.

    Start your training slowly as you build fitness and increase your volume and intensity over a month or two. Don’t try to do too much at once. You may get back to your previous fitness level, but since you’ve had quite a number of years off, it will take some time to get there. The only other things I can think of are fairly general to everyone:

    8-9 hours of sleep a night; plenty of water (and salt after long, hard days); recovery drink of 3:1 sugar to protein (or meal) within 30 minutes of finishing your workout; lots of fruits and vegetables, plenty of protein; limit your unhealthy fats (soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil); and increase (fish, avocados, coconut oil, and nuts); yoga or stretching on rest days; and generally try to keep your cortisol levels low after workouts and throughout the day. Calming music is good for this, clearing your mind of stressful things whenever possible, and letting small to moderate inconveniences pass over you without letting yourself care. Stress definitely affects people with hypothyroidism more than it does others.

  15. Thanks so much for this advice! I’ll take it all on board. I’m getting my bloods done again next week to check that I’m still stable. I was over dosed on thyroxine for a while and my TSH was too low and gave me heart palpitations & anxiety so I’m keen to not get back to that stage, but as you say people exercising might need more thyroxine! Cheers for getting back to me & the info, it’s greatly appreciated. Esther

  16. Of course. And feel free to give me an update in a few months. I’d be interested to know if any of those suggestions help.

  17. Hi. I am looking for some help. There are lots of people out there who understand about endurance training (running coaches) and there are also lots of people out there who understand about thyroid disorders (functional doctors) but there are very few people who actually understand about both at the same time.

    I am a 23 year old female with hashimotos thyroiditis. I am an amateur endurance athlete and have been training for distances between the mile and half marathon for five years now, prior to this I was obese. I am not very fast, although I did manage to win a local 5k once (amongst the other females) when I was in my best shape. I am hoping to get back into racing again very soon but my body just doesn’t seem to be letting me get back to this. I also dabble in cycling (short distances between 20-50 miles).

    I routinely push past the physical fatigue (lack of energy) and mental fatigue (lack of dopamine/seratonin) to train hard (so lack of effort is not the issue- I push myself VERY hard) and have been doing all year but am still making very minimal improvements with my fitness. I suspect this is due to the fact my thyroid just isn’t working at the moment thus making it impossible for me to lose unwanted body fat. I have also been diagnosed with a metabolic disorder (I don’t know too much about it tbh) which compromises my body’s ability to absorb protein. I am working out every day and doing strength training two to three times a week and eating a diet of only fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, nuts, dark chocolate, seafood and meat. I am also on vitamin B complex supplements, a probiotic, 5HTP (which is supposed to help with the lack pf dopamine/serotonin response linear with hypo/hashis) and a gluten/dairy/soy free diet. I also steer clear of peanuts and sulphites. I had a really messed up digestive system before I cut out inflammatory foods. I do not drink or smoke (I do however medicate with marijuana to cope with the depression/mental fatigue in oil form). I also have healthy coping mechanisms for stress and a good support system.

    The point is, my lifestyle (diet/exercise/hydration/sleep) is basically perfect but I am not seeing any significant increase in athletic improvement nor any decrease in body fat. There is literally NO point talking to 99.999999999% of people about this issue as they would all say the same thing- “you just need to eat less or exercise more” when I know for a fact this problem has very little to do with either of those things and is totally a result of my awry thyroid, weakened cellular function and medical conditions. In fact, if I ate less than I do now it would result in making my body even weaker because then my body wouldn’t be getting adequate calories to actually support my training.

    How do I make the breakthrough I need to get fit and fast again? I HIGHLY doubt there is any further action I can take to improve my lifestyle as I am already doing everything I need but I am open to tips and suggestions nevertheless.

  18. Hi,

    First of all, what are your TSH, T3, and T4 numbers like and are you taking a thyroid medication (armour thyroid or levothyroxine)? If you have Hashimoto’s, you can do all the supplementation and dietary/lifestyle changes in the world and you still won’t have a functioning thyroid. You need some sort of artificial thyroid, whether it is synthetic or from an animal, for your metabolism to work properly and for your mind and body to be functioning properly. Get real medication for a real disease, and leave the micro adjustments (like giving up gluten or dairy) for later if you still don’t feel 100%. I noticed the largest improvement from medication, and increasing the medication until my numbers were good and my T3 and T4 were in normal range.

    Secondly, I would need to know your training regimen in a bit more detail to understand why you aren’t making improvements. Are you taking adequate rest days, are you being consistent from week to week, are you consuming enough food during hard or long training sessions, are you getting enough carbs and protein immediately after hard workouts? What metrics do you use to measure fitness gains (power on the bike, pace per mile on runs)? A coach or even a good beginner’s running or cycling book will go over most of this stuff in a decent amount of detail if you don’t have a solid grasp on it yet. It sounds like you’re a hard worker and dedicated to making improvements, and that is the most important thing, and since you’re only 23 there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be getting faster if you’re pushing yourself hard and taking your recovery seriously. This leads me again to wonder if you’re taking thyroid meds and if you are getting your numbers checked frequently enough.

    Lastly, it is going to take a long time for weight to come off if you have been overweight for many years beforehand. The body wants to stay at a certain body fat percentage, and the longer a person is at 35% (for example), the more difficult it is to get down to 25% and stay there without feeling like they’re starving to death all the time. From what I’ve learned, it takes five years of being at a consistent body fat percentage to stay there naturally, without making a huge effort of it 24/7. The bad news is that it will be very hard to reach your goal weight and stay there for five years. The good news is that with each year that you’re there, it will get a bit easier.

    One last bit actually, chronic (no pun intended) THC use has been linked to causing depression, as well as slightly increasing estrogen. I think it’s okay to use pot a few times a month or even once a week possibly, but you might try to wean yourself off slowly and see if it helps with depression and your weight.

    A few diet tips that may help to some degree:

    No food within 3 hours of going to bed;

    Eat a large breakfast, large lunch, plenty of snacks and training fuel, lots of water throughout the day, and eat a smaller calorie dinner with a lot of vegetables for bulk and some fat and protein for sustenance. Dinner should be your smallest meal of the day (not counting snacks);

    8 hours of sleep per night; and

    Keep a food journal. This is the most important. It will reveal whether or not you are taking in fewer calories than you are burning, but only if you are fully honest and have some sort of way to measure calories burned. But this is more than a calorie log. Use it to see what you are normally eating on a day to day basis, and make changes if necessary from there, such as cutting out dessert or reducing a meal size by 10 percent.

    Let me know if I can help any further and good luck! Keep at the running and riding no matter what you do, even if they don’t seem like they’re paying off right now. At the very least, you’ll realize they were worth it when you look back on your life when you’re 90 and can no longer do them.

  19. Hi, Kennett really helped me with his reply (see earlier comments). I have actually found that I need 5mcg of T3 before I exercise so I don’t get that crash post workout. I have reduced my weekly T4 only slightly (from 700mcg per week to 650mcg) and I’m definitely not having hyper symptoms as a result. I work out 3 times a week currently. The T3 has helped with retaining metabolism, reducing fat and helps energy levels. I have optimised most other stuff like I’m gluten & dairy free, eat a clean paleo style diet and don’t drink caffeine or eat much sugar based stuff. Good luck! Magnesium baths also help me out too for aching muscles etc. X

  20. So happy I found you! I got diagnosed just a couple months ago, thanks to my wife who questioned why I do not lose weight when I train 6 days a week. I’m a SUP endurance racer, did the SUP11citytour in Friesland the past 3 years (200km in 5 days, format is similar to the tour the France:) ).
    Every 6 weeks I’ve been slowly increasing the medication, last time just a few days ago. This morning I had a short race of only 5 miles and somehow my heart was racing like crazy, my max heart rate is 184 and I was constantly (one hour!) at 180! I’m 48 years old and thought I’m about to fall of my board!

    Question, did anyone of you experience an increased heart rate during an early race or training session? do you think it is related to the amount of medication or medication at all?

  21. You should probably ask your doctor about this. I’m not sure what they’ll do, but maybe an EKG would reveal if anything is wrong. Increasing your medication too much can make you hypOthyroid, which certainly increases your hear rate and can be dangerous. Or, your heart rate monitor could be working improperly. I’ve had mine show a heart rate of 220+ for long periods while I was riding easy. I don’t use that monitor anymore. Obviously I knew that it was wrong, but since you were in the middle of a race and felt like you were about to fall off your board, my guess is that it wasn’t a broken heart rate monitor. You should definitely talk to your doctor about this because what you’re experiencing could be deadly or damage your heart permanently.

    I’m glad you’re able to race at a high level and have been diagnosed. I hope you can get to the bottom of the weight retention issue and your heart.

  22. Thank you Kennett for your response, much appreciated! I did a quick test this morning, skipped taking the medication before my Paddle workout and after a quick warm up, I mimicked the first mile of the race and compared speed and hear rate. I was faster and with a lower heart rate, so something most be released I guess.
    I will surely talk to the Doctor when he is back from his vacation!

  23. If you’re taking synthetic T4 (levothyroxine) or Armour thyroid, neither has an immediate affect like that. I’m not sure about pure T3 though, which is used by the body immediately. T4 is storage thyroid hormone, meaning that it gets stored for later use throughout the day/week/month. That’s why it takes months of being on medication for any results to start happening.

  24. Hi Kenneth,

    Thanks for you blog post. Your story is very insightful. Just got off the phone with my GP discussing my thyriod function. I’m no elite athlete, but I’m one seriously addicted weekend warrior (cycling)! Absolutely love to ride my bike and continually improve on my Strava segments. I do around 300-400km a week and recently experienced my recovery and fatigue are dragging out longer than usual (my legs started feeling like someone poured concrete in them overnight…). Long story short, went to the doctor and got a blood test done. H3 and H4 was normal, but TSH was 8.2. No where near your levels, but outside the normal range; “sub-clinical” according to google.

    Know you’re not a doctor, but was just wondering, if you were in my shoes, would you start treatment or leave it and retest in a few months? My GP doesn’t sound overly concerned.

  25. Hi Pieter, sorry it took me so long to respond. WordPress stopped sending me email notifications for comments for some reason.

    Assuming that I was responding the day after you wrote this, I would first take a long rest. I had a teammate who completed a very hard block of training and during a routine doctor’s checkup, they found that his TSH was around where yours was at 7-8. He took a week or two pretty chill and went in to get tested again, this time with normal results. I know that many sources on the internet don’t concur with the notion of hard training causing a high TSH level, but his story is some anecdotal evidence at least. After a rest, and if your TSH is still high, yes I would maybe consider a very tiny dose of thyroid medication, assuming the TSH was high for a prolonged period. Remember, there is a big downside to taking thyroid medication if you don’t have hypothyroidism though, just as there is a downside to taking too much of it if you do have hashimotos. It could cause you to become hypERthyroid, which has some of the same negative affects like fatigue and muscle weakness.

    If you haven’t gotten this figured out yet, I would recommend going to a sports doctor or even an endocrinologist. Maybe there’s something else going on?

  26. Thanks for the post! I was wondering if your insomnia and trouble sleeping subsided once you started taking your thyroid medication and getting your TSH within range?

  27. My insomnia definitely improved a few months after starting the meds, and continued to get better until roughly half a year later. I wouldn’t say that it’s fully solved though. I don’t know if it’s the Hashimoto’s or just getting older (I’m 33), but I can’t sleep as long as I used to when I was in my 20s, and falling asleep is still sometimes an hour-long+ process. Usually I’m out in 30 minutes or so.

  28. Thanks for the reply! Yeah, same here. Takes me a lot longer to fall asleep than when I was younger (I’m 39). Usually 30 min to over an hour. Appreciate your response!

  29. Were you able to get off taking sleeping pills after taking thyroid medication or are those something you’re still taking to help with sleep?

  30. Happened to find this amazing blog while searching for athletes with strange thyroid issues. I had been endurance training steady for a quite some time prior to the blood work in question (10/2020). I’m doing research because I’ve put off getting retested, and am now about to do so. During this time, I’ve also pretty much been in a small net caloric deficit which I wondered about maybe having an impact on the odd results. Deficit or not I’m eating 2850-3050 calories on average daily, so I am far from “starving.” My scenario is odd in that my TSH is low (.1) which should indicate HYPER and my metabolism seems to agree from what I can tell. However, my t4 and t4 were also low which indicates HYPO. This isn’t normal clearly and the prognosis sounds pretty bad – critically ill or starving. My heart rate also is low at rest/sleep definitely down in the 30s for periods. I chalked the heartrate up to being highly conditioned but the strange thyroid results have me wondering. Hence the athlete correlation and finding your article. Figured I’d add my case to your background knowledge for reference and conversation anytime. Stay healthy and I hope the best for your wife and family.

  31. Hi Sean, yeah you have some strange stuff going on. It’s weird that your TSH and your T4 are both low. I assume your meant to write that your T3 is low as well. I definitely believe that being in a caloric deficit while also training hard puts your thyroid under duress, and I also used to have a super low resting heart rate. It was down to 28 at times before I became medicated, and I had dizzy fainting spells all the time. If you can swing it, I’d see an endocrinologist, but make sure he or she is either an athlete themselves, or has treated high level athletes. The endocrinologist I ended up seeing is a cyclist, and has an understanding of the demands we put our bodies through.

    In terms of delaying testing, I don’t recommend that if you do end up getting diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. I’ve been getting tested once every 6 weeks this past half year and it’s really helping my TSH and T3/T4 stay where they need to. I’ve found that my training load has a huge impact on how much thyroid medication I need to take, despite what the literature says.

  32. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and reply after all this time later since you wrote and posted this. My TSH was .1, T4 was 4.8 (4.9 is low range point so close) and T3 was 67 (low end on range provided to me is 76). I truly appreciate the recommendation that the endo has a background in endurance athletics. Did your heart rate ramp up as expected through your heart rate zones during training periods? I can get up through my fat burning zone into high intensity 180+bpm. I would think if I was truly HYPER my heart rate would not recover quickly and hang in that 55-75 range throughout normal daily activities. Definitely puzzling, maybe one off results due to cycling CLA and L-Carnitine at the time. Only other supplements I had back then were Apple Cider Vinegar and Curcumin (absorbable turmeric) daily. Still taking ACV multivitamin (centrum for men), Omega-3, and Vitamin D3. No other meds but do dose caffeine daily and sometimes a Claritin (with the D) which has some pseudoephedrine effects. Blood work round 2 (6 months later) on April 19 (1 day prior to Covid Pfizer shot 2 – I hope shot 1 does not have any impact on results…). Follow up is not until April 29 but should be able to see the results much sooner in the portal.

  33. I’m glad you’re going in for that appointment. Hopefully the next round of blood work will give you some insight. One other thing to consider is that you did get covid, whether you were symptomatic or not, and that you’re dealing with some of the long term fatigue/neurological issues, that hopefully the vaccination will help resolve. Apparently long haulers are seeing good effects from the vaccine.

    If your were HYPER, yeah your HR would theoretically be jacked up well over the 55 range for doing daily activities. And if you were seriously HYPO, you’d have trouble raising it into threshold during training (I did). Once I was on medication for half a year, my HR seemed to be heading in the right direction, as in I could regularly get it above 170 again.

    Unfortunately, western medicine is all about keeping people alive and going into work, not about optimizing performance and working around illnesses and injuries to perform at a high athletic ability. At least in a few generations from now, all autoimmune and other genetic diseases will be eradicated by genetic modification! ;)

  34. Just wanted to give a quick update. My oddball low TSH, combined with LOW T3 and T4 corrected itself upon follow up and presented an additional strange issue with high liver enzymes. Alcoholic pattern apparently. Had to get an ultrasound and a bunch of tests for auto immune markers etc. Subsequent labs all returned to normal, ultrasound normal. I think most of this was related to an herbal focus supplement, the only thing not thoroughly researched that was being put in my rotation a few times a week. No more of that stuff and monitoring further for any inconsistent or off patterns. Hopefully all good and that herbal is out of the stack for good either way. It was similar in effect to an over the counter not as good Adderall. Beware. Be well and ride safely!

  35. Wow, that’s scary. I’ll be sure to stay away from that type of supplement! Hopefully you’ll be fully back to normal once you get it all out of your system. I guess it’s an easy fix, since there was nothing wrong with you thyroid to begin with (fingers crossed).

  36. A great synopsis, Kennett. Thank you for putting your research out there!

    I recently had an experience with sub-clinical Hypothyroidism and mine was triggered by the covid vaccine. I had bouts of symptoms like yours: fatigue, insomnia, muscle weakness, but was able to bounce back enough to get through a workday -my heavy training days are long-gone now. I used to race cars competitively, but now would consider myself a “weekend warrior” when my energy levels are up to it. My TSH levels spiked above 10 after receiving the first dose of Pfizer and then dropped to 4 as I made adjustments to my diet and began investing in sessions with an ND. However, Insomnia and extreme fatigue were still present. I then started on desiccated thyroid medication and levels dropped to about 1.6. Further, it only took 1/4 of the lowest dose possible to get me back within a happy range and it was the difference between sitting on the couch all day and climbing a mountain, literally. From speaking with doctors and pharmacists the clinical range for TSH doesn’t tell us much about what our bodies like individually. It seems it is much more narrow than that and your blog is the first I had heard of anyone using microdosing for treatments. I’m interested in learning more about Dr. Brown’s method. Thanks for sharing and I hope you continue to make gains.

  37. Currently once every 4 weeks. TSH, T3, and T4. I might dial it back to once every 6 weeks once I’m stable on the new medication that I recently started (levothyroxine and liothyronine). Armour was no longer working well for me.

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