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ADHD Nutrition and Weight Loss/Gain

ADHD, Exercise & Depression

Hello! I have had a very strange thing happen to me and I’m curious if anyone else has experienced it as well.

I am 33 with inattentive-type ADHD and a very stressful job due to issues with my boss that I am working through. I’m also overweight. I recently decided I wasn’t going to get any heavier, so I started working out a my office gym. I have to trick myself into going (discipline?! me?! HAH!!!) so I decided that since I love audiobooks, I will find an audiobook that I like and I am only allowed to listen to it while I am on the treadmill. It works because I have to go back to the gym to find out what happens next. smile

Because of this, I worked out every day M-F for two weeks straight and I was very proud. But about that time, I started getting into a real funk. I knew it wasn’t work issues because they were actually getting better. My stress was actually dropping a little. But I didn’t want to do anything. I took some personal time hoping that I could come back to work refreshed but the weekend only made it worse. I realized then that I was completely and totally depressed. I just couldn’t figure out why! Finally, my mom pointed out that it started when I started exercising. I did some googling and found some interesting information about it, including that the endorphins that are released are the same ones we use in stressful situations, so that exercise can basically pull to the surface all the stresses that you’ve buried for years.

I also came across a comment from here: by Dr.McGuff that said:

There is a subset of the population that becomes depressed after a hard workout. I strongly suspect these people may have one of two things (or both) going on.
1) A defect or deficiency in Carnitine metabolism. Carnitine moves fatty acids released during exercise into the mitochondria where they undergo “beta-oxidation” to produce energy. If Carnitine is deficient, the fatty acids do not go into the mitochondria and must undergo “omega oxidation” in the cytosol or liquid portion of the cell. The byproducts of omega oxidation are a host of inflammatory cytokines that can have a negative impact on mood, alertness and memory. Some may even experience transient global amnesia.
2) Serotonin (a neurotransmitter implicated in mood) can become depleted during exercise. About 95% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut in the chromaffin cells. Most is used as a neurotransmitter for the gut, but some makes its way into blood cells, platelets and the bloodstream where it supplies the brain. Due to disruption of intestinal flora, many do not produce serotonin at the necessary rate, thus, when serotonin becomes acutely depleted there is a serotonin sink that cannot be compensated for.
The solutions:
1)Eat a carnitine rich diet (plenty of meat/animal flesh) or supplement with 500mg-1000mg of L-Carnitine per day.
2) Eat fermented foods (full fat yogurt, kefir, sourkraut, kimche) and take a high quality probiotic supplement.

Reading that, I’m really curious if anyone else has experienced this who also has ADHD? The reason I’m wondering is McGuff’s comment about Carnatine issues causing trouble memory and alertness and (most of all) his reference to seratonin. I seem to remember a while back someone told me that seratonin and dopamine levels are often linked so that when we get depressed our ADHD symptoms go up as well. Could it be the other way as well? Could our ADHD make it so that our seratonin is more likely to fluxuate during exercising? Is there any research about this at all?

What’s interesting to me is looking back at all of the times I started an exercise regime and it just never stuck because I lost my initiative. Could that have been because that mild exercise was giving me just enough depression to not want to do anything, much less exercise?


That is a fascinating perspective on exercise I’ve never heard before. I have, however, heard of the connection between carnitine and ADHD and mood disorders. Ask your doctor about adding a carnitine supplement (L-Carnitine or Acytl-l-carnitine) to your regimen.

My son takes Acytl-l-carnitine due to some genetic polymorphisms (MTHFR and COM-T) that are common in those with ADHD. That might be something for you to explore as well.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Oct 29, 2013 at 6:17pm

I am very feast-or-famine in this regard.

I have cycles when I exercise-sleep well - eat health-manage my stress and ADHD.

Then, once one domino falls, they all fall.

Right now, I am not in the good part of the cycle…

Posted by Dr. Eric on Oct 30, 2013 at 9:16pm

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