Originally Posted by s5fskzfv
After a long workout I often have trouble concentrating. It's hard to describe exactly what the problem is, it's like if I have something I need to read, or something that takes thinking like balancing a checkbook, I just don't feel like doing it. Trying to concentrate feels uncomfortable to the point that I can't do it. I tend to do a lot of reading, if I didn't, I might not even notice the problem, it's sort of subtle. I'm not sure exactly what it is, maybe not enough sleep or low blood sugar? Usually by the next day I'm back to normal after a couple of meals and some sleep.
I am wondering if anyone else experiences this and if there is anything known about what causes it? how to prevent it? or how to get over it faster?
Medical diagnosis: High cortisol levels. Have a physical study done to sample your blood and get a blood profile shortly after such high intensity exercise, while these effects are onset. Tell your doctor about the problem, suggest that you would like to know of any particularly high numbers including especially high serum cortisol, but also anything else he may see as important.
Cortisol is a stress hormone. It is released during prolonged high intensity exercises, especially with elevated VO2max. It has many, many effects; particularly, it increases glucogenises--it helps break proteins and fats down into intermediary compounds that your liver can convert to glycogen, which then gets converted to glucose.
Regular extended periods of high cortisol serum concentration can cause sever psychological problems: decreased brain function, decreased memory, increased stress; not to mention problems such as diabeetus.
Regular consumption of tea--particularly black tea, although I prefer green tea and green tea generally has better health effects--reduces high cortisol recovery time, allowing your body to quickly return to normalized cortisol levels after a period of intense cortisol elevation. The studies for this used black tea at high intake--four cups daily for 6 weeks prior to the study, versus a placebo consuming a tea-like substance they were told was tea. Lower consumption levels or different teas may also be effective. Consuming least one cup of green tea per week has been shown to decrease general cognitive decline over time, which is likely unrelated.
I also suggest meditation. Regular meditation will teach you to calm yourself, and overall develop a smoother stress response and a better baseline. This as well lowers cortisol levels, but also has many other physiological and psychological effects. You don't need to do this every day or devote hours at a time to it; ten minutes (don't watch the time) of some very basic meditation (for example, sitting on the floor cross legged--lotus is actually VERY balanced if you can do it, and thus much more comfortable because you don't feel like you're sitting on your ankle or leaning over--with eyes closed, watching your breathing and pulse) one to three days per week can have a large effect.
Sleep deprivation can indeed cause elevated cortisol levels as well; you should make sure to get enough sleep and to get good sleep. I typically sleep on a Japanese shikifuton spread on tatami with a soba gara makura (buckwheat hull filled pillow), which has proven to be the best sleeping surface I have ever found. Over the weekend I slept on a flimsy, overstuffed American futon (thicker, less firm) with horrible pillows and a two inch memory foam top, and the lack of support left me feeling like I hadn't slept. I also found that the memory foam pillow itself is the worst pillow I have used; conversely, it's the best pillow my parents have used (they haven't used the soba gara makura, but obviously they have used other pillows that I would much favor over the memory foam pillow--which is important). As you can see, the correct sleeping setup is somewhat personal, but also highly important.
Like I said, ask your doctor, run some tests. You can try the tea thing if you like; it's a safe treatment. Don't kill yourself on tea; you won't die if you miss a day or don't drink enough tea, don't obsess over this stuff. If it works, you can skip the doctor and be content.