Running and Hypothyroidism

Running and Hypothyroidism

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a medical condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. These hormones are responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism, which affects various bodily functions, including energy levels, weight management, and temperature regulation. When the thyroid gland is underactive, it can lead to a range of symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, depression, and sensitivity to cold.

Running and Hypothyroidism

Causes and symptoms of hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism can be caused by several factors, including autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. Other causes include radiation therapy, certain medications, and iodine deficiency. The symptoms of hypothyroidism can vary from person to person but often include fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, hair loss, and difficulty concentrating.

What is the test for hypothyroidism?

The most common and initial test for hypothyroidism is a thyroid function test. This is a simple blood test that measures the levels of several hormones, including:

  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH): This hormone is produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. In hypothyroidism, the TSH level is usually elevated because the pituitary gland is trying to signal the thyroid gland to produce more hormones.
  • Thyroxine (T4): This is the main thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland. In hypothyroidism, the T4 level is usually low.
  • Triiodothyronine (T3): This is another thyroid hormone, but it is less common than T4. The T3 level may be low in hypothyroidism, but it is not always measured.

A high TSH level and a low T4 level are the most common findings in hypothyroidism. However, there are other possible causes of these results, so additional tests may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. These additional tests may include:

  • Free T4 test: This test measures the level of T4 that is not bound to protein in the blood. Free T4 is the active form of T4 and is a more accurate indicator of thyroid function than total T4.
  • Thyroid antibodies test: This test measures the level of antibodies to the thyroid gland. These antibodies can damage the thyroid gland and cause hypothyroidism.

In some cases, other tests may be used to diagnose hypothyroidism, such as:

  • Thyroid ultrasound: This test can be used to look for structural abnormalities of the thyroid gland, such as nodules or goiter.
  • Thyroid scan: This test can be used to measure the activity of the thyroid gland.

I am not a medical professional and cannot provide medical advice. If you are concerned that you may have hypothyroidism, please see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

What medication is usually prescribed for hypothyroidism?

The most common medication prescribed for hypothyroidism is levothyroxine, a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4). It comes in tablet and liquid forms, and it’s typically taken once a day on an empty stomach, at least 30 minutes before eating or drinking anything else.

Here are some key points about levothyroxine

  • It’s a very safe and effective medication with minimal side effects when taken as prescribed.
  • The exact dosage will vary depending on individual factors like your age, weight, and the severity of your hypothyroidism. Your doctor will start you on a low dose and gradually increase it until your thyroid hormone levels are in the normal range.
  • You’ll need regular blood tests to monitor your thyroid hormone levels and adjust your dosage as needed.
  • Levothyroxine is typically a lifelong medication for people with hypothyroidism caused by thyroid damage. In some cases, such as hypothyroidism caused by pregnancy or inflammation, the medication may only be needed for a temporary period.

While levothyroxine is the first-line treatment for most cases of hypothyroidism, there are a few other medications that may be used in certain situations. These include:

  • Liothyronine: This medication is a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3). It may be used in addition to levothyroxine for people who don’t feel fully controlled on levothyroxine alone.
  • Liotrix: This medication is a combination of levothyroxine and liothyronine. It’s less commonly used than levothyroxine or liothyronine alone, but it may be an option for some people.
  • Desiccated thyroid extract: This medication is made from dried pig thyroid glands. It’s a natural form of thyroid hormone, but it’s less predictable and consistent than synthetic thyroid hormones, so it’s not as commonly used.

The impact of hypothyroidism on running performance

For runners with hypothyroidism, the condition can significantly impact their running performance. The lack of thyroid hormones can lead to reduced energy levels, making it harder to maintain endurance and speed during runs. Fatigue and muscle weakness are common symptoms of hypothyroidism, which can further hinder running performance. Additionally, hypothyroidism can affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature, causing runners to feel more sensitive to heat or cold.

Running and Hypothyroidism

Would Hypothyroidism cause my running to slow down?

Hypothyroidism can definitely cause your running to slow down. In fact, it’s one of the most common symptoms reported by people with this condition. Here’s how it can happen:

Reduced energy levels

  • One of the main effects of hypothyroidism is fatigue. This is because your body isn’t producing enough thyroid hormones, which are essential for regulating metabolism and energy production.
  • With less energy, you’ll find it harder to maintain your usual pace during runs, leading to slower times.

Muscle weakness

  • Thyroid hormones also play a role in muscle function. When they’re low, your muscles can become weaker and less efficient. This can make it harder to generate the power needed for running, further slowing you down.

Decreased oxygen delivery

  • Thyroid hormones also affect your heart rate and oxygen delivery to your muscles. In hypothyroidism, your heart rate may be slower, and your muscles may not receive enough oxygen to perform at their best.
  • This can result in decreased stamina and endurance, making it difficult to sustain your pace for longer distances.

Weight gain

  • Hypothyroidism can also cause weight gain, even if you’re eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. This extra weight can make it more challenging to run as it adds additional load to your body.

Reduced motivation

  • The fatigue, muscle weakness, and other symptoms of hypothyroidism can also affect your mood and motivation. You may find yourself less interested in running or simply not have the energy to push yourself as hard as you used to.

It’s important to recognise that these are just some of the ways hypothyroidism can affect your running performance. The specific effects can vary depending on the severity of your condition and your individual response to treatment.

If you’re concerned that hypothyroidism might be slowing you down, it’s important to see a doctor

They can test your thyroid hormone levels and determine if you need treatment. With proper diagnosis and management, you can get your thyroid function back on track and improve your running performance.

Here are some additional tips for runners with hypothyroidism:

  • Work with your doctor to find the right medication and dosage for you. This will help to regulate your thyroid hormone levels and improve your symptoms.
  • Be patient. It may take some time to adjust to medication and see improvements in your running performance.
  • Listen to your body. Don’t push yourself too hard if you’re feeling tired or weak. Take rest days when you need them.
  • Focus on your overall health and well-being. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and managing stress can all help to improve your energy levels and running performance.

Can running make hypothyroidism worse?

Running itself does not make hypothyroidism worse. In fact, exercise can have several benefits for individuals with hypothyroidism. Regular physical activity can help boost metabolism, improve mood, and increase energy levels. However, it is important for runners with hypothyroidism to listen to their bodies and not overexert themselves. Pushing too hard during workouts can lead to increased fatigue and exacerbate the symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Managing hypothyroidism while running

Managing hypothyroidism while running requires a careful balance of exercise, medication, and lifestyle modifications. It is crucial for individuals with hypothyroidism to work closely with their healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan. This may include taking thyroid hormone replacement medication to restore hormone levels to normal. Regular check-ups and blood tests are essential to monitor thyroid function and ensure appropriate medication dosage.

Tips for runners with hypothyroidism

Here are some tips to help runners with hypothyroidism manage their condition effectively:

  1. Listen to your body: Pay attention to how your body feels during and after runs. If you’re feeling excessively fatigued or experiencing any concerning symptoms, it may be a sign to adjust your training or consult with your healthcare provider.
  2. Prioritize rest and recovery: Give yourself enough time to rest and recover between workouts. This is especially important for individuals with hypothyroidism, as fatigue and muscle weakness can be heightened.
  3. Maintain a balanced diet: Focus on consuming a nutrient-rich diet that supports thyroid health. Include foods rich in iodine, selenium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid excessive consumption of goitrogenic foods, such as cruciferous vegetables, that can interfere with thyroid function.
  4. Stay hydrated: Proper hydration is important for everyone, but it is particularly crucial for individuals with hypothyroidism. Drinking enough water helps support overall bodily functions and can help alleviate symptoms such as constipation and dry skin.
  5. Manage stress: High stress levels can impact thyroid function. Incorporate stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises into your routine to help reduce stress and promote overall well-being.

The importance of medication and regular check-ups

Taking thyroid hormone replacement medication as prescribed by your healthcare provider is vital for managing hypothyroidism. These medications help regulate hormone levels and alleviate symptoms. It is essential to follow the prescribed dosage and schedule, as well as attending regular check-ups and blood tests. These tests monitor thyroid function and ensure that medication dosage is appropriate for your needs.

Diet and nutrition recommendations for runners with hypothyroidism

Proper nutrition plays a significant role in managing hypothyroidism for runners. Here are some dietary recommendations:

  1. Include iodine-rich foods: Iodine is essential for thyroid hormone production. Include foods such as seaweed, iodized salt, fish, and dairy products in your diet to ensure adequate iodine intake.
  2. Focus on selenium-rich foods: Selenium is a mineral that supports thyroid function. Brazil nuts, seafood, eggs, and legumes are good sources of selenium.
  3. Consume zinc-rich foods: Zinc is important for thyroid hormone production and metabolism. Include foods like oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, and spinach in your diet to boost zinc intake.
  4. Incorporate omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce inflammation associated with autoimmune thyroid conditions. Add fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts to your meals.

Running and Hypothyroidism

Other lifestyle factors to consider for managing hypothyroidism

In addition to exercise and medication, certain lifestyle factors can help manage hypothyroidism:

  1. Adequate sleep: Prioritize getting enough sleep to support overall health and well-being. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
  2. Stress management: Chronic stress can worsen symptoms of hypothyroidism. Incorporate stress management techniques into your daily routine, such as mindfulness, meditation, or engaging in hobbies.
  3. Environmental factors: Minimize exposure to environmental toxins, such as chemicals in cleaning products or personal care items, that can disrupt thyroid function.
  4. Regular check-ups: Regularly visit your healthcare provider for check-ups and blood tests to monitor your thyroid function and ensure optimal management of your condition.


While hypothyroidism can pose challenges for runners, it is possible to manage the condition and continue enjoying the sport. By working closely with healthcare providers, following personalized treatment plans, and making necessary lifestyle modifications, runners with hypothyroidism can maintain their health and achieve their running goals. Remember to listen to your body, prioritize rest and recovery, and fuel yourself with a balanced diet to support thyroid health. With proper management, hypothyroidism does not have to hinder your running journey.

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