When it comes to reaching success in anything, really, persistence is the best policy, and we all know that. Well, in theory, at least. So, when working out, we should be highly motivated and persistent and the success is guaranteed. However, we often take this advice too serious, and our desire to achieve faster results leads to overtraining and causes quite the opposite effect of what we intended in the first place.
We’ve all been there; we’ve all experienced what is known as overtraining syndrome, in this or that way. Basically, overtraining is caused by working out too hard for too long. From a physiological perspective, the condition results in hormonal alterations that can lead to losses in muscle mass and strength, together with decreased energy levels. You become more susceptible to illness and prone to inflammation because your immune system is also affected. In the most serious cases, these effects can even influence the Central Nervous System and lead to depression.
As you know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so I advise you to follow the necessary steps bellow and prevent overtraining.
Set Your Limits
After about an hour of exercising, levels of testosterone in your body begin to lower and levels of the stress hormone cortisol begin to rise. Testosterone is responsible for muscle growth and maintenance, while cortisol can cause gaining weight, therefore this is the complete opposite of what we intend to happen. If you work out for about three hours, you are most likely to increase your chances of overtraining. For best results, keep your sessions under an hour. Don’t try and copy anyone else’s training schedule, their specific needs may be different than yours and your body may require more or less rest before your next hard session.
The most common misconception is that your training will be more effective and that you will lose more weight if, in addition to an excessive workout, you eat less. Remember that when training, food is vital, and you will even need it more than usual to replenish your energy level and help your body recover. We are not talking just about the quantity; food quality is equally important. Eat plenty of protein and fat to fuel your efforts and repair your body and add as many carbs as you need to refill glycogen. Make sure you do this immediately after the workout.
What helped me to recover after overtraining which was caused by powerlifting was food, actually, to be more precise, whey protein isolate powder, and I warmly recommend it you.
Avoid Too Much Stress
Yes, you’ve read it well, I said “too much”. Certain amount of stress is good because it enables the repair process. While exercising, our muscles exert themselves and this is a form of stress and our bodies’ response to it is repairing the damaged muscle. If the stress wasn’t too great and if you allowed enough time for recovery, the repaired muscle will become stronger than before. Also, stress can sometimes increase our physical performance in the short term – imagine being chased by a lion, for example, I bet your physical strength, reaction time, and focus will be way greater. Remember that chronic levels of stress reduce our physical performance and ability to recover from training, though.
— Zigverve.com (@zigverve) October 1, 2015
Get plenty of sleep – you hear it all the time and for a good reason. Namely, during sleep, anabolic hormones important for muscle repair and recovery, especially growth hormone, are released. I already mentioned cortisol – it increases body fat and is, in turn, increased by the lack of sleep. What also happens when you don’t sleep is that immunity suffers and systemic inflammation increases.
When exercising, no one wants to over-train, of course, or undertrain, for that matter. The best way, but also the hardest, is to strike the right balance. How to do so? Well, my advice is to keep training hard, but still provide your body with plenty of rest, recovery time and adequate nutrients.