The term “Overtraining” refers to the state of being physically or mentally exhausted from training. Over time, it causes physical changes such as muscle breakdown and fatigue, mental effects like depression and anxiety, and emotional ones like anger and irritability. It may even cause damage to your body’s organs (such as liver failure). While there are many different types of overtraining, they all have one thing in common: They’re not caused by enough rest or too much exercise.
While some people believe that overtraining is something only experienced by athletes, it occurs to most of us at least once in our lives. For example, if you train hard every day for several months without any breaks, then eventually you’ll get tired and need a break.
If you continue doing so until your muscles start breaking down or your bones begin to crack, then you’ve probably had enough.
But what happens when you do the opposite?
You train hard for a few weeks, but then take a break for two or three months. When you come back to training, you feel completely fresh!
Why does this happen? What’s going on with your body that makes it recover faster than normal? And how can you prevent yourself from getting into this situation again?
So, if you want to find out, just read more.
What is overtraining?
When it comes to physical exercise, it’s a given that your muscles need time to rest and recover. While we don’t normally think about it, our muscles are actually in a constant state of breakdown (activity) and rebuilding (rest). It’s the “breakdown” process that stimulates growth, and it’s this growth phase that needs proper nutrition and rest. Otherwise, this is what leads to an overtrained state.
Still, the term “overtraining” is very broad. It can be used to describe anything from getting tired after a really long run to chronic fatigue or even depression.
To be more specific, we can divide these conditions into physical and mental overtraining.
This type of overtraining occurs when your body enters a state of excessive fatigue and physical breakdown due to extreme exercise. There are many symptoms, but the most common ones include:
Decrease in muscle strength.
Increase in muscle pain after or even during exercise.
Soreness that lasts even after a day of rest.
Decrease in endurance during workouts or events.
Shorter attention span during events or even everyday tasks.
Decrease in performance even after months of rest.
It’s important to note that some of these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, such as lack of nutrition, vitamin deficiencies or injuries. So if you feel tired after a really long run, you should definitely pay a visit to your doctor and get yourself checked out before jumping to conclusions.
It’s a common misconception that only our muscles need rest to recover, but our brains do as well. In fact, research shows that those who engage in intellectual work should also engage in regular periods of rest, otherwise their brain can also enter a state of fatigue and decrease in performance.
Mental overtraining occurs when the brain is unable to rest due to extreme amounts of activity. While this can be similar to physical overtraining, it’s important to note that these two conditions can occur separately or together.
Just because you’re not hitting the books for months doesn’t mean that your muscles are going to atrophy! Still, it’s a good idea to keep both your mind and body in tip-top shape, so find a healthy medium to maximize your performance.
How to prevent overtraining
So now that you know what overtraining is, how do you prevent it from happening to you?
Well, it’s a lot simpler than you might think. All it takes is some self-discipline and common sense!
Take time to rest.
This should be obvious, but it’s often the first thing people neglect. Our daily lives are filled with responsibilities and obligations: school, work, friends, family, etc.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic pace of life, so it’s easy to forget that rest is just as important as the things you do.
It’s recommended that you take a day off from strenuous exercise at least once per week. During this time, it’s best to completely relax: no sports, no exercise, and definitely no arguing with your physics professor about why he’s wrong about quantum theory (even if he is!).
Your muscles, bones and mind need time to recover. By taking a break every now and then, you’ll actually increase the effectiveness of your training sessions and you’ll be able to perform better overall.
Train smart, not hard.
“No pain, no gain,” is a common misconception people have about exercise. While it’s true that you will feel pain when you challenge your body to new physical limits, this doesn’t mean that you should engage in reckless behavior.
When participating in any athletic activity, it’s important to listen to your body. This means that if something hurts, you should stop and rest before trying again.
Keep in mind that the human body is incredibly adaptable. If you constantly challenge yourself physically, your body will eventually overcome this challenge and become stronger and better than before.
However, if you constantly subject your body to unnecessary pain, it’s only going to hurt in the long run. So be safe and remember to Listen to Your Body!
A few other important factors
No, drinking lots of water doesn’t just prevent dehydration! Sure, dehydration can lead to all sorts of complications and should definitely be avoided when exercising (or doing anything else), but proper hydration is also important for our bodies in general.
You may be surprised to learn that you can suffer from dehydration without actually losing any measurable amount of water. This occurs when you fail to take in enough water to replace the fluids that you’ve lost through sweat, urine, and exhaled air.
It can also happen when you suffer a large amount of water loss all at once.
The best way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to consistently monitor how much water you intake and output. While it’s not necessary to record every drop of water that goes in and out of your body, it’s a good idea to weigh yourself before and after you exercise.
If you notice a change in weight, then you know you’ve lost or gained water and the amount that you’ve lost or gained can be calculated based on your weight prior to and after exercise.
This simple measurement will allow you to know if you’re adequately hydrated or not.
Carbohydrates and Proteins
Carbs and proteins are the nutrients that are most important to people who exercise. Carbohydrates give you energy to perform strenuous physical activities and proteins are the building blocks of muscles.
While these are often thought of as “miracle supplements” that will instantly make you buff, there’s actually a limit to what they can do for your body.
For one thing, if you’re eating a proper diet, then you probably don’t need to supplement your food with additional carbs or proteins. If you’re eating garbage like candy, soda, and fast food on a regular basis, then yes, you could probably benefit from adding more nutritious food into your diet.
However, if you eat a balanced diet that’s rich in fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy, then you probably don’t need to add additional carbs or proteins into your diet. They might help, but they’re not going to be effective as say…
taking multivitamins would be.
Also, keep in mind that these are supplements. This means that they are not meant to replace the food that you normally eat.
It is possible to have too much of a good thing, so don’t overdo it.
Finally, it’s important to note that these supplements are more effective when taken after a workout. That’s because your body’s in need of nutrients to repair the muscles that you’ve torn or damaged during exercise.
To get the most out of your supplements, make sure you take them after and possibly even before your work out.
While we’re on the topic of supplements, let’s talk about Creatine.
Creatine is a naturally occuring compound that’s stored mostly in your muscle tissues. It’s used as an energy source for muscular contractions, which is why it’s commonly used by athletes and those who lift weights
There have been a lot of conflicting reports regarding the use of creatine and its safety. Some people have blamed it for causing dehydration, muscle cramps, muscle strains and even kidney and liver damage.
However, these claims are unfounded and merely rumors.
There have been numerous studies that have tested creatine use over an extended period of time in a controlled environment.These studies have shown that there are no negative health effects caused by taking creatine for periods of up to five years.
If you’re interested in using creatine, the “recommended daily dose” is between 3-5 grams per day. It’s also recommended that you cycle on and off the supplement every few months to give your body a chance to replenish creatine stores.
With that said, if you’re going to be using creatine, now’s the time to start since it takes a month or two before you see any results.
Another benefit of creatine is that it’ll help you gain weight, which is great for muscle building.
Supplements to Improve Your Workout
While eating a proper diet is the most important thing when it comes to losing weight or building muscle, supplements can definitely help you achieve your goals faster.
Most of these supplements are available at your local GNC or Vitamin Shoppe and can be found online as well. I’ve composed a list of what I feel are some of the best workout supplements that are currently available on the market.
If you’re like most guys and you find it hard to put on weight, then a weight gainer is something you might want to invest in. These types of supplements are packed with calories and are perfect for gaining weight rapidly.
The problem with some weight gainers is that they taste disgusting and can have a negative effect on your stomach. Not to mention they can get pretty expensive if you’re not careful.
There are some cheaper alternatives if you want to gain weight.
Protein Bars and Shakes
Protein bars and protein shakes are good supplements to take after a workout when you need to gain weight. They’re packed with calories and nutrients and can help give you that extra energy to work out harder.
The only drawback is that some of these protein bars can taste awful and the shakes…well they pretty much all taste awful no matter what flavor you get.
You can always buy them in bulk to save money and you can also try adding fruit to the shakes to make them taste better.
5 Hour Energy
If you have trouble staying awake during the day or if you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, then a 5 Hour Energy is exactly what you need.
Now some people claim that these things are more harmful than beneficial, but that’s not true. As long as you don’t use them every day then they can be very useful.
Personally, I have a 5 Hour Energy if I know I’m going to have a rough day ahead of me or if I know I’m going to have a hard time staying awake during the day. These things really do help and they aren’t that bad for you if used in moderation.
I don’t use them before bed anymore since I started using the next supplement instead.
If you’re like me and have a hard time falling to sleep, then melatonin is the supplement for you.
I used to have problems with falling asleep ever since I was a kid. My parents would often find me sleeping at my desk with my head down for hours on end.
My sleeping habits didn’t really get better until I started taking melatonin. This stuff is available over the counter and is very cheap and not to mention it can also be found almost anywhere.
Most grocery or drug stores carry it.
The only problem with melatonin is it takes a while before it kicks in, so you’ll have to take it at least an hour before you want to fall asleep.
With all of these supplements, proper diet and exercise are always necessary. You can have the best supplements in the world, but if you don’t have your diet and exercise in check, you won’t get the results you want.
Always remember that before taking any supplements.
Sources & references used in this article:
Spanish adaptation and analysis by structural equation modeling of an instrument for monitoring overtraining: the recovery-stress questionnaire (RESTQ-SPORT) by R Gonzalez-Boto, A Salguero, C Tuero… – Social Behavior and …, 2008 – ingentaconnect.com
Overtraining athletes: Personal journeys in sport by SO Richardson, MB Andersen, T Morris – 2008 – books.google.com
Underrecovery and overtraining: Different concepts-similar impact by M Kellmann – Enhancing recovery: Preventing underperformance …, 2002 – books.google.com
The overtraining syndrome: A multicontextual assessment by HL Meehan, SJ Bull, DM Wood… – The Sport …, 2004 – journals.humankinetics.com
Labeling, Overtraining, and by TS Kendler – Perception, cognition, and development …, 1983 – books.google.com
Interaction between overtraining and the interindividual variability may (not) trigger muscle oxidative stress and cardiomyocyte apoptosis in rats by RLP Ferraresso… – Oxidative medicine …, 2012 – downloads.hindawi.com