For those of us who want to be at our very best all the time and work our backsides off to achieve our goals, reaching too far too soon and entering into an overtrained state is a very real, and surprisingly common obstacle to overcome.
In this article we’re going to take a look at a few of the factors which can contribute to overtraining, as well as exploring some simple solutions you can begin to implement into your daily routine in order to enhance your recovery.
So what exactly is overtraining?
To put it simply, when we train our bodies through exercise, we’re breaking down muscle tissues and placing a significant demand on our nervous and immune systems. Training without adequate recovery periods for too long can have a cumulative effect; as fatigue mounts, this creates a stress response in the body which causes a subsequent increase in cortisol levels.
When our cortisol levels are jacked up, your body will be far less inclined to let go of its fat stores, and you may also experience an increase in water retention and GI-distress.
As fatigue and stress increase, this promotes inflammation within the body which will slow down recovery and increase the risk of injury as your joints become less supple due the being chronically inflamed.
Symptoms of Overtraining
Now that we’ve defined what it means to be overtrained, let’s look at the question of what it actually looks like from the point of view of the silly individual who has been getting a little overenthusiastic about getting in shape.
Simply having sore muscles for a few days, straining your hip, or feeling run down aren’t necessarily signs that you might be pushing your body too far, but there are a fair few tell-tale signs to watch out for which might indicate that you’re starting to become overtrained, these can include:
- Fat loss progress which has stalled for more than a week or two;
- Loss of appetite;
- Increased resting heart rate;
- Decreased libido and sex drive;
- Bad or inconsistent moods
- Frequent illness; and
- Loss of motivation to exercise;
You may experience one of these symptoms, all of them, or none at all, but these are the most common signs that you are becoming overtrained so you should remain vigilant at all times so that you can proactively catch it in the early stages and deal with the issue accordingly.
What can we do to treat, and in the future, prevent overtraining?
Fortunately, overtraining is very easy to remedy, providing you haven’t severely injured yourself or damaged your metabolism through months of excessive exercise and dieting.
Here are a few tips which should help to greatly improve your recovery capacity and stem the tide of cumulative fatigue:
- Eat a well balanced diet containing adequate amounts of protein, vegetables, healthy fats. and enough carbohydrates to fuel your activities
- Ensure you get plenty of sleep each night; 7 or 8 hours should be plenty for most people
- Completely cut out cigarettes, alcohol, other drugs, and any other substances which may affect your immune system and impede your ability to recover from your workouts
- Consume an intra-workout drink which contains low-osmolality carbohydrates such as potato starch, and a fast-acting protein source such as whey hydrolysate or amino acids
- Engage in active recovery sessions, including light exercise such as walking, swimming, or running daily errands; anything which keeps your body moving and gets your blood circulating
One of the most, if not the most important thing you can do to improve your recovery is to change your mindset towards one which is more focused on adopting a lifestyle conducive to a speedy recovery process.
This could mean making sure you go to bed before midnight or taking time out of your day to relax and de-stress, but whichever methods you choose, you should strive to remain as consistent as you can to ensure the greatest results.
Recovery from hard exercise is a very individual thing, and some of you guys are probably reading this thinking you can get away with drinking every weekend.
This may be true for some, but you will never be at the top of your game if you don’t take every possible opportunity to maximize not just your recovery, but your physical health and well-being as a whole.
So keep an open mind and listen to your body to make sure you’re not getting too ahead of yourself; we should all work our hardest to achieve our goals, but never at the expense of our health and safety which should always come first.
Hopefully this has provided you with a few useful titbits to stem the tide of fatigue and keep you performing at your very best for many years to come!