More is better, right? Well not always. When it comes to your performance and training, your body needs ample rest and recovery, to adequately build and rebuild lean muscle mass, and to perform at an elite level. Volume, or your workout load, is a critical factor in reaching your body composition and performance goals. Often times, the more you work out and train, the better outcomes you’ll have. But, as with most things, there is a definite point of diminishing returns.
Overtraining is the product of two culpabilities in your recovery routine. One, is exercising and lifting too much without enough time in between for ample muscle recovery. The second, is unremittingly under fueling your body with the critical nutrients it needs, to recover faster. Overtraining is something that not only happens with high-performance and elite athletes. If your nutrition, hormones, and stress is out of sync, overtraining can happen to any caliber of athlete at any level. Overtraining can occur to those that are new to fitness and endurance training, by taking on too much, too soon. In regards to experienced athletes, overtraining often occurs with enduring prolonged training periods, without adequate rest and recovery before they start another training session.
What Are The Symptoms Of Overtraining?
1. Excess Fatigue
Chronic fatigue is often the culprit when it comes to overtraining syndrome, which results in underperformance, and increased susceptibility to infection [R]. Symptoms of chronic fatigue can take anywhere from 6-12 weeks to recover from and in some cases up to 6 months. All athletes from any type of sport are expected to constantly train at elite levels to improve performance. This type of exercise demand must be designed in a cyclical way (periodization) to allow enough recovery time, with a progression of work overload to improve performance. Often times, underperformance results in athletes who overtrain, and instead react to this with training even more and overcompensating for the drop-in performance levels and fatigue, instead of taking the time to adequately rest and recover.
As reported by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, “the neurotransmitter 5-hydroxytryptamine (5HT, serotonin) is an important factor that can cause fatigue and tiredness. The amino acid tryptophan is converted in the brain into 5HT and competes with the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) for entry into the brain on the same amino acid carrier, especially leucine.” This is why BCAAs are marketed as helping reduce fatigue and improving energy during workouts.
“Thus a decrease in levels of branched-chain amino acids in the blood as the result of an increased rate of utilization by muscle will increase the ratio of tryptophan to branched-chain amino acids in the bloodstream and favor the entry of tryptophan into the brain. This may result in fatigue originating in the brain. Free tryptophan is further increased by a rise in plasma fatty acid levels. In endurance activity, non-esterified fatty acids increase and branched-chain amino acids decrease. In rats it has been shown that this increases the concentration of 5HT in the hypothalamus and brainstem.26 5HT-containing cells are widespread in the central nervous system, and changes in 5HT levels could account for many of the symptoms of overtraining affecting sleep, causing central fatigue and loss of appetite, and inhibiting the release of factors from the hypothalamus that control pituitary hormones.”
Glycogen is the first fuel source utilized during prolonged or any type of athletic activity and is depleted rather quickly. Branched-chain amino acids are a close second and provide the fuel you need to positively increase protein synthesis, and supply the body with energy, to delay muscle fatigue and help overcome overtraining.
90% of those that are overtraining, experience difficulty sleeping, reporting sleep disturbances, difficulty getting to sleep, nightmares, constantly waking up, and feeling unrefreshed in the morning. The loss of adequate sleep can result in a multitude of different symptoms, especially within an athlete population expected to perform at high levels. Ratelessness can result in loss of appetite, lower libido, loss of competitive drive, irritability, anxiety, and moodiness. Not to mention, prolonged recovery times.
When it comes to overtraining, underperformance is frequently one of the most noticeable signs and symptoms. This is often due to nutritional deficits, or lack of optimized post-workout nutrition. Workload and volume, also contribute to underperformance.
Low glycogen levels, which comes from carbohydrates, can impair your workouts, due to having an inadequate amount of fuel for your workout. Low muscle glycogen also results in increased oxidation and decreased concentrations of branched-chain amino acids [R].
Glycogen is the major fuel source produced from glucose found in Carbohydrates. Glycogen plays a major role in supporting energy demands during pro-longed high-intensity training and moderate exercise. [R]. The depletion of glycogen stores, due to utilization by muscle tissue, is the main factor in the onset of fatigue during exercise [R]. For rapid recovery from prolonged exercise, it is important to replenish glycogen stores to initiate muscle repair and adaptation [R]. Carbohydrates can be utilized within your post-workout nutrition strategy to influence the restoration of endurance capacity during high-intensity training [R].
Numerous clinical studies have proven that prolonged exercise correlates with low glycogen muscle content [R]. Therefore, if you plan on enduring prolonged exercise bouts, or have multiple WODs in your workouts, it’s crucial to supplement with a clean, natural complex carbohydrate product to help replenish glycogen stores, for long-lasting energy and endurance. We recommend our product Clean Carbs, which contains sweet potatoes, yams, oats, and blueberries.
RECOMMENDED PRODUCT Clean Carbs (45 Servings)
Getting the proper and adequate amounts of essential amino acids from protein and glycogen is crucial for post-workout nutrition, in order to replenish and initiate the repair process to optimize your training. Clinical studies have shown that including carbohydrates and protein together into your post-workout nutrition has the greatest benefits on performance optimization [R].
4. Irregular heartbeat
A rise in resting heart rate and excessive sweating during your workouts can be a symptom of overtraining [R]. Using a heart monitor during training sessions can help determine irregularities in resting heart rate and metabolic rate, as your heart tries to keep up with increased physical demands.
5. Weakened Immune System
Moderate and regular exercise amongst normal individuals helps reduce the level of infections, and minor respiratory episodes or frequency. However, upper respiratory tract infections are common amongst those that overtrain and elite athletes. When athletes have not fully recovered, their immune system weakens, leaving them susceptible to infection, the next time they train. One of the greatest ways to boost your immune system is by using the supplement L-Glutamine. Glutamine is used by white blood cells to produce cytokines, (small proteins released by white blood cells). With an increased number of cytokines, you invariably increase your body’s susceptibility to illness and protect your immune system.
In a randomized controlled trial published by the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 24 athletes were administered 10g of Glutamine per day for six weeks, to determine whether Glutamine supplementation alters immune function in athletes during heavy resistance training.
The results found that T-cell ratings (White blood cells that help mediate immune health) were extremely different between the groups, indicating a positive correlation that glutamine supplementation may be able to restore immune function and reduce the immunosuppressive effects of heavy-resistance training in athletes [R]
If you want to give your immune system a boost and recovery faster from overtraining, we recommend adding two scoops or 10g of Glutamine to your post-workout recovery shake. Swolverine’s L-Glutamine will help boost your immune system, and make sure you’re staying active and healthy.
How Do You Recover From Overtraining?
As an athlete, increases in performance equals an increase in nutritional demands as well. Your body naturally craves more of everything, to keep up with increased physical activity. This also includes optimized micronutrient intake, as well as nutrient timing. The easiest way to ensure you do not overtrain, especially at an elite level, is to hire a nutrition coach. A nutrition coach will help optimize your diet to improve performance and recover faster. Without the proper nutrition, you limit yourself as an athlete and will not only underperform but also be prone to more injury. If you need help optimizing your diet, we recommend The Swole Kitchen.
Longer Rest Intervals/Periodization
The last thing that an athlete wants to do is rest. Especially when they continue to train and underperform. Athletes will continue to push the limits past the rate of diminishing returns, simply because they are addicted, and if told to rest they will most often not comply. Ideally dividing up training sessions to incorporate more rest intervals and exercising at a lower intensity will often help in recovery and help overcome overtraining. Slowly rebuilding volume, over a period of 6-12 weeks, rather than intensity through sprint interval training, for less than 10 seconds each interval, as well as adequate rest (3-5 minutes) between resistance training is advised, to overcome symptoms of overtraining. Once a higher volume is achieved, workout intensity can be increased [R].
Early adaptations to increased training, can result in what’s called overreaching. This is when extreme muscle soreness and underperformance occurs in the short term, due to increased physical demands. Periodization, can oftentimes help in reducing overreaching and overtraining.
When you first begin training, your body undergoes specific adaptations to training capacity, volume, and load. You may not be able to perform recommended amounts of reps, sets or intervals at first, but as your body adapts to your training program, you will gradually increase workout volume, intensity, and efficiency. When this happens, your body will undergo physical changes in its ability regarding strength, power, speed, and performance. As you progress, you will need to adjust to these training adaptations, to further optimize performance. Periodization or cycling workout programs will vary the focus of training at specific planned periods of time. Adjusting workout type, tempo, intensity, and rep/set range as you assimilate to performance changes will allow for bigger gains and better results over time.
Supplementation along with nutrition is critical to prevent symptoms of overtraining and improve workout performance. All performance-driven, and/or endurance athletes should be taking the following supplements to help prevent overtraining, optimize post-workout recovery, and improve performance.
L-Glutamine: Improves immune system health, prevents exercise-induced muscle mass breakdown and soreness and improves recovery times.
Clean Carbs: Replenishes muscle glycogen to provide long-lasting sustained energy for prolonged workout periods, improves endurance, and optimizes recovery times.
BCAAs: Delays muscle fatigue, and provides adequate fuel to positively increase protein synthesis, to increase lean muscle mass and optimize workout recovery.
Whey Protein Isolate: Includes all essential amino acids, to help rebuild and repair lean muscle mass, as well as optimize recovery.
Overtraining: The Takeaway
Overtraining can affect athletes at any level, but more often affect elite endurance athletes. Overtraining can result in chronic fatigue, underperformance, insomnia, and increased vulnerability to infection. With a thoughtful and well-balanced nutrition regimen, supplementation and regeneration strategy, symptoms of overtraining can often be resolved in 6-12 weeks.
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