Overtraining is the number one reason why most of the people in your gym look like they have never worked out before. Overtraining is also the reason why most people don't see the gains they want, and give up right away. Its what you DON'T want to do.
Overtraining is extremely noticeable when it finally comes about. Training and performance will be impaired, energy levels will be low, and muscle gains will be stalled, or even lost. In some athletes, recovery from overtraining may take anywhere from several weeks, or even months depending on the severity of the situation.
Signs of Overtraining
- Feel tired all the time but can't sleep well
- No gains, maybe actually losing strength and/or size
- No motivation to train
- Loss of appetite
- Jittery "stretched out" or weak feeling
- Muscles and joints aching all the time
- No or not much of a pump when training
Types of Overtraining
Progress is very easy to recognize. However, progress may become sluggish if workouts are not mixed up to shock the body into new growth. At some points, a plateau may be seen. If at this point, the bodybuilder continues to train intensely with the same routine, overtraining may occur. After the plateau is met, you may experience fatique in your workouts, or worse yet, a reduction in gains of both strength and muscle. At this point, it is important for your workout program to taper and allow for full recovery.
If you continue to train without full recovery, the muscle fibers that you recruit during a workout become prematurely fatigued, and your body will then start to look for help in other muscle groups. This will cause you to have elevated heart action, heavier breathing, and very noticeably - higher levels of lactic acid buildup. All, very uncomfortable and counter productive situations you can create for yourself. Trying to work through overtraining will only hinder your results.
Long-term overtraining is different from short-term overtraining and degrades your body even more. Unlike short-term overtraining, it will not be possible to work through long-term overtraining with minimal negative effects. Long-term overtraining will require rest and recuperation in order to continue on with your normal bodybuilding progress.
Signs of long-term overtraining are fairly easy to recognize. Expect to see a higher resting heart rate, loss of strength and muscular endurance, greater feelings of emotion and irritability, abnormal sleep patterns, loss of appetite, and a drop in bodyweight.
Prevention and Treatment of Overtraining
If you find yourself overtrained, employ some of the tips below to help you get your energy levels back up so you can start working out again:
Of course, the best cure of all is prevention. If you are a beginner, just starting to train, start by training 3 or 4 sessions per week. If you are finding you are unable to keep up with this, lower the amount of days you train, or the length or your training sessions. Find out about how long it takes for you to recover, and use that as a guideline for scheduling your workouts. And remember, if you ever feel overly sore, lethargic, or find your muscle gains have stalled or even reversed, be sure to take a break, assess your situation and determine if you have been overtraining or if it was just an off day or two.
For about seven to 10 days, engage in one or two hours of active rest at some point throughout the day. This may involve some light walking or stretching, but can also include sports such as volleyball, basketball or swimming.
To maintain muscle mass, make sure you are eating enough protein, and make sure your diet stays top rate. Some light pushups, or other light bodybuilding activities can also help you maintain your muscle.
Ways to reduce the risk of overtraining:
- Emphasize carbohydrates, make them 60-70% of your total diet.
- Take carbohydrates two hours prior to exercising and immediately following exercise.
- Post-exercise muscle glycogen storage can be enhanced with a combination carbohydrate-protein supplement as a result of the interaction of carbohydrate and protein on insulin secretion. The addition of protein with carbohydrates can allow for a more rapid return recovery.
- Drink a rehydration beverage during and after exercise, for example, Gatorade.
- Take periodic days off.
- Use the best "miracle supplement" there is - WATER. You can't "overdose" on water. The worst side effect you can get as mentioned previously, is a few more trips to the washroom. Your body functions optimally when it is fully hydrated.
- LEAVE YOUR WORKOUT IN THE GYM. Give your undivided attention to your training when your in the gym. But when you're outside the gym, cast your attention to other things in life. Establish your other priorities, set goals, and keep busy. There are many athletes who fall into the trap of letting their mind continually dwell on training. Train hard when your in the gym, but try and relax more when your not. Stress has been shown to increase levels of CORTISOL in the body - the catabolic hormone, so try to find ways to manage stress in your life and relax, and your results will be improved.