The Dangers Of Overtraining
When it comes to health and fitness, all of us try to give our best to get the optimal results as soon as possible. In this process sometimes we start training harder and longer which may give rise to a condition called “overtraining”
Overtraining is one of the most hated terms in sports and fitness. What do you think overtraining can do? Injury ? Fatigue? Is that all? Well in that case you need to read this post till the end because overtraining can cause a lot many other issues that you need to know.
What is Overtraining?
Overtraining is when the exercise intensity, frequency or duration is excessive and the exercises do not allow sufficient recovery between the workouts.
Human body needs to recover after every workout session. Nutrition and rest play a vital role for recovery, and hence the concept of rest days. When the body does not get enough nutrition or rest to recover, it may lead to over training.
Symptoms of Overtraining
A friend of mine recently joined a gym. The trainer there would make her run on the treadmill for half an hour, then 15 minutes on the elliptical and then 15 more minutes on the bicycle machine and then weight training for half an hour more, a total of 90 minutes, 6 days a week.
After doing this for a week, she pinged me, saying she does not feel like going to the gym, feels tired all day, does not feel motivated enough to exercise. Clearly she was over-trained. This is one of the symptoms. Let us see the other symptoms.
- Increase in morning resting heart rate
- Decreased exercise performance
- Frequent and long Illness caused by decreased immune system function such as frequent colds
- Appetite disorders, Lack of sleep, lack of energy, pain in the joints and muscles
- Exercise induced chest discomfort, dizziness and fainting.
Side effects of overtraining
Exercise makes you fit, increases the percentage of lean muscle mass in your body, burns fat and increases bone density. None of this holds true in case of over-training.
Muscle is not built in the gym. It is built outside the gym when you eat and rest.
Note: – By Muscle, I don’t mean bulky and big muscles that guys have.
You break and torture your muscle tissues in the gym and if you do it continuously before your muscles get proper rest, you are continuously destroying your muscles resulting in a decrease in muscle mass instead of improving it. This is one of the side effects. Let us see the other side effects.
- Recurrent or prolonged injuries like tendinitis or stress fractures
- Amenorrhea and bone loss resulting in osteoporosis (specially for females)
- Decreased metabolism, which can be caused due to excess production of cortisol
- Plateaus will be reached too early and you will see either very slow or no progress
- Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. The scary thing is it can happen well before you even realize it.
- Rhabdomyolysis: – This is the worst outcome of overtraining. I hate to scare you, but this means death. There have been incidences where athletes have died because of overtraining.
Some times because of excessive training, the muscle tissues break down and mix in the blood stream, giving rise to a protein component called myoglobin. The kidneys are not designed to filter this. It causes a lethal damage to the kidneys, sometimes non recoverable. This symptom is also called Rhabdo the clown and is signified by the images below.
This is the extreme case of over-training and is relatively very rare, but I mentioned it for you to know what destruction over-training can cause.
Solutions of Overtraining
There is a saying, “there is no such thing as over-training, either you are under-eating or under-sleeping”. True to some extent, because it really depends on a person’s lifestyle and goals
Professional bodybuilders sometimes train upto 4 to 5 hours a day, 7 days a week but don’t end up over-training because their nutrition and rest time are at par with their training.
See the guy above. He holds the biggest title in the world of bodybuilding. All he needs to do is eat, sleep and workout. So training 4 hours in a day is no big deal for him
But for someone like me and may be you also, sleeping every day for 8 hours is also a luxury which is sometimes difficult to afford. For us an hour or less is the recommended time limit, may vary from person to person.
In case you realise that you are overtraining, what would you do to avoid it? Taking few days off from the gym may be one option. Let us see the other options
- Change your workout programs
- Get enough sleep
- Taking certain days out of the week to recover
- Cutting workouts down to less than an hour
- Providing body with appropriate nutrients
- Don’t remove carbohydrates completely: – Make sure that you eat a pre-workout snack one to two hours before your workout so that you get sustained energy during your workout session. Also take a post workout meal containing fast digesting carbohydrates to recover from your workout. There is a minimum amount of calories your body needs to make sure you are not burning your muscle tissues in the gym.
- Take one or two weeks off after 8 to 10 weeks of regular workout:- This is something I always do J
How much is over-training?
As I mentioned above, it depends on the individual, genetics, lifestyle, nutrition etc.
For someone like me with a sedentary lifestyle, working out for even 2 hours may lead to overtraining. But, in general as a rule of thumb, for most people maximum duration of a workout can be somewhere from 45 minutes to an hour. This is enough to keep you fit.
When somebody is a beginner, even half an hour may be sufficient. But this time limit may increase depending upon your progress. So you are your best judge. No one can actually judge for you, what is your maximum limit.
If you have over-trained, you will recognize it easily. Being sore the next day or the day after is okay, but anything more like feeling dizzy during a workout session, vomit, urination during every workout session, lack of enthusiasm for next workout, restlessness etc. can be the symptoms of overtraining.
Remember the goal to exercise is to be and feel fit and active! Not the other way 🙂 and that fitness is not a sprint but a marathon, slow and steady wins the race here
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