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Bodybuilding can push us to our physical and mental limits; this can sometimes lead to us crossing the line.
Crossing the line when training to your limits is very common in many gyms across the globe and this can be a catalyst for ‘overtraining’.
Unfortunately this scenario is all too familiar and performing too many sets, working out for too long and training far too many times per week can have no impact on your muscle growth or strength gain.
These factors are major factors on bodybuilder’s prematurely burning out and in severe cases it can have a negative impact on their general health.
Symptoms of overtraining can include the following:
- A lack of energy
- Feeling sick and run down
- A loss of mojo when training
- Chronically sore muscles and joints
- A total or partial loss of appetite
- A reduction in strength
- Depression, little or no motivation
- Unable to sleep or rest properly
What is overtraining?
You might be thinking ‘what is overtraining?’
Well, overtraining is an issue that many bodybuilders have to deal with from one time or another. It occurs when the body is stressed past its capacity and it is unable to recover fully from a work out.
What many bodybuilders fail to realise is that every time that they train, there is a huge inroad into their recovery capacity. In other words we can actually put ourselves in a situation where our body needs time to heal before the muscles can grow effectively.
The body needs time to repair the micro tears in your muscle tissue, it must also restore your hormonal balance, reset your immune system and breakdown any free radicals that have been produced whilst training.
For all of these physiological processes to happen properly require time and energy, if your body is not fully recovered then the energy for building muscle is still being used for recovery purposes.
When adding another training session on top of this scenario then the body is still in recovery mode and with the additional stress of the training session, the body goes into survival or shut down mode.
The body copes with the stress by shutting down and a classic sign of overtraining is a lack of energy because it is being redirected to facilitate a full healing or recovery process.
This is the main reason why your muscle growth has halted and interestingly the first muscle group to shut down is your glutes. This is because it is the biggest and most powerful muscle group in the body that requires the most energy to function effectively.
Lifting heavy weights
Lifting heavy weights can place a huge amount of stress on your muscles and your body. This stress is vital for you to produce the adaptive response that is required for your muscles to grow effectively.
Too much stress can have an adverse effect on your muscle growth and even too much training on a specific muscle group can lead to the whole body feeling drained.
As mentioned previously when your body is in an over trained state your progress in terms of building muscle mass comes an abrupt stop!
Think of this scenario as ‘two steps forward and one step back’. In the gym you train hard this is the step backwards and when you refuel effectively with the right nutrition and rest plan – this is two steps forwards in the right direction. The accumulative result is that your muscles will keep growing and you will continue to show some valuable progress in your work outs.
Conversely if you over train then this is lots of steps backwards and your recovery time outside of the gym becomes dramatically increased and your muscle building environment can become ‘catabolic’.
The role of cortisol
When our body are in a state of stress there is a parallel rise in the hormone ‘cortisol’.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone produced by the body. Catabolic means that it breaks down body tissues.
This break down can include muscle tissue. It can suppress your body’s synthesis of new proteins, making it more difficult to build muscle. It can also hinder your body’s ability to burn fats and carbohydrates.
Cortisol, if not kept under control, will negatively affect your metabolism and slow down your thyroid function.
Too much cortisol can also suppress your immune system, cause high blood pressure, elevate your cholesterol, increase calcium depletion, and accelerate aging and memory loss.
How to recover effectively
There are 2 training strategies to help with recovering your overtraining. The first strategy is ‘passive recovery’ and this is where you have some quality time out from training altogether.
The second strategy is called ‘active recovery’, this encompasses working at a lower intensity and workloads than the norm.
Both recovery strategies are equally as good as one another but they are dependent on the severity of the overtraining symptoms, your age, BMI and fitness levels also play a key role in how long it would take you to recover fully.
How to avoid overtraining
Here are some top tips to help you prevent overtraining:
- Increases your calories intake as you may be expending to much energy
- Increase your protein intake as helps with muscle growth and repair
- Increase your water intake as dehydration can exacerbate symptoms of overtraining
- Increase vitamin C level as this is an excellent antioxidant that helps your immune system to mop up any free radicals.
- Increase L-glutamine intake as this will help you to sleep and rest properly