So you have taken the decision to build a little muscle, you have joined the gym and now work out whenever you get the chance.
Although you have started to see results, your training has become a bit of an obsession, which can lead to you working out excessively (over 5 hours a week).
If this sounds like you then you are putting yourself at risk of overtraining that can risk your health.
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 workout.
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 overtrained 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 forward 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 workouts.
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 is 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.
Symptoms Of Overtraining
Here are 10 symptoms of overtraining that you need to be aware of.
#1: You Are Always Thirsty
If you find that you are always thirsty then you may find that you are overtraining.
When you overtrain your body will go into a catabolic state, which is when your body starts to break down muscle tissue for energy, this also causes dehydration.
To combat this thirst it is recommended you take a break from training, plus get an adequate amount of water.
#2: Muscle Soreness
It is normal to experience muscle soreness or DOMS for a day or 2 after your workout but if this soreness continues for days after then it may be time for you to take a break from training.
You need to pay attention to what your body is telling you, if you are sore then your body is still trying to recover.
Do you have trouble sleeping at night? If so then your training regime may be impacting upon your nervous system and your hormones.
Your body does a lot of it's healing while you sleep so you should try to fix this issue. It is recommended that you aim for around 8-9 hours of sleep per night.
Some people who train regularly will develop body image issues and will start to believe that the more they train the better they will look.
Unfortunately to achieve this goal you still need time to recover from your workouts, otherwise, you are simply not going to see those gains.
#5: A Change In Personality
Have you noticed that people are a little more distant from you recently? Well, this could be due to your overtraining.
It has been noted that if you overtrain your hormones may become messed up. This may lead to aggression, irritability and as stated already depression.
If you feel run down or are constantly sick then you are likely to be overtraining.
When you feel ill it is just your bodies immune system telling you to take some time off. You are likely in a catabolic state, which causes low immunity that in turn causes illness.
The chances of suffering an injury or re-aggravating an old injury increases when you are overtraining, this is basically because you are not allowing yourself adequate time to recover.
#8: A Lack Of Motivation
Have you noticed that lately that you have been finding excuses not to go to the gym, even though in the past you lived and breathed it?
If so then you need a break, take a week of completely from training, and restart fresh, your body will thank you and you will start to see those gains again.
#9: Low Self-Esteem
Overtraining can lead to a lack of progress that can lead to low esteem. Especially amongst those who are obsessed with training.
Your nervous system and hormones will also be affected which can also have an impact on your mood and self-esteem.
#10: A Plateau
When you enter a catabolic state your body will start to burn muscle. This is not what you want to occur if you are looking to build muscle and strength.
Unfortunately, this is what occurs when you overtrain, so a plateau or a reduction in your gains may occur.
How To Recover From Overtraining?
If you are overtraining then you need to take a break. Remember your body needs to rest occasionally as this is when your muscles will repair and grow.
I would also suggest the following tips to help you to recover from overtraining:
#1: Keep Moving
Although it may be hard to move with the aches and pain you are currently feeling, but the worst thing that you can do is to sit still.
While rest is important, active rest is better.
For instance, you can move your joints slowly to promote your circulation. This will go a long way to helping you get those vital nutrients to the areas that need them most.
#2: Use A Foam Roller
Of course, we would all love a massage after each workout. Chances are this is probably out of your price range.
A more affordable alternative would be a foam roller, which you can use to relieve post-workout tension in your muscles.
You should use the foam roller 3-4 times for around 30 seconds to a minute on rest days to break up the scar tissue in your muscles and promote healing.
#3: Do Some Yoga
If you experience post-workout aches and pain then stretching is a great way to alleviate it.
I would suggest that you learn a few yoga stretches and do them on your rest days.
#4: Get Some Potassium
Potassium is vital for muscle recovery so eat the following foods on your rest days:
- Sweet potato
#5: Get Some Sleep
Rest is essential for recovery and for muscle and strength gains. The best type of rest is through sleep, but are you getting enough?
Many of us fail to get the recommended amount of sleep daily. This can put us at a disadvantage when it comes to muscle building.
It is recommended that you try and get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night. After a particularly hard session at the gym, you may need a little more.
Overtraining does not need to ruin your training efforts.
If you have followed the above tips then hopefully you will recover fully in time for your next workout. Remember that rest days are important, but it does not necessarily mean you should do nothing.
Make the most of these rest days and you will soon see the rewards.