Do any of these 3 things apply to you?
If any or all of these things apply to you, you may be overtraining.
One of the things about bodybuilding and exercise that many people fail to realize is the idea of training too much. Your body can only handle so much and if you push yourself too hard, progress will come to a halt and you may even be regressing.
Unfortunately, in bodybuilding, what you put in, you will not always get out.
The goal is to maximize your genetic potential without overtraining. Effort and results are correlated in bodybuilding until a certain point.
When you hit that point, although the effort is increasing, the results are slowly diminishing, and eventually, if you keep inputting more and more effort, you will actually start to lose gains.
If you are reading this as a fitness enthusiast that works out for 30-40 minutes, 3-5 times a week and exercises hard but not too hard, you are more than likely not overtraining and this does not apply to you.
Overtraining results from going to the gym for 2-3 hours daily with no rest in-between.
It results from pushing yourself so hard that you feel like if you are not in the gym, you are wasting valuable time.
Overtraining is accompanied by an imbalance of the neuroendocrine system, a suppressed immune system, damage of the muscle, a depletion of the muscle glycogen reserves, psychological issues, a deteriorating cardiac, aerobic, and ventilatory efficiency, and bad performances in sport-specific tests such as timed runs.
So how do you know if you are overtraining and what signs should you be looking out for?!
This is one of many classic signs of overtraining. You are no longer able to complete a workout that is normally easy for you.
Your strength and endurance are declining and you are unable to lift what you normally lift.
If you are a runner, your legs will probably feel really heavy and your running times will become worse.
A great way to monitor the possibility of overtraining is to record a log of your exercise.
If you are seeing a big decrease in performance, then you are more than likely experiencing overtraining.
If your resting heart rate is much higher than usual for the same type of work you normally do, this may be a sign of overtraining.
When you are overtraining, your body’s immune system is compromised and you will be a lot more susceptible to disease. Normally, exercise strengthens the immune system but when you overtrain, the opposite happens.
If you are overtraining, you will have lost that hunger for the gym and will start to simply go through the motions.
You will have a loss of energy and you will begin to have very lackluster lethargic workouts.
Other signs of overtraining include moodiness, loss of appetite, depression, injuries, inability to relax, trouble sleeping, low motivation, unexplained weight loss, apathy, elevated blood pressure, anxiety,feeling of boredom, and a lack of energy.
Having a well-balanced diet is very important in the prevention of overtraining, especially when bulking up.
Staying hydrated and consuming enough calories can be key to the prevention of overtraining your body.
When overtraining, much of your body’s nutrient and energy stores are depleted.
Because of this, it is highly recommended that you consume the same or even more than the number of calories you expend.
Carbohydrates help to replenish your energy (glycogen) stores, protein helps your muscles to build and repair themselves, and fats (omega 3’s and omega 6’s) allow for your body to digest vitamins and retain your hormonal balance.
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I am actually one to advocate against taking any supplements. I believe that supplements should be used as a last resort and that everything we need, we can and should get through our diets.
But sometimes, taking a supplement is better than doing nothing.
If you know you will not be consuming a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables, then taking a multivitamin can be very beneficial in preventing overtraining.
When training very hard, our bodies really need vitamins and minerals to recover.
Often times, symptoms of overtraining are coupled with low levels of iron, magnesium, calcium, and iron.
When consuming multivitamins, consume “whole food” vitamins instead of the typical synthetic multivitamin.
Whole food vitamins are supplements made from real food instead of in a laboratory.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is simply to take a break. Depending on the severity of your workout regimen, taking a break may be the best thing you can do for yourself to prevent overtraining.
On a general basis, taking a week break after 12 weeks of constant, intense exercise is a great way to give your body time to recover and avoid overtraining.
This is not an excuse to not workout! This is for the bodybuilders who want to get results so badly that they will literally spend hours upon hours in the gym.
If this sounds like you, then you are probably overtraining and are hurting potential results.
Make your workouts intense and short (45 minutes to an hour) and you will see great results.
On a general basis, I recommend performing 12-16 sets per week for major muscle groups (chest, back, legs) and 6-8 sets per week for minor muscle groups (biceps, triceps, shoulders, forearms) per week.
When you get adequate sleep, you give your body ample time to recover and replenish.
Make sure to sleep 7-9 hours a night. Adequate sleep will help to prevent overtraining and keep your body in the best shape possible
If you 5-6 days a week, then utilizing splits is a must.
If you perform full-body workouts more than 3-4 times a week, you will pretty much guarantee that you will be overtraining.
An example of a 5-day split would be something such as:
Other bodybuilders have found success with two day splits where they alternate between working out upper body and working out lower body.
With this workout scheme, you would perform upper body one day, lower body the next day, and then rest the next day.
This allows for an ample two-day rest between workouts and you thus, in most cases, will not experience overtraining
When you realize that you have many of the symptoms of overtraining, rest can be the best thing for your body. The amount of rest needed varies depending upon how “overtrained” you are.
Sometimes, a day or two can be more than adequate to be able to get back out there again.
In other situations, however, when multiple signs of overtraining such as increased weight loss, decreased gains, injuries, and constant sickness are present, a week to even a month may be needed to allow your body to recover.
Sometimes, simply cutting back on the intensity and/or frequency can be the difference between overtraining and not overtraining.
It is sometimes hard to imagine that doing less in many situations will equate to more gains and better performance.
Take a day or two a week to perform some kind of restorative exercises, such as yoga, deep stretching, or a massage. Take care of your body.
I highly recommend yoga as a way to care for your body and to avoid injury.
If you are constantly feeling mentally and physically fatigued and resting is not making you feel any better, then contacting a sports medicine doctor who is knowledgeable in both the physical and mental aspects of exercise may be very helpful.
In summary, I think the main thing to realize is that as amazing as our bodies are, they can only take so much.
Providing adequate rest, a sufficient exercise program, and proper nutrition are needed to prevent overtraining and ensure high-functioning cognitive and physical performance.
We all want to achieve the best bang for our buck, and to do this we need to avoid the signs of overtraining.
Make sure your hard-earned work and time are as efficient as possible so that you can get those results that you desire and deserve!