Overtraining: signs, symptoms and cure

It’s commendable to train hard to excel in your chosen sport but overdoing it makes your body pay the price. 

Clocking up the miles, finishing hours at the gym and working hard day-after-day can help you attain your athletic goals. Yet, training without satisfactory recovery can hamper your progress – and even lead to a decline in your performance.

What is overtraining?

Overtraining happens when an individual doesn’t sufficiently recover after intense, repetitive training and can include fatigue, declining performance and potential injury. There are two categories for too much exercise: overreaching and overtraining. 

Overreaching is muscle soreness beyond what you typically experience that occurs when you don’t adequately recover between workouts. Overreaching usually happens after several successive days of strenuous activity and results in feeling run down [1]. 

Is overtraining an actual condition?

Although the overtraining syndrome is gaining recognition in the fitness world, it is sometimes treated with some scepticism because:

  •  There’s no test to diagnose overtraining syndrome definitively.
  • There’s no consensus on the visible and measurable factors to identify it. In a current comparison of 22 studies on resistance exercise, the marker that each research team accepted was a “sustained decrease in performance” [2].

These led some experts to advise renaming it “paradoxical deconditioning syndrome” or “unexplained underperformance syndrome.” Additionally, numerous researchers have asserted that carrying “overtraining” in the name implies that the root cause always lies in the workout program. Nevertheless, it is now believed it results from a collection of factors, many of which are past exercise sessions.

Adaptation versus overtraining

For a person to reach their exercise goals, whether related to appearance, health, strength, performance, or a combination of these, a motivation or stressor must be presented to the body continually over time. This will result in distinct adaptations that are related to that stressor.

This reaction is named general adaptation syndrome. Once the body can associate with the new demands of that stressor, an extra or additional stimulus will need to be used for the individual to make further advancements. Part of the art and science of fitness programming involves understanding how to set stressors relevant to your goals and progress them safely.

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Three stages of general adaptation syndrome

The general adaptation syndrome figure has three stages in which the body responds to a stressor [3]:

• Alarm reaction: the body’s initial response like fatigue, joint stiffness, and or delayed-onset muscle soreness.

• Resistance development: the body’s adaptation to the stressor after repeated sessions.

• Exhaustion: a distressed state that results from exposure to “lengthy” and or “unbearable” stressors.

Exhaustion can result in persistent fatigue that can lead to pain, injury, and (in time) destructive changes to the body’s organ systems and processes. Consequently, the ideal exercise approach implicates progressive overload, in which the intensity or magnitude of exercise is raised gradually and systematically to avoid exhaustion while achieving the desired adaptations.

Warning signs and symptoms of overtraining

Knowing when you’re overtraining may be challenging, as it’s natural and anticipated to feel drained after challenging training sessions. While feeling like you aren’t recuperating between sessions or experiencing overall fatigue and complication, pushing yourself during workouts can indicate overtraining.

More specifically, signs can be grouped into the following:

  • Delays in recovery from training
  • Leg muscles that feel “heavy”, even at lower exercise intensities
  • Incapacity to train or compete at a previously manageable level
  • Performance plateaus or declines
  • Reflections on skipping or cutting short training sessions
  • Uncommon muscle soreness after a workout, which persists with continued training
  • Absence of energy, decreased motivation, moodiness
  • Increase in tension, depression, anger or confusion
  • Inability to relax
  • Lengthy general fatigue
  • Not feeling joy from once satisfying things
  • Poor-quality sleep
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Heightened occurrences of illness
  • High blood pressure and at-rest heart rate
  • Irregular menstrual cycles; missing periods
  • Weight and or appetite loss

If any of these indications feel familiar, it may be time to modify your practices. It would be better to recognise these symptoms early on and adjust training to accommodate because if the symptoms become more harsh and prolonged, the healing takes much longer.

How to recover from overtraining?

Fortunately, the effects of overtraining are easily countered with rest.

Some believe that weakness or poor performance signals the need for even more rigid training, so they continue to push themselves, but it only breaks down the body further.

Full recovery from overtraining is complex and can demand weeks or months of time off from working out. This can be incredibly challenging for those whose lives revolve around their sport.

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Healthy sleep, nutrition and mental wellness are essential in deterring overtraining. These must be included as much as the exercise and rest plan in the training regimen.

If you’re encountering symptoms of overtraining, speak with your doctor, coach, athletic trainer, or doctor. These professionals can work with you to establish personalised approaches for your recovery. Commonly, recovery from overtraining includes:

Rest: The emphasis on getting some rest is crucial for recovery from overtraining. You may need to briefly stop or cut back on your training, even if it means forgoing an approaching competition.

Nutrition: look into your eating habits. Have you been deprived of the calories, protein, vitamins and minerals it needs for high-quality, high-intensity training? You can choose to work with a nutritionist for an eating plan that can supply your body with the nutrients and energy it demands for healing.

Mental health: Taking time off from training can be emotionally challenging. Mental health professionals can help with recovery from overtraining by offering space for you to discuss your feelings.

Gradual return: your physician and coach should assist you in determining when you’re ready to begin training again. You’re likely prepared to continue full training if there’s renewed interest and capacity to work hard with normal bodily responses.

Start low and advance slowly. Your training volume may be lessened by at least 50 to 60 per cent. Advance how much you train by about 10 per cent every week. 

Even though easing back into training may be tricky, you should address the same discipline you learned for training to comply with the recommendations of your sports medicine team. The more closely you follow professionals’ rules, the sooner you’ll be back in the gym, at the track or on the field.

Personal recovery times will differ. If you take a total break from activity, you can anticipate improvements after two weeks. 

Regardless, it may take up to three months before you’re fully healed [4]. During this time, you can perform gentle exercise to stay busy. Listen to your body during this critical time. If you start training again and experience overtraining symptoms, return to resting.

How to avoid overtraining?

Whether you’re seeing some of the symptoms of overtraining or merely hoping to stay safe as you beef up your workouts, the best fix for overtraining is to avoid doing it in the first place. 

Here are suggestions to help keep your routine safe and realistic:

Hear what your body tells you: work closely with your coach or doctor and let them know how you feel.

Visualise your workouts: utilising imagery and visualisation can equip the rehearsal you want from training without overloading your body and gambling injury.

Keep a workout diary: document your feelings of well-being as well as how much you’re exercising. As you raise your training load, recording how you feel each day in a training log can help you recognise the signs of overtraining to reduce and prevent that load.

Balance training with time for healing: enough rest is not a sign of weakness. You need at least one full day of rest a week. If training for a specific activity, rotate easy and hard days. Include cross-training and other forms of active rest in your workout. Work up gradually as you expand the amount and intensity of your training.

Recognise when you’re overdoing it: if you find yourself becoming too absorbed with training – even when there’s injury or pain or feeling guilty if you go on a day without strenuous exercise, talk with someone. It’s beneficial to have a healthy relationship with exercise.

Consume lots of water: dehydration contributes to muscle fatigue. Guarantee adequate fluid intake to have light-coloured urine. Be cautious with fluids like alcohol and caffeinated beverages that add to dehydration.

Accomplish what you can to decrease stress: everyone deals with pressure differently. When your stress levels surpass your ability to cope, your body will begin to break down. Look for options to rearrange your priorities to lessen the results of your stressors.

Contemplate getting help from a mental health professional: to work through issues connected to your training, job, social life, family, body image, finances, travel, time or anything else that influences your mental well-being.

Ensure you’re getting enough calories and nutrients: calorie intake should protect your body’s training and muscle repair needs. Find a nutritionist who can evaluate your food habits and ensure you get enough of what you need from your diet and supplements.

It’s established that rest is strongly highlighted for muscle recovery. Especially when people age, this leads to getting exhausted quicker and slower healing. Though it seems universally accepted, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Whether you’re training professionally or doing activities for personal reasons, boosting the process of muscle recovery through supplements is one way to support the body’s healing function. This way, you can potentially perform more of the physical activities you love.

What is mitochondrial or cellular energy?

The answer lies in our cells’ mitochondria, which are concerned with multiple cellular functions. Their most crucial operation is bioenergetics – producing energy from utilising ATP. 

Mitochondria are key to energy production – the initial demonstration of how ATP functioned (back in 1997) earned it the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Mitochondria oxidise fats, proteins and sugars to produce chemical energy kept in ATP. 

The resulting ATP is an energy-carrying molecule that hauls the chemical energy from the disintegration of food to fuel other cellular processes. It is called the “energy currency of life”.

Cellular energy, healthspan and aging

Healthspan and lifespan have not kept up with each other’s pace – and most people experience a plunge in their health before they get through to peak life expectancy. The longevity industry focuses on aging and diseases to raise healthspan and lifespan.

Mitochondrial dysfunction is considered as a negative aging hallmark that responds to the injury of aging. Indeed, mitochondrial dysfunction is linked to neurodegeneration, age-related illness and ischemic afflictions.

A more familiar result of mitochondrial dysfunction is muscle strength loss, which many individuals begin to observe in their 40s because of an age-related decline in mitochondrial function and cellular bioenergetics [5].

Despite being indispensable to the process of energy production and cell function, the mitochondria’s role in aging and longevity is not fully grasped. There are a few competing theories involving mitochondria dysfunction with aging.

Amazentis introduces Urolithin A with Mitopure 

On this note, scientists at Swiss company, Amazentis stepped up to the challenge. Research indicates that exposing nematodes (roundworms) to urolithin A extends their lifespan and mitophagy [6]. 

The worms’ mobility also improved with age and extended activity. Urolithin A also improved exercise capacity in mice with age-related muscle decline.

Recent research indicates that urolithin A can play an essential part in enhancing muscles and extending activity, which is particularly significant as muscles decline with age, exposing us to the risks of frailty.

Click here to boost your muscle endurance with Urolithin A.

The ideal dosage for urolithin A

The Mitopure supplements hold 500mg of highly pure urolithin A, providing six times the amount of urolithin A available from diet alone. While the supplement is not meant to work by itself without regular exercise or fruit intake, it can be said that Mitopure is a practical and accessible way to boost energy, mitochondrial health and muscular strength in older people.

Ask for your doctor’s advice if you have afflictions that don’t heal or worsen over time or if you constantly feel your muscles are sore, especially if they last more than a day, as well as unchanging ligament and joint pain. Your doctor can assist with a training program that provides the balance between rest and recovery with a proper amount of training without sacrificing your fitness goals. This is especially worthwhile if burnout is affecting other areas of your life.

Excessive training can be hazardous to your health. Follow a program that balances various workouts that complement your fitness level and goals. Rest your muscles post activity and allow yourself to relax.

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

[1] https://www.hss.edu/article_overtraining.asp
[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31820373/
[3] https://blog.nasm.org/general-adaptation-syndrome-explained
[4] https://www.healthline.com/health/signs-of-overtraining#takeaway
[5] https://rb.gy/8hiump[6] https://www.nature.com/articles/nm.4132

Photograph: Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock

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The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.