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Overtraining occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual's exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. They cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness. Overtraining is a common problem in weight training, but it can also be experienced by runners and other athletes.
Improvements in strength and fitness occur only during the rest period following hard training. This process takes at least 12-24 hours to complete. If sufficient rest is not available then complete regeneration cannot occur. If this imbalance between excess training and inadequate rest persists then the individual's performance will eventually plateau and decline. Mild overtraining may require several days of rest or reduced activity to fully restore an athlete's fitness. If prompt attention is not given to the developing state, and an athlete continues to train and accumulate fatigue, the condition may come to persist for many weeks or even months.
Overtraining occurs more readily if the individual is simultaneously exposed to other physical and psychological stressors, such as jet lag, ongoing illness, overwork, menstruation, poor nutrition etc. It is a particular problem for bodybuilders and other dieters who engage in intense exercise while limiting their food intake.
A number of possible mechanisms for overtraining have been proposed:
- Microtrauma to the muscles are created faster than the body can heal them.
- Amino acids are used up faster than they are supplied in the diet. This is sometimes called "protein deficiency".
- The body becomes calorie-deficient and the rate of break down of muscle tissue increases.
- Levels of cortisol (the "stress" hormone) are elevated for long periods of time.
- The body spends more time in a catabolic state than an anabolic state (perhaps as a result of elevated cortisol levels).
- Excessive strain to the nervous system during training.
Other symptoms Edit
Overtraining may be accompanied by one or more concomitant symptoms:
- Persistent muscle soreness (Delayed onset muscle soreness)
- Persistent fatigue
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Increased susceptibility to infections
- Increased incidence of injuries
- Loss of motivation
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased libido
- Weight loss
- Decreased sex drive
Allowing more time for the body to recover:
- Taking a break from training to allow time for recovery.
- Reducing the volume and/or the intensity of the training.
- Suitable periodization of training.
- Splitting the training program so that different sets of muscles are worked on different days.
- Increase sleep time
- Ensuring that calorie intake at least matches expenditure.
- Ensuring total calories are from a suitable macronutrient ratio.
- Addressing vitamin deficiencies with nutritional supplements.
- Deep-tissue or sports massage of the affected muscles.
- Self-massage or rub down of the affected muscles.
- Cryotherapy and thermotherapy.
- Temperature contrast therapy (contrast showers etc).
Planned Overtraining Edit
Overtraining can be used advantageously, as when a bodybuilder is purposely overtrained for a brief period of time to super compensate during a regeneration phase. These are known as "shock micro-cycles" and were a key training technique used by Soviet athletes.
- An academic discussion of overtraining
- A good summary of overtraining (Academic) with studies cited
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
- Does overtraining exist ?