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Overtraining: How to Recognise the Red Alerts

A day or two of recovery not only allows for better production but also reduces the risk of spending a day or two in a hospital bed.

Many of us think that, if a little exercise is good for me, more must be better and turning it up even more would be the best!

This is true, but only up to a point. When it comes to exercise volume, there is a direct relationship between the dosage and your body’s response, which means that the more you workout, the more benefits you will achieve.

However, there is a tipping point beyond which the amount of exercise you perform can do more harm than good. This point can be reached by too much exercise without enough recovery or chronic underfueling. This, potentially, leads to a decrement in fitness level and possibly injury.

The risk of overtraining is equal for both men and women but especially for men during muscle building, so recognising the early signs and combating them can prevent detrimental fitness and health outcomes. Below are 4 signs of over-training to watch out for:


  1. Excessive weakness.

    After an intense workout session, a bit of fatigue is expected. It might even last for a few days with some body aches. However, fatigue will store up in the body if not given the chance to recover from previous workouts. Further intense, negative energy expenditure leads to something called “low energy availability,”which is characterised by excessive body weakness (fatigue).

    This means that the body is consistently pulling from its own energy reserves (carbs, protein, fat). This, most times, result from too much training without allowance for recovery or too little fuelling of the body.

    Long-term low energy availability may lead to nutrient deficiencies, such as iron deficiency anaemia, which have the potential to harm both health and performance.

  2. Abnormally elevated heart rate during exercise or throughout the day.

    A clear sign of overtraining is an abnormally elevated heart rate during exercise or sometimes, throughout the day.

    This is because seemingly effortless exercises now feel unusually difficult. This leads to more exertion and energy usage and you find out that it takes longer for your heart rate to return to normal after a normal workout.

  3. Hormonal imbalance due to overproduction of stress hormones.

    Overtraining significantly affects your stress hormones, including cortisol and epinephrine. It leads to an overproduction of these hormones causing an imbalance. This has a visible effect on your mood leading to mood swings, unusual irritability, agitation and an inability to concentrate.

    The overproduction of these stress hormones may not allow you to wind down or completely relax, making sleep much less effective. It also deprives the body of the chance to rest and repair itself which compounds chronic fatigue and moodiness.

    A hormone imbalance can also affect hunger and satiety mechanisms. More training should stimulate more appetite, but the physiological exhaustion caused by over-training can actually lead to suppression of one’s appetite.

  4. Constant muscle and joint pain.

    Overtraining can cause overused muscles and joints to ache constantly. Pain that does not subside in two weeks (or so) should be considered a notable injury. Overtraining also taxes all of the body’s systems and affects the ability of the body’s immune system to fight infections. Thus, frequent illnesses and upper-respiratory tract infections (URTIs) are signs as well.

    Medical complications can also involve the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine, nervous or reproductive systems (e.g., menstrual cycle disturbances in women). If you notice the above mentioned signs of overtraining in yourself, you need to seek the help of a physician or related health professional.

    In conclusion, a better approach to avoid overtraining is to create and follow a training schedule that includes both active recovery and periods of complete rest. A day or two of recovery not only allows for better production but also reduces the risk of spending a day or two in a hospital bed.

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