The word over-training springs fear into every resistance training enthusiast.
Experts in the field of exercise define over-training as the imbalance between training/competition, versus
recovery. Basically, it is too much training or competition combined with too little time for repair. Common symptoms of over-training:
- Decrease in performance
- Increased number
- Loss of bodyweight
- Chronic fatigue
- Elevated heart rate and blood lactate levels
- Psychological staleness
5 main reasons why over-training occurs:
Training too long per session: Muscles get bigger while you rest and sleep, not in the
gym. Current studies regarding resistance training suggest sessions lasting as long 3-4 hours per day, 5 or 6 days each week,
provide no greater benefit compared to training 1-1.5 hours per day. While the more is better principal is true
for money it doesn't apply here. When we're under physical (intense workouts lasting more than one hour) or emotional
stress our bodies consume glucose at an extremely high rate. To keep our blood sugar levels in a homeostasis state the catabolic
stress hormone cortisol is released which forces gluconeogenesis ( making glucose from non carbohydrate sources) to be performed
on adipose and muscle tissue. When muscle tissue is broken down it releases amino acids into the blood stream. Once in the
blood stream the amino acids are shuttled into the liver to synthesize glucose. This ensures that our brain gets a sufficient
amount of glucose to keep functioning properly. So unless you want to run the risk of catabolzing(eating) your own muscles,
shorter workouts are usually a better choice.
Training too heavy: Studies demonstrate that individuals who vary their workouts between
light and heavy cycles of training display greater strength and muscle size compared to individuals who lift at a constant
weight all the time. The take home message is, while heavy weights produce greater muscle gains compared to lighter weights,
you can't lift heavy all the time. The body does best when it's given enough time to repair and heal. Also keep in
mind any new training stimulus will result in muscles compensating and getting bigger. So while light training may
seem counter productive, your muscles will react by increasing their size once the heavy training starts up again. Also
research shows that light days are a good way to feed the sore muscles with fresh blood. This surge of blood may reduce scar
formation and heal micro trauma (one main reason why over-training transpires). It may also flush out waste products.
Restricting carbohydrates from the diet: Hard training on consecutive
days causes a depletion of glycogen in the working muscles. The substrate of choice for intense exercise is glucose. Without it,
full muscle contractions are not possible and the most heavily recruited type 2 fibers will not generate enough ATP needed for exercise. Carbohydrates should be digested regularly for anybody involved in heavy
weight training. A diet of 60% carbohydrates is usually recommended to replenish glycogen stores between
sessions but this may be not be a reliable method. For example a 200 pound intensely trained man takes in 2,000
calories per day and 60% of those calories come from carbohydrates. The 60% is the proper ratio but the
2,000 calories is unlikely to provide enough total calories and glycogen to resume training. A practical recommendation
would be to consume an absolute quantity of carbohydrates of 5 to 10g/kg/day.
Not enough sleep: The evidence is extensive and suggests the need
for at least 8 to 10 hrs of sleep per night. Again, muscles need rest to grow and quality rem sleep to
repair. Try removing all night lights and sounds from the sleeping area to ensure a good night sleep. Although not practiced
here in the U.S but there is reason to believe the mid afternoon(siestas) nap may be a physiological need and not proof of poor
diet. Your circadian rhythm signals the body to actually get some rest around noon time. A quick 20-30 minute snooze
should rejuvenate the body. Anything longer will cause you
to feel even more tired.
Not enough rest
days: A good rule of thumb regarding rest days are 1-2 days of heavy training should be followed by
either rest days, aerobic training or light days of training. Each trained body part needs a minimum of 48hrs of
rest between sessions with back and leg muscles taking longer to recover 72 hrs. For example if you train your back
muscles on Monday you shouldn't train back again until Friday. Training body parts that have not been fully
repaired could possibly lead atrophy of muscle tissue.