What is Overtraining and Why You Are Not Overtrained
Before you go asking yourself, “What is overtraining?” or “Am I overtraining?” you need to go take a look at how professional athletes train, especially pro NFL players.
They undergo insane training five to six times per week, often multiple times per day.
They’re doing strength training, sprint training, HIIT training, at a high intensity every single training.
Are you doing that? Honestly, is this the type of training that you’re doing?
Because these are the type of elite athletes that are actually at risk of overtraining.
In fact, overtraining is actually a recognized medical ailment that has a clearly defined diagnosis and treatment protocol.
And yet, even among these top athletes that engage in this kind of high-intensity training, there is very little actual overtraining.
Why? Because even with this level of intensity, your body can still recover--if you give it the tools to do so.
People who talk about how they’re overtraining are usually not overtrained. They are under-recovered.
In this article, we’ll answer the question, “What is overtraining?” and we’ll also look at some recovery methods that you can use to get better results from your training.
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What is Overtraining, Really?
Overtraining is a collection of symptoms. It has more in common with chronic fatigue and depression than it does with sore muscles and a lack of gains.
Overtraining is when you continuously push your body to its limits without giving it proper rest.
You can’t do this in a week or even in a couple weeks. It is usually over months of grueling training that elite athletes undertake to prepare for events like long-distance running and swimming.
Here’s the really strange part: overtraining is usually the result of optimal training that is taken too far.
See, when you train, it is the goal to cause stress and damage to your body.
This stress causes your damaged tissues to release signaling proteins--called cytokines--that tell your body to increase blood flow to the damaged muscles.
Your body also produces cortisol, a stress hormone that reduces swelling.
All of these things allow your body to create healthy adaptations that result from training: things like fat oxidation, increased lean muscle, better insulin sensitivity, improved cholesterol and blood pressure, and more.
Your body then creates adaptations like new muscle tissue, fat oxidation, is a cascade of issues that happen when you push your body this hard.
However, if you don’t taper off this intense training, these stress responses that are usually localized to the damaged tissue...they spread to your entire body.
This results in whole-body inflammation and could explain many of the symptoms of overtraining.
The Symptoms of Overtraining
The symptoms of overtraining can range from changes in your mood, the inability to sleep, a lack of motivation, and general fatigue.
Overtraining also causes vulnerability to viruses, bacteria, and illness because the immune system becomes extremely compromised.
Of course, because your body is in this inflamed state, you may not experience the kind of muscle gains that you’re hoping for.
This is why you overtraining has become the boogeyman of gym goers that don’t see the results they want.
It’s not the fact that they don’t monitor their caloric intake, optimize their nutrition, set goals for themselves, sleep enough, or train with intensity.
They can simply blame it on this nebulous idea of “overtraining.”
But the truth is that you have to push your body to its limits, consistently, for a long period of time in order to initiate overtraining syndrome.
So what is overtraining when most people say talk about it?
Most Overtraining is Simply Poor Recovery Habits
Like we mentioned above, when you train, you’re causing tremendous damage to your body.
Your body doesn’t know you’re in the gym. It assumes you’re being attacked by some predator or fighting off some attacker.
So it takes all of these drastic measures to help you recover quickly, get stronger, faster, and survive again the next time that happens.
It even reduces energy investments in your immune system as it fixes all the damage you’ve done.
If you don’t give your body the time it needs to complete all of those adaptations that we already talked about (new muscle, reduced fat storage, etc), then you will not see results.
If you go out drinking after training, stay out late, don’t sleep long enough, or fail to give your body the nutrients it needs, you will sabotage yourself.
Now, people don’t like to admit that they’re self-sabotaging themselves. So they find other ways to cope with the fact that they’re not seeing results.
Namely, they blame overtraining.
How to Avoid Overtraining with Good Recovery
Training is sort of like a manufacturing process in that you have inputs and outputs.
The better your inputs, the better your outputs.
In training and fitness, it’s simple to think of 3 input variables:
- Training quality (this includes intensity)
If you have suboptimal training, you get poor results.
If you give your body suboptimal nutrition, you get poor results.
If you give your body suboptimal recovery, you get poor results.
Most people focus on 1 and 2. They train hard and they do their best to feed themselves healthy food most of the time.
But recovery is rarely factored into the equation.
Like everything else in fitness, it just takes some practice and a routine to master.
This is how you avoid overtraining through recovery.
Sleep for 8 hours every single night - In some circles and cultures, people brag about how little sleep they get. I understand the idea of the “hustle” and working hard. But not sleeping enough makes no sense to me.
Your body needs sleep to function normally and to heal from training. In fact, your body releases most of its growth hormones during sleep. If you actually want to accomplish your goals in fitness, your career, or in life in general, getting enough sleep is a crucial tool.
Cool down - This can be a long walk, an ice bath, massage, or foam rolling. Do something for your body that will help it recover. These sorts of activities reduce inflammation, get fluids moving into your damaged tissues, and can speed up the recovery process.
Stress - Remember, training causes stress to your body. If you can reduce your stress, you can help your body heal. Meditate, spend time away from your phone, maybe even consider doing a dopamine fast. These kinds of investments in your mental and physical health pay dividends in more than just improved recovery.
Takes days off - You should be taking days off from training every week. These are the days that are perfect for going on walks. Pro athletes take days off for this exact reasons. They get some space from their training, they can optimize things from this distance, and they allow their body to recover.
Supplements for Recovery
Supplementation is a tool. We’re all busy and are trying to achieve our goals. Protein powders are a fast and convenient way to deliver protein to your body after a workout. Sure, whole food sources are preferred but we may not always have access to that.
Another tool to aid in your recovery are peptides. Peptides are simply smaller chains of amino acids that are more readily absorbed and used by your body.
Your body strings amino acids together to create protein and build new muscle. So supplementing with peptides can help tremendously with recovery.
This is why my Overtraining Solution® includes 2.5g of premium, world-class peptides and it also includes this specially formulated spirulina extract called Immulina™ that boosts your immune system like crazy.
I use Overtraining Solution® after every workout. This is especially helpful to avoid muscle soreness if you’ve taken some time off or if you pushed yourself harder in the gym that day.
The truth is that it is easy to avoid overtraining if you follow common sense and give your body what it needs. Listen to what your body is telling you.
It’s as simple as that.