Jacob has been weightlifting for most of his life. Recently, he decided to take his training to the next level and enter a bodybuilding competition.
To prepare for his competition, he increased the frequency and duration of his training sessions. Overnight, he went from lifting four times per week to six and increased his gym sessions to two hours. He pushed himself during every session and believed that the harder he worked and the more time he spent training, the better his results would be.
For a month, his new routine seemed to work fine. But one day, Jacob woke up feeling exhausted. He got a full night’s rest, so he was slightly confused but brushed it off.
Dedicated to achieving his goal of competing, Jacob dragged himself to the gym. He figured that he always felt more energized after a workout.
During his training session, he noticed that his performance was off. He couldn’t lift as much weight as usual, and he just felt fatigued. He also noticed that his leg muscles felt particularly heavy. He finished his workout, and as he left the gym, he thought maybe he was coming down with a cold.
Over the next few weeks, Jacob continued to feel tired and weak, no matter how much sleep he got. His body took longer than normal to recover, and his performance continued to decline.
He confided in one of his training buddies about what was going on. His friend told him that he might be overtraining.
“Overtraining?” Jacob asked. “I’ve never heard of that.”
He went home and did a little research on overtraining symptoms. After a quick google search, he was convinced that his friend was right.
He had overtraining syndrome.
What is Overtraining Syndrome?
Exercise puts stress on your muscles, which is a good thing because it’s necessary for your muscles to grow and your performance to improve. However, if you work out too much, too often, or too intensely, you can push your body beyond its limits.
Overtraining syndrome occurs when you train excessively and don’t give your body enough time to recover. It can lead to a number of negative effects, but two telltale signs are fatigue and declining performance.
The imbalance between training and recovery can be exacerbated by inadequate nutrition, illness, psychological stress, and poor sleep.
What Are Some Signs You Are Overtraining?
- Fatigue. You always feel tired, even after a good night’s rest.
- Decreased performance. You struggle to progress or perform as well as you should.
- More injury-prone. You’re experiencing more frequent injuries, like sprains and strains.
- Reduced motivation. You don’t enjoy working out as much as you used to.
- Mood changes. You’re anxious, irritable, or feeling down.
- Low immunity. You get sick more frequently.
- Changes in eating patterns. You eat more or less than before.
Overtraining and Hormonal Balance
Overtraining syndrome can lead to imbalances in hormones such as cortisol, testosterone, and growth hormone.
For example, cortisol, which is often referred to as the “stress hormone,” can become elevated due to the increased physical and mental strain that occurs with overtraining.
Chronically elevated cortisol can disrupt the balance of other hormones like testosterone.
It’s not uncommon for athletes or people new to working out to overdo it to see high cortisol and low testosterone lab test results.
How to Test for Hormonal Imbalances
Lab-based blood and saliva tests are an effective way to screen for hormonal imbalances. The Home Test Box At-Home Comprehensive Fitness Test measures five hormones, along with vitamin D, that are essential to optimal performance, endurance, and strength.
Preventing Overtraining Syndrome
The best way to prevent overtraining is to give your body time to rest and recover. Make sure you get enough sleep and take rest days.
Staying hydrated and eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients can help ensure your body has what it needs to recover after a tough workout.
Recovering from Overtraining
To recover from overtraining, you have to rest for a while. And depending on the situation, it can take between 4 to 12 weeks to fully recover.
In Jacob’s case, he took a break from training for two months. He wanted to make sure he gave his body the time it needed to get better.
When Jacob returned to the gym, he incorporated more rest days.
To his surprise, he started to regain his strength and endurance, even though he was working out less. He learned that rest and recovery were essential to optimal performance.