In the lead up to Summer body season, you might need to ask yourself: are you overtraining? LetsGetChecked discuss the risks involved when striving for your Summer body becomes obsessive.
- Definition Of Overtraining
- Signs Of Overtraining
- Symptoms Of Overtraining
- Ask The Experts About Overtraining
- Overtraining: Know The Risks with Dr. Dominic Rowley
Social stressors may dictate a pressure to get in shape. People can feel the need to start a diet, a fitness plan or both. While it is recommended to eat a healthy and varied diet, and to do some form of exercise everyday, overtraining can have an adverse effect on both physical and emotional well-being. It's essential to know the risks.
Definition Of Overtraining
Overtraining syndrome (OTS) is a condition diagnosed in athletes with decreased performance and fatigue triggered by hormonal, metabolic, immune and other dysfunctions. Symptoms present following a prolonged imbalance between overtraining and sufficient recovery.
Exercise releases feel good endorphins and dopamine, the same neurotransmitters are released during drug use.
A U.S study entitled: Prevalence of the Addictions:A Problem of the Majority or the Minority reports that people who suffer from an exercise disorder are 15% more likely to be addicted to cigarettes and 10% are more likely to be addicted to alcohol and illicit drugs. Nature and nurture dictate someone’s disposition towards exercise. Those with addictive personalities are at a higher risk of becoming addicted to overtraining.
While overtraining syndrome (OTS) is prevalent amongst athletes, it can affect anyone who exercises on a regular basis. The syndrome is not easy to diagnose due to the complex nature and the symptoms it presents. It is possible to test the body for physical symptoms of overtraining as natural reserves of testosterone, oestrogen and cortisol are disrupted after a prolonged period of excessive training and insufficient rest.
Signs Of Overtraining
A preoccupation around the gym and food: meal and exercise times are what you look forward to most each day.
Lack of interest in activities that used to bring enjoyment: you will skip a social gathering to go to the gym instead, missing a workout would be too stressful.
Constantly experiencing aches and pains: despite feeling muscular discomfort, you continue to work-out ignoring the physical signs of overtraining.
Unidentified stress: you feel moody or on edge but you can’t identify where this emotion is coming from.
Craving sugary foods at night-time: a spike in cortisol stimulates glucose stores so the perceived threat or cause of stress can be dealt with by the body. On-going glucose depletion results in the body craving sugary foods later in the day.
Feeling exhausted during the day and alert in the evenings: you spend the whole day dragging your feet but when it’s time for bed you can’t switch off. This is a combination of imbalanced adrenaline and cortisol wreaking havoc on your sleep cycle.
Symptoms Of Overtraining
Excessive fatigue: hormonal imbalances caused by adrenal failure occurs when the body is under too much stress. This can lead to chronic fatigue where sufferers often feel exhausted in the morning but alert in the evening.
Weakened immune system: if the body isn’t given enough time to rest or is under-nourished, it can leave the body open to diseases, viruses and infections.
Loss of libido: Hormonal imbalance, coupled with intense fatigue can cause a loss of interest in sex.
Anxiety/Depression: Mood is a large indicator of overtraining. Feeling preoccupied with training or body image coupled with an over-production of the stress hormone cortisol and a decrease in sex hormones causes a decline in emotional well-being.
Insomnia: adrenaline and cortisol are stimulated following intense exercise. If you are not getting enough rest in between workouts, adrenaline will keep your body in a constant state of “flight” mode while the cortisol will keep you alert, preventing restful sleep.
Amenorrhea: occurs when there is an absence of three menstruations in a row. Rapid weight-loss can prevent periods.
Failure to reach fitness goals: weight-loss ceases or weight-gain ensues when a body is unable to respond to calorie burn. The body has become immune to physical rituals or can no longer recover in time to perform at an optimum level.
Ask The Experts About Overtraining
LetsGetChecked is joined by Angelique Pangos, a nutritional therapist and Ronan Murphy, gym-owner and former director of strength and training for Suttonians RFC.
Do you think people are at a higher risk of overtraining leading up to Summer?
Ronan: Yes I think they do, they put themselves under a lot of pressure. I think women in particular put themselves under a lot of pressure. 70% of my clients are females and I find they get more emotionally attached to how they look whereas men are more interested in the functionality of what they can do. Facebook and Instagram are big players in comparison, they want to get to that level even though they know it’s not real.
What does overtraining do to the body?
Angelique: You become nutritionally depleted. Your metabolism is disrupted by your adrenal glands. Over-training interferes in sex hormone production. Things someone might notice include: worsened PMS, more irritability, elevated testosterone symptoms and acne.
Over-exercising can lead to cortisol depletion leaving us in a chronically stressed state.
Ronan: Overtraining and undereating are the biggest issues. People might come in and do the same exercises everyday but they can’t do them everyday if they’re not getting the right amount of nutrition, hydration and rest. It’s more of an issue of under recovery as opposed to over-training. It causes the nervous system to go into overdrive.
Do you think overtraining is a physical or psychological manifestation?
Ronan: It’s psychological. The body craves endorphins like a drug user would crave a hit. After the gym, they’re walking on clouds but in the long run, they’re doing themselves harm. In most cases they get injured and they’re forced to take time off. In women, you often see differences in their hair, skin and nails when they haven’t given their body a chance to recuperate. The hair is greasy and looks dead. Nails are yellow and the skin is spotty.
Some people who over-train still won’t actually lose weight..in fact they may put some more weight on. Can you explain this process?
Angelique: The nutrition part is so important. You see people who didn’t eat for long enough going to work-out. People sometimes replace their energy stores with sugary sports drinks. This doesn’t offer them the nutrients that food does but those products are generally packed with sugar.
A simple description of this replacement is as follows:
Cortisol breaks down sugar stores in the body. Insulin then comes in to rectify this because the body can only handle a certain level of blood sugar. Insulin begins to store the excess sugar as fat if you’re eating a diet that is high in refined sugar,
Ronan: When your cortisol levels go up, your muscles become inhibited and you hit a plateau. If you’re hammering away and not recovering, the muscles will never increase in strength. It’s like flogging a dead horse. The body is trying to get rid of cortisol and cortisol is the biggest inhibitor of muscles. People think to themselves “but I feel great after my session” when they leave the gym, this is the rush of feel good endorphins that is making them feel better in the short-term.
How can someone begin to overcome overtraining syndrome?
Ronan: Rebalancing the body with nutrition, hydration and rest is paramount. Occupy yourself.
Take yourself out of the situation but don’t do anything physical.
Working with a personal trainer can be really helpful as they can decipher how to optimally exercise the body. They can make a programme that is tailored to your needs and in doing so, they can give you an idea of what is healthy and what is not in terms of frequency of exercise.
Decreasing the intensity of your work-outs especially for those who have been working out 6-7 days each week for a prolonged period of time, it can be difficult to cut down on work-outs. Yoga and going for walks can help with irritability brought on from exercise withdrawals.
Talking-therapy can help you navigate healthy choices. Once you start making conscious steps towards recovery, you will begin to realize that you have an issue that can be solved.
Understand your body Until you’re ready to make progress you won’t. Know what you won’t to achieve and try to do so in the healthiest way possible.
Overtraining: Know The Risks with Dr. Dominic Rowley:**
Read: Stressed Out? The Dangers Of High Cortisol and Stress
Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley