Fatigue and poor performance are increasingly common in athletes. Understanding what overtraining syndrome is helps evaluate, manage, and educate athletes.
Generally speaking, an athlete trains to increase performance. Performance increases are achieved through higher training loads.
Increased loads are tolerated only through interspersed periods of rest and recovery, known as periodization.
When load accumulation is excessive, a drop in performance can be seen, leading to days, even weeks, required for the body to recover.
This article describes the symptoms of overtraining, what causes it, and what to do to avoid it.
What is overtraining?
By definition, overtraining (or burnout ) is the wear and tear of the body’s systems caused by excessive physical exertion. It occurs from more training than the body can resist and leads to a temporary decrease in performance. (1)
Overtraining syndrome is considered a disease. When a person reaches the non-functional extreme, the recovery period is longer than two months, and the symptoms are severe. Usually, there is damage to the immune and nervous systems.
In the early stages of overtraining, symptoms can be mild. The person tends to reach a plateau in athletic performance. Motivation may decline, and mood may suddenly deteriorate.
The following stages of overtraining are characterized by loss of appetite, lowered immunity, and chronic muscle pain.
Symptoms of overtraining
Symptoms of overtraining vary from person to person. However, you can usually see a feeling of chronic fatigue or tiredness, rapid heartbeat, and sleep disturbances.
In particular, people with the overtraining syndrome often experience weight loss, mood swings, sore and stiff heavy muscles, poor concentration, anxiety, and depression.
One of the clear signs of overtraining is increased pulse rate both during exercise and immediately after waking up. This symptom is directly associated with elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
High cortisol interferes with muscle growth, but it also negatively affects the immune system and the production of sex hormones like testosterone.
// Symptoms of overtraining:
- Chronic fatigue
- Persistent muscle pain
- Lack of concentration
Causes of overtraining
Beginning athletes are much more prone to overtraining than professionals. The desire to achieve results as quickly as possible is a typical cause of overtraining in novice athletes.
One of the risk factors for overtraining is a lack of professional trainers with hands-on experience in analyzing your body’s signals.
Also, mistakes in feeding or supplementation can cause early overtraining.
Some research claims that a lack of carbohydrate or glutamine foods in the diet can be one of the leading causes of overtraining. (1)
In the case of supplements, free tryptophan has been shown to cause fatigue. Taking HTP-5 tryptophan or zinc and magnesium supplements can artificially increase neurotransmitter activity in the brain. This can be helpful in the short term but can lead to fatigue in a long time. (1)
In contrast, athletes who took BCAA amino acids felt more energized and mentally clear.
// Causes of overtraining:
- Lack of nutrients (carbohydrates, glutamine, vitamins)
- Excess in training plans
- Not getting enough hours of sleep
- Excess caffeine
- Errors in sports supplementation
- Hormonal imbalance
How to recognize overtraining?
Unfortunately, none of the symptoms of overtraining can reliably determine the disease. Only a sports doctor can make an accurate diagnosis, excluding other causes such as conditions, infections, and chronic diseases, among others.
However, if you exercise every day and notice similar symptoms, overtraining is relatively high.
Large muscle groups need up to 48-72 hours for full muscle recovery. Continuing training will lead to better results, but it will cause a decline in athletic performance. As a general rule, a beginner is recommended to train no more than 3-4 times a week, an advanced athlete up to 5.
Treatment and prevention of overtraining
Using techniques to speed muscle recovery can help prevent overtraining. At the end of the workouts, you should always do stretching and cool down. Some studies recommend a contrast shower or sauna. (2.3)
If you detect overtraining, you should interrupt your sports sessions, rest, and give your body time to recover. In addition, sports massage can help relieve some symptoms of overtraining, such as muscle pain.
Other alternative treatments, such as regular use of a foam roller ( Foam Roller), have successfully prevented overtraining. The myofascial release technique not only makes the muscles more elastic but also comprehensively relieves pain and inflammation.
// Treatments for overtraining:
- Myofascial massage with Foam Roller
- Increase the hours of sleep
- Temporary training ban
- Learn techniques for managing stress
- Balanced nutrition
Recovery after excess training
Recovery from mild overtraining requires at least 3-5 days from a complete rejection of sports activities.
Overtraining syndrome requires at least two months. In these cases, it is recommended to sleep at least 8-9 hours a day, monitor the presence of vitamins and minerals, and include some muscle recovery methods.
After alleviating the symptoms, you must ensure that you can train again with a sports doctor. Keeping track of your exercise sessions will prevent you from falling back into overtraining.
Remember that overtraining appears gradually; an experienced coach can recognize it in the early stages and reduce the amount of stress not to bring the situation to a dangerous state.
Overtraining is a state of chronic fatigue caused by excessive loads on both the muscles and the central nervous system. Symptoms of overtraining are poor performance, muscle pain, sleep disturbances, headaches, and irritability, among others. The simplest treatment option is to ban training for a time and sleep more hours per day.