How do you know if you’re training too much?
There was probably a time when the very idea of exercising regularly seemed like wishful thinking to you.
So, the idea that you’d ever be over-exercising probably sounded even more far-fetched! After all, you can never have too much of a good thing, right?
Unfortunately, when it comes to exercise, especially high intensity training, there is real risk of overtraining.
While a regular training routine holds promises of muscle gain, weight loss, and better emotional and physical health in general, overtraining can undo a lot of the good.
If you’re training every day without adequate rest and nutrition, your body could find it hard to recover from those sessions. This is described as overtraining.
Overtraining can have a serious impact on your health, which ultimately undermines all of the benefits of exercise.
Here are some of the worse effects of overtraining that you need to be aware of.
The Top 5 Health Risks of Overtraining
1. Fluctuations in Weight & Appetite
Whether you began exercising to gain muscle mass or lose weight, overtraining can be counterproductive to both goals.
Research shows that overtraining can cause significant fluctuations in your appetite and weight as your body is chronically overexerted.
Excessive high intensity exercise can cause an increase in cortisol levels, impairing insulin sensitivity. Not surprisingly, such a rise in cortisol is associated with weight gain.
As your body is in a constant state of stress, without adequate recovery and relaxation it goes into starvation mode, increasing energy conservation – that translates into more fat being stored on your body.
Muscle growth also occurs through the process of recovery, when tissue damage is repaired. With overtraining, your body doesn’t get enough time to recover and you will stop seeing any gains.
In fact, if your nutritional intake doesn’t match your training program, your body may even start using muscle tissue as a source of energy.
2. Increased Risk of Cardiac Disease
Tracking your heart rate is a good way to assess performance.
Healthy and active adults typically have a lower resting heart rate, with the healthy range being 60-100bpm (beats per minute). Overtraining raises your heart rate, and you’ll probably find it to be 10-15 bpm higher.
Unfortunately, that increase in heart rate is just the beginning of your troubles.
Overtraining with high intensity and endurance exercises has also been linked to changes in heart muscles, such as increased scarring.
These changes can increase your risk of arrhythmia and cardiac disease, with some studies showing a higher incidence of cardiac events in subjects who over exercise.
3. Chronic Fatigue
There’s a reason why most of us love to start our days with an early morning run or a workout session. It raises energy levels and can keep you going through the day, no matter what comes your way.
Overtraining, however, doesn’t cause a further increase in energy levels and in fact does the opposite. It can cause what is described as adrenal fatigue.
When you overtrain, your body is constantly stressed.
This sends the adrenal glands into overdrive. They keep producing hormones like cortisol and adrenalin.
If this continues for long enough, the adrenal glands start to suffer from fatigue themselves. They stop producing even healthy and required amounts of cortisol.
This results in constant feelings of exhaustion and weakness, described as chronic fatigue.
4. Injuries and Illnesses
One of the perks of leading a physically active lifestyle is that it strengthens your body, reducing the risk of injury and frequent infections.
As you might suspect, overtraining does exactly the opposite as it results in weakening of the bones and suppression of the immune system, which is your body’s natural defense against infections.
Overtraining is known to trigger the stress response, raising levels of cortisone in the body. While it helps in the short term to decrease swelling and synthesize protein, it can have undesired consequences when present in high levels.
Cortisone is immunosuppressive, increasing susceptibility to infection. Similarly, high levels of cortisol can give rise to health problems, raising the likelihood of fractures and degenerative bone diseases.
Studies suggest that high levels of the hormone impair bone formation, while also causing inflammation and suppressing immunity.
5. Irritability and Moodiness
For many of us, exercise can be almost addictive because of the way it makes us feel.
It’s not just that it makes you feel more confident, but it also boosts your mood by triggering the release of dopamine – the ‘feel good’ hormone.
When you overtrain, it has the opposite effect, increasing levels of cortisol instead. A study that appeared in the journal Sports Medicine also found that individuals with overtraining syndrome were more likely to have lower levels of the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter.
These changes in brain chemistry can cause severe mood swings, making you more vulnerable to chronic stress, anxiety disorders, and clinical depression.
Overtraining also interferes with sleep, which plays an important role in recovery. There is a higher risk of sleep impairments and insomnia in individuals who exercise excessively.
In addition to reduced performance and gains as a result of these effects of overtraining, you can also become socially withdrawn, develop serious eating disorders, suffer from joint pain, and experience frequent gastrointestinal disorders.
There is also a high risk of injury, whether minor problems like strains and sprains or more debilitating problems like chronic lower back pain or sciatica.
The good news about over-training
Luckily, overtraining symptoms can be easily prevented if you’re more attuned to your body.
Don’t push yourself too hard, remember to eat a balanced diet to support your workout, get adequate rest, and allow your body to recover.
Those who are prone to over-training are probably of the personality type that finds it hard to take a break.
However, learning this skill is crucial to achieving ultimate health & fitness. By slowing down, you’ll be helping your body become stronger and have more power to give to your workouts when you do partake.
Anita Fernandes has been writing extensively on health and wellness for over a decade. She has expertise in nutrition, fitness, public health, and weight loss and has contributed content to a variety of leading digital health publishers. Anita has a unique perspective on healthy living and lifestyle, as she has battled and overcome eating disorders and obesity. She shares her experiences to help others overcome the physical and mental health problems that can sometimes seem insurmountable.