Overtraining: Overtraining | What is that? How to avoid it?

Overtraining: Overtraining | What is that? How to avoid it?

By the healthiergang writer Edoardo Laudi, personal trainer and majoring in Exercise and Sports Sciences

1. Overtraining: What is it?

The term overtraining or overtraining was introduced by Hatfield (1988) to describe a series of symptoms caused, essentially, by an altered relationship between training and recovery. Overtraining is a fairly common condition, a rather complex syndrome whose causes are to be found in various triggers.

The improvement of athletic performance essentially depends on:
• work out
• nutrition: ensures the energy substrates needed during training and recovery;
• rest or recovery: set of physiological modifications and adjustments that allow the body to restore the psycho-physical balance situation that a stressful situation (training) has altered.

It is enough that only one of these three elements is altered to negatively influence the results. If these deficiencies persist over time, you can enter the aforementioned overtraining phase, with stagnation or even involution of performance.

Causes of Overtraining

• excessive training and inadequate to one's lifestyle;
• excessively standardized workouts;
• insufficient sleep;
• too stressful lifestyle;
• too frequent competitions;
• Health problems;
• inadequate and / or unbalanced nutrition;
• food poisoning from excess of certain supplements;
• psychological problems (relational, family, social, work, etc.).

How to recognize Overtraining

The so-called Overtraining can manifest itself through one of the following symptoms:

• fast heart rate at rest;
• excessive fatigue during training even at low to medium heart rates, difficulty in raising the heart rate during training; difficulty getting your heart rate down to normal during recovery;
• excessive weight loss;
• loss of appetite, irrepressible desire for sweets;
• recurrent infections, lowering of the immune defenses;
• hormonal changes: excess of cortisol, ACTH and prolactin;
• chronic muscle soreness, tendinitis and joint problems;

If you recognize some of these symptoms, it is good to rest for at least one or two weeks, consuming a slightly higher amount of nutrients than normal following a normocaloric or high calorie diet.

2. Strategies for Preventing Overtraining

The prevention of the so-called Overtraining is very important as it is very easy to get into this condition and very difficult to get out of it. Strategies for preventing it include the following

Adequate rest: allow yourself a fairly long rest period between one workout and another; sleep at least 7-8 hours a night; improve sleep quality (controlled temperature and humidity, suitable mattress, pillow, etc.); promote recovery with massages, creams or salt baths and hot water

Positive mental approachs: accepting one's limits, facing them with the conviction that with commitment and willpower they can be overcome.

Don't train for too long: Cortisol levels begin to increase significantly after 40-50 minutes from the start of exercise and at the same time those of testosterone decrease.

Check your blood values ​​periodically: and in particular hematrocyte, hemoglobin, testosterone, cortisol, ACTH, prolactin, lymphocytes; if you notice a decrease in hematocrit and hemoglobin and / or a decrease in the testosterone / cortisol ratio and / or an increase in neutrophils, eusinofols, basofols, you have probably entered an overtraining phase

Follow a balanced diet: take the various nutrients in the right proportions (varying from sport to sport); if you follow a balanced diet, allow yourself days in which to decrease the protein intake and increase the carbohydrate intake; do not demonize fats, but take them in the right proportions; allow yourself days in which to consume high amounts of calories.

Take supplements without abusing them: the use of supplements can be useful in the case of reduced dietary intake or excessive consumption during physical activity; for this purpose, multivitamin and mineral supplements, glutamine, BCAA, antioxidants, iron, maltodextrin and mineral salts can be used during training. The category includes many other products, what matters is that their intake is not causal but linked to a proven deficiency.

Adapt the training to your lifestyle: obviously those who lead a particularly stressful lifestyle, full of commitments and exhausting activities both from a physical and mental point of view, cannot expect to train like those who work a few hours a day sitting behind a desk.

Allow yourself periods of periodic regeneration: within your training program, foresee a week of unloading at the end of each mesocycle; at the end of each micro-cycle, suspend the main activity for at least a week and allow yourself a rest period characterized by the practice of playful activities or alternatives to one's sport.


As we have seen with this article, there are different causes of overtraining and different strategies to prevent it. One of the most important points to remember is to take a break between one workout and another.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you are concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or making major changes to your diet.

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