Overtraining occurs when your body is exposed to more training, or stress, than it can recover from. If it’s short term, taking a couple of days of rest will solve the problem. But if you’ve been chronically overtraining and not resting enough, overtraining syndrome can occur, which is a much more serious condition that can take months to recover from.
Although you try not to think about it, overtraining is a real phenomenon and it’s more common than you think. And when it happens, it will negatively affect your health and can even hinder your gains by decreasing your testosterone levels. In other words, if you want both superb training results and optimal health, don’t forget that recovery and rest are also part of the equation, and perhaps they’re equally important as training and nutrition. Exercise is crucial for a healthy lifestyle, but more is not always better. If you fail to rest properly, soon enough the stress caused by exercise will exhaust your central nervous system and mess up delicate biological processes in your body.
For example, if you’re often sick and experiencing frequent joint and muscle pain while also feeling burnt out, this may well be your body’s way of telling you that you’re overtraining and to tone it down a bit. Moreover, new studies show that overtraining can lead to metabolic collapse and even neurochemical imbalances that are associated with depression.
Symptoms of overtraining most notably include:
- Feeling fatigued
- Feeling constantly stressed
- Significant weight loss
- Suppressed appetite
- Poor performance despite frequent training sessions
- Mood swings and irritability
- Getting sick often
- Prolonged muscle soreness
- Recovery takes longer than usual
- Sleep disorders
If you notice any of the symptoms above occurring in clusters, it is highly likely that you’re overtraining.
Overtraining Reduces Testosterone Levels
Testosterone is a male sex hormone that is essential for sexual and reproductive development and most of the scientific world considers it the most important male hormone. Women also produce testosterone, but at lower levels than men.
In men, testosterone is produced mainly in the testes, with a small amount made in the adrenal glands, and all of this production is controlled by the brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary gland. The hormone is involved in the development of male sex organs and secondary sex characteristics (voice deepening, increased penis size, growth of facial and body hair) and also plays an important role in sex drive, sperm production, fat distribution, red blood cell production and maintenance of muscle strength and mass. One 2008 study even linked testosterone to the prevention of osteoporosis in men.
Testosterone production peaks in puberty and then begins to decrease by 1-2% annually starting around the age of 30. In the meanwhile, factors like stress, overtraining and bad diet reduce testosterone levels even further, impacting your overall health and weakening your ability to train by causing muscle loss and poor performance.
If you believe that more is better when it comes to training, here’s something that might get you truly worried: studies also show that there’s a strong correlation between overtraining and testosterone.
Over the past decades, a number of scientific studies were conducted to confirm the link between low T-levels and overtraining. One smaller study found that overtraining caused a drop in basal testosterone levels by 39% in healthy, endurance-trained males with normal hormonal background. These results were confirmed by another study from 2004, which found that a quarter of the athletes who trained excessively had a reduced testosterone level by roughly 30% below the normal range.
Symptoms of Low T-Levels
The National Institutes of Health includes the following as symptoms of low testosterone:
- Reduced sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Lowered sperm count
- Depression and irritability
- Inability to concentrate
- Shrunken and softened testes
- Loss of muscle mass or hair
- Bones becoming prone to fracture
Therefore, be careful not to overtrain, because it can cost you a lot in terms of health, time and gains.
How to Make It All Work
If you’re wondering how exactly can you prevent overtraining and lowering of your T-levels, we have a couple of great tips.
#1. BALANCE IT OUT – There should be a balance between the amount of exercise and the amount of rest. Don’t go too far with pushing your limits because your body will eventually fight back and you won’t get the results you hoped for.
#2. SLEEP MORE – Sleep at least seven hours a day. If you’re actively training and sleep less than that, you risk insufficient cellular recovery.
#3. LESS INTENSITY – Don’t add more sets. Don’t give birth to brilliant new ideas how to increase the intensity. You really don’t have to leave the gym completely dead every single time.
#4. REST TWO DAYS BETWEEN STRENUOUS WORKOUTS – Rest two days between especially gruesome sessions in order to give your body enough time to recuperate.
#5. SMART DIETING – To get the most out of the anabolic environment created by training, you need to replenish your body with nutrients as soon as the workout ends. Have a pre- and post- workout diet plan and stick to it. Think lean meats, lots of vegetables and fish.
#6. MINDFUL TRAINING – Be aware of your well-being and learn to notice changes. Look out for the signs of overtraining and don’t ignore warnings from your body.
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Exposing your body to more stress than it can handle reduces its ability for controlling certain processes in the body, resulting in hormonal imbalances, such as lowered T-levels, and many other issues. And all of that could be avoided by simply making sure to get enough rest and allow your body to regenerate. Doing so will not only help you maintain high T-levels, it will also enhance your performance, boost muscle growth and increase your overall health.