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Overtraining: What It is, Signs, and Recovery


Overtraining: What It is, Signs, and Recovery
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Overtraining is a real phenomenon that can occur in athletes of all levels, from beginners to elites. While it's often called "overtraining syndrome," it's important to note that overtraining is not a diagnosable condition or syndrome. Instead, it's a general term used to describe the adverse effects that can occur when someone trains too much without adequate recovery.

While there is no definitive answer on how much is too much when it comes to exercise, overtraining is typically characterized by a persistent state of fatigue that doesn't improve with rest or decreases with continued training. This fatigue can lead to a decrease in performance and other physical and mental health symptoms.

If you think you may be overtraining, you must talk to your doctor or a sports medicine specialist to rule out other potential causes of fatigue and help create a plan to reduce your training volume or intensity.

This article will discuss the signs of overtraining and present some remedies to prevent it.

What is Overtraining?

Overtraining occurs when an individual exercises too much without sufficient rest or recovery time. This can lead to a decrease in performance and physical and mental fatigue. Overtraining can cause many other health problems, including injuries, illnesses, and burnout.

The limit where your performance starts declining from exercise instead of improving is an overtraining syndrome (OTS) or burnout. You can reach the point of overtraining by exercising too much without enough recovery time between workouts. You can also reach this limit by not properly fueling your body with the necessary calories and nutrients.

‌The first stage of OTS is called overreaching. You will begin to feel intense muscle soreness if you push through and keep training without resting. After a few days of strenuous exercise, you may encounter overreaching. You will begin to experience overtraining syndrome as soon as you train without resting past this point.

Overtraining puts a lot of stress on the body, so it is essential to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs to recover from strenuous exercise.

Signs of Overtraining

There are several signs and symptoms of overtraining, both physical and psychological.

Exercise-Related Signs of Overtraining

There are many exercise-related signs of overtraining, including:

  • Decreased Performance: This is the most common sign of overtraining. If you notice a decline in your performance, it may be due to overtraining.
  • Increased Fatigue: Overtraining can result in extreme tiredness and fatigue, especially while working out, resulting in decreased performance.
  • Loss of Motivation: It can be hard to stay motivated to exercise when you're fatigued and your performance is declining. This loss of motivation can result in skipping workouts and avoiding the gym due to the constant physical and mental stress that your body is undergoing from overtraining.
  • Injuries: Overtraining can lead to injuries because it puts extra stress on the body. If you're experiencing more injuries than usual, it may be a sign that you're overtraining.

Physical Signs of Overtraining

The most common physical signs of overtraining include:

  • Muscle Soreness: If your muscles are excessively sore after exercise, it may be due to overtraining. This is because overtraining leads to muscle microtears, which cause inflammation and pain.
  • Joint Pain: Joint pain is another common sign of overtraining, as overuse can lead to inflammation.
  • Insomnia: Overtraining can also cause insomnia, further contributing to fatigue and tiredness.
  • Loss of Appetite: Overtraining can lead to a loss of appetite because it can increase the level of the stress hormone cortisol. This can disrupt the normal function of the digestive system and make you feel less hungry.
  • Racing Heart Rate at Rest or During Exercise: If you’re overtraining, you may notice that your heart rate is higher than usual at rest or during exercise. This is because overtraining can lead to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause an increase in heart rate.
  • Headaches: Overtraining can also lead to headaches, often caused by dehydration.
  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness: Overtraining may also make you feel dizzy or lightheaded because overtraining can lead to dehydration, which can cause these symptoms.

Mental and Emotional Signs of Overtraining

Some of the mental and emotional signs of overtraining include:

  • Moodiness and Irritability: It may be a sign of overtraining if you’re feeling moodier or irritable than usual, as overtraining can lead to an imbalance in hormones.
  • Depression or Anxiety: Overtraining can also lead to depression or anxiety as it causes a rise in the stress hormone cortisol, which can disrupt the brain's normal function and lead to mood disorders.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Fatigue caused due to overtraining can make it difficult to concentrate and disrupt your focus.
  • Forgetfulness: You may also find that you forget things more often if you're overtraining, as overtraining can lead to sleep problems, which can cause cognitive impairments.

How to Prevent Overtraining?

Regular workouts can be draining on the body, and it's critical to recovering properly so that you may return to training at a high level. Mental well-being, healthy sleep, and nutrition are all critical in preventing overtraining. These must be incorporated into the training routine as much as the exercise and rest plan.

Sports psychologist Deborah N. Roche states, "Exercise is a great way to manage stress and enhance your mood. However, you can have too much of a good thing." It is important to be aware of the signs of overtraining and to take steps to prevent it. These steps include:

  • Gradually Increase the Amount of Exercise You Do: If you're starting an exercise program or increasing your activity level, it's essential to do so gradually. This will give your body time to adjust and will help reduce the risk of overtraining.
  • Give Yourself Enough Rest: Be sure to allow your body adequate time to recover from exercise. This means getting enough sleep and taking rest days when needed.
  • Take Active Rest Days: Make sure to schedule days where you don't exercise at all or lower intensity than usual.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet: Eating a diet that provides the nutrients your body needs will help you recover from exercise and reduce the risk of overtraining.
  • Drink Plenty of Fluids: Dehydration can contribute to fatigue, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise to keep yourself hydrated.
  • Listen to Your Body: If you're feeling exhausted or have any pain or other concerning symptoms, it's important to listen to your body and take a break from exercise.
  • Get Regular Medical Checkups: This is especially important if you exercise intensely or have health concerns. Your doctor can help you monitor your health and ensure you do everything possible to prevent overtraining.

Role of Nutrition in Preventing Overtraining

To help prevent overtraining, eating a balanced diet that provides the nutrients your body needs is essential. This includes eating enough calories to support your activity level and getting adequate protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.

  • Protein is essential for athletes as it helps repair and rebuild muscle tissue. A lack of protein can lead to muscle loss and weakness, making it more difficult to recover from exercise. Some great protein sources include lean meats, fish, poultry, tofu, legumes, and dairy. You should aim for protein sources that contain all essential amino acids to promote muscle growth and repair.
  • Carbohydrates are also crucial as they provide energy for exercise and help replenish glycogen stores after exercise. Good sources of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
  • Healthy Fats are another essential part of the diet, as they provide energy and help absorb vitamins and minerals. They also help reduce inflammation, which can benefit people recovering from exercise. Good sources of healthy fats include avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fish. You may also supplement with omega-3 fatty acids or other anti-inflammatory supplements.
  • Vitamins and Minerals facilitate many functions in the body and help prevent deficiencies contributing to fatigue and other problems. Some good sources of vitamins and minerals include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy.


1. What are the signs of overtraining?

There are several signs that you might be overtraining. It is a red flag if you feel more tired than usual, especially during workouts. You might also notice that your performance is declining in strength, endurance, or both. You might also feel irritable or "off" mentally and have trouble sleeping.

If you're consistently experiencing any of these symptoms, taking a step back and reassessing your training routine is essential. Some degree of fatigue is to be expected when working out regularly. Nonetheless, if you're feeling completely burnt out, it's probably time to ease up on the intensity and give your body a chance to recover.

2. How do you recover from overtraining?

Overtraining syndrome is a real phenomenon, and it's characterized by fatigue, decreased performance, and elevated levels of stress hormones.

The good news is that you can do many things to recover from overtraining syndrome. First, make sure you're getting enough sleep and quality rest. Second, you must refuel your body with the right foods. Third, make sure you're taking time for yourself to relax and de-stress. Fourth, consider supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids or other anti-inflammatory supplements. And finally, consider seeing a sports psychologist or therapist who can help you address any underlying psychological issues contributing to your overtraining syndrome.

3. Can overtraining make you sick?

Overtraining can make you sick, both physically and mentally. When you overtrain, your body is in a constant state of stress, which can lead to several health problems, including but not limited to: adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalance, decreased immunity, insomnia, and anxiety. Mentally, overtraining can lead to burnout and depression.

You may suffer from overtraining syndrome if you feel run down, depressed, or constantly sick after weeks or months of hard training. If this is the case, taking some time off from the gym and allowing your body to recover is essential. Otherwise, you may do more harm than good in the long run.

4. How many days’ rest is needed after overtraining?

This is a difficult question because it depends on many factors, including the intensity and duration of overtraining, the athlete's age and fitness level, and individual recovery ability. Generally speaking; however, it is advisable to take at least 3-5 days off from training after an extended period of overtraining. This will give your body time to recover and rebuild.

Additionally, you may need to adjust your training volume and intensity for some time after overtraining to avoid further injury or fatigue. If you are unsure how much rest you need, consult with a certified athletic trainer or coach.

Final Thoughts

Overtraining can be a severe problem for athletes of all levels. It is essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms of overtraining and take steps to prevent it. These steps include gradually increasing the amount of exercise you do, giving yourself enough rest, taking active rest days, eating a balanced diet, and listening to your body.

If you are concerned that you may be overtraining, you must see a doctor or other healthcare provider. They can help you monitor your health and ensure you do everything possible to prevent overtraining. Eating a balanced diet that provides the nutrients your body needs is important in preventing overtraining. This includes adequate protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Following these tips can help you prevent overtraining and stay healthy and active for years to come!

Reading List

Article Sources

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  • Cheng, Arthur J., et al. “Intramuscular Mechanisms of Overtraining.” Redox Biology, vol. 35, Aug. 2020, p. 101480. ScienceDirect,
  • Grandou, Clementine, et al. “Symptoms of Overtraining in Resistance Exercise: International Cross-Sectional Survey.” International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, vol. 16, no. 1, July 2020, pp. 80–89.,
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