Overtraining | How To Avoid And What Are The Symptoms?

Written by Jay Kayani


Overtraining is caused by placing too much stress on the muscles than the body can handle and not allowing recovery, leading to issues with your muscular development and performance. Your muscles will stop growing and actually go the opposite way and begin to lose gains, strength and size. In athletes overtraining can lead to physical burnout, overstress and chronic fatigue. Not a good thing is it?


What Causes Overtraining?


Overtraining can be caused by various methods, for example; the same programme you’ve been doing for weeks, not increasing your effort levels or weights and simply just plodding along. This causes no central nervous system stimulation thus leading to no improvements. Also known as plateau.


Note: Central nervous stimulation is required in order to promote physical changes, any exercise stress placed on the body will lead to positive benefits and increase your muscular firing threshold, in return this will increase strength and/or reaction times.


Another example of overtraining is caused by doing too much, where the intensity is high but the rest volume is low not allowing any muscular recovery. This is why we have split routines or train different body part.


Note: Lifting too heavy too often and exercising various body parts can still cause overtraining. Adequate rest and nutrition is more important if you are doing this kind of training. Research has shown that up to 10% of athletes are affected by overtraining (Whyte et al, .2005). Exercise can become an addiction; you see the most changes in the first 6 weeks of training. You feel great, the release of the endorphins and dopamine make you feel great!!

gym bag essentials

The Science Behind Overtraining


When we are lifting, we are causing small tears in our muscles in order to grow; overtraining will reduce the repair time. As we all know protein is required to repair muscles, overtraining will causes a protein deficiency leading to all our amino acids being used and leading to decreased strength and plateau.


Cortisol is released. The big bad stress hormone mainly released when we are stressed. Whilst a small amount of this is needed during exercise. Too much for long periods have a detrimental effect.

Note: I will be doing an article on cortisol soon.

Overtraining also weakens our immune system, as we are calorie deficient and anything we is used up rapidly to repair our muscles resulting in a weaker immune system and increased strain on our CNS system resulting in a decreased performance.


Anabolic means to grow; this is our aim when weight training, but I’m training heavy and eating but not getting any bigger. Overtraining causes a catabolic effect. Catabolic means breakdown.

So whilst we are training heavy and different body parts a day, we may not be eating enough calories required to maintain the high volumes we are training at or maybe we aren’t resting enough!

gym buddies cardio motivation

So What Are The Signs Of Overtraining?


Constant Muscle Soreness

> Persistent Fatigue

Increased Resting Heart Rate

> Weak Immune System




Lack of Concentration

Increased Injuries

Decreased Motivation

Low Self Esteem

Plateau In Training

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How Can I Use My Risk Of Overtraining Or Reduce Overtraining?


Take a break, occasionally have a week

Do one weak heavy & one week light weight training?

Change it up (routine)

Sleep more

Adequate nutrition

Hot and cold showers/treatment stimulate the bodies sensory and motor neurons to reduce the bodies pain sensors.

Nutritional Advice


Protein alone is not sufficient enough to reduce overtraining effects; we must consume carbohydrate, fats, vitamins and minerals.

Make sure your calorie intake is higher than your calories out.








You get the hint… greens are good for you.

healthy green cleanse smoothie recipe

So Is It All Doom & Gloom?


Athletes use overtraining as a method to improve their physical is a training method known as super compensation. Initial training consists of high intensity, then the athlete will have a rest period and as we all know, once we are completely rest we feel good. The rest allows recovery and we come back stronger and with more energy, but we must increase intensity or we will revert to baseline.

However this can be quite complicated to do, so please seek guidance before trying this sort of training and use professional periodised training programmes.

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

Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Physiology and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition. Faye has worked with numerous high-profile organisations, such as Men's Health, Sky Sports, Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves, British Dressage and GB Rowing, providing her expert sports science support. Find out more about Faye's experience here: She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding.

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