Are you overtraining?
How much exercise is too much?
by Sarah Fehlberg
Are you eating “well”? Working out every day? But getting run down and suffering a dip in your sex drive?
Everyone knows that exercise is good for our health. It lowers blood pressure, increases cardiac output, reduces stress, helps keep that extra weight off and so on.
But there is a point where too much of a good thing starts to become detrimental. That’s right detrimental. Too much exercise can be stressful and damaging to one’s health and sexual function.
Could you be feeling the effects of overtraining?
As a personal trainer and Naturopath, there are some common themes I see that point to overtraining. Personality traits like perfectionism can play a part, not being able to say no to commitments, over-scheduling, and the need to feel busy and always doing something-never resting. There may also be a history of emotional or physical trauma. I also often see people who work long hours or do shift work.
Common Symptoms of Over Training
- Sexual health symptoms – loss of libido, energy, drive and ambition
- In women – hormone changes, premenstrual syndrome
- In men – moody, snappy, angry, low testosterone, high cortisol
- Fatigue – unrelenting sudden need for more sleep but more sleep doesn’t help
- Unable to fall asleep in a timely manner, waking unrefreshed
- Increased fear and anxiety – racing heart upon waking
- Foggy thinking, concentration and memory problems
- Hypoglycaemia syndrome or “hangryness”- feeling angry when you haven’t eaten.
- Caffeine, sugar and salt cravings
- Immune system taking a dive
- Nausea – unable to eat in the morning.
- Inability to lose weight – even when “eating right”, especially in the abdominal area.
- Digestion – Sudden allergies, changes in bowel movements, reflux, constipation, diarrhoea
What happens to your body when you overtrain?
To put it simply, it’s stress.
Stress comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether that be emotional (trauma, dealing with negative people around you, work stress), situational (traffic, relationships, circumstances, lifestyle), or another trigger, many of us experience stress in our daily lives.
Believe it or not, exercise is also perceived by our bodies as stress. The body biochemically goes under load and stress when you exercise, just as when you are under emotional stress. Levels of the hormone cortisol increase, putting the body into ‘fight or flight’ mode.
Chronic stress states occur with overtraining, when we don’t allow our bodies to rest and recover. Add to this a stressful life, job, worries, busyness, and we see a cascade of problems with the endocrine (hormone) system. This is often termed “adrenal insufficiency”.
How does it affect your metabolism?
If you don’t have your cortisol under control it can also interrupt the metabolism of Proteins, Fats, Carbohydrates or Macro nutrients. Cortisol stimulates the liver to raise blood sugar as we need it. If you are not having enough carbohydrates for the level of training you’re doing, your cortisol will become depleted. The body responds to this by HOLDING ONTO FATS as it automatically goes into safety mode.
For this reason stress can cause people to develop high blood sugar or perhaps even lean toward insulin resistance. This is the reason why overtraining will make it difficult to shift abdominal fat.
How do we break the cycle?
I’m not saying don’t exercise. I’m saying – look after yourself when you do.
Don’t overstress your body, listen to yourself, consider self care and down time in between your high intensity days such as long slow walks, time in nature, bathing, reading, listening to music.
Overall prevention, proper nutrition, balancing the training with recovery, stress management.
Know how to read the signs of your body, your personal and perceived response to stress, fatigue levels, libido, hormone changes, sleep patterns, eating habits and time to recover will aid in the intervention and prevention of complete exhaustion and fatigue.
If you’d like the know further or need help with your training plan, dietary intake or overall health in general feel free to get in contact, I’d be happy to guide you on a more holistic path to wellness.
I look forward to working with you.
Sarah Fehlberg is a naturopath, nutritionist and herbal medicine practitioner at New Leaf Naturopathic Health in Marrickville, Sydney. She loves being an advocate for your health, working with men, women and children. Book an appointment with Sarah online today.