One of the fundamental principles of exercise training is the principle of overload. The principle of overload states that “for a training effect to occur a system or tissue must be challenged with an intensity, duration, or frequency of exercise to which it is unaccustomed.”(1) As an individual trains, the body responds to the stimulus and grows stronger.

Overload, however, can be taken to an extreme where the body begins to break down. This extreme is called overtraining.

Common symptoms of overtraining include:

  1. Decrease in performance.
  2. Unplanned loss of body weight.
  3. Increased susceptibility to infections, illness, and injury.
  4. Chronic fatigue.
  5. Psychological distress.
  6. Deteriorated recovery.

Strategies to reduce overtraining symptoms include:

1. Rest.

a. All individuals should take a full day of rest from exercise per week to allow the body to recover.

b. Obtain sufficient rest. Generally speaking, most adults require 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

2. Nutrition.

a. Overtraining depletes glycogen stores. Ensure proper carbohydrate intake post-workout. Consume 75-80 grams of carbohydrates within 60 minutes post-workout.

b. Dehydration can increase stress on the body and exacerbate overtraining symptoms. Ensure proper hydration habits. Consume at least half of your body weight, in ounces, of water per day. During exercise water should be consumed at a rate of 3-8 ounces per 15 minutes.(1,2)

3. Exercise Program Modification.

a. Exercise volume and intensity may require adjustments.

The line between overload and overtraining is often blurry. As such, please contact me with questions.

(1) Powers, Scott K and Howley, Edward T. Exercise Physiology: Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance. San Francisco: WCB McGraw-Hill, 1997.
(2) Meeusen R, Duclos M, Foster C, Fry A, Gleeson M, et al. Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: joint consensus statement of the European college of sport science and the American college of sports medicine. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Jan – 45(1):186-205.