If you really do want to build quality muscle, then read the article below….
How many times have we heard the above build muscle fast statement? Or another one “I train chest and arms every day because I want them to be big”. Or even similar statements to the above like one I heard recently “I train my chest every day, but am not getting any results and now I don’t feel like training because I am getting tired.” It is natural as training experience increases that better results are obtained. But by increasing the training stimulus it is easy to end up in the situation that the load placed on the body is more than the body can handle. This situation is called overreaching and if this overreaching goes on long enough then the net result is a condition called "overtraining syndrome".
Too often, training sessions are judged by the amount of work performed in a session leading to unrealistic goals for the person training.
Repeated days and weeks of training can be considered positive stress because training improves your capacity for energy production, tolerance of physical stress, and exercise performance. The major physical changes occur during in the first 6-10 weeks of training. The magnitude of the adaptation depends on the volume and intensity of exercise performed during training sessions, which leads many people to believe that the person who undertakes the greatest volume and intensity of training will make the best gains. Too often, training sessions are judged by the amount of work performed in a session leading to unrealistic goals for the person training. The rate at which you adapt to training is limited and cannot be forced beyond your body’s capacity for development. Too much training can reduce the potential for improvement and in some cases can actually cause a breakdown in the adaptation process, which eventually reduces performance. Although the training volume is an important stimulus for physical conditioning, there needs to be a proper balance between volume and intensity. Training can be over done, leading to chronic fatigue, illness, overtraining syndrome and decreased performance. In contrast, with proper rest and reaching the appropriate balance between training volume and intensity can enhance the training. A great effort is required in determining the appropriate training volume and intensity required to achieve the optimum adaptation.
A well designed training program incorporates the principle of progressive overload. In general, this principle holds that to maximise the benefits of training, the training stimulus must be progressively increased as the body adapts to the current stimulus. If the amount of stress remains constant, you will eventually adapt to that training level, and your body wont need further adaptation. The only way to continue to improve with training is to progressively increase eh training stimulus, or stress. When this concept is carried too far, the training may become excessive, pushing the body beyond its ability to adapt. Such excessive training, with too high a volume or intensity, produces no additional improvement in conditioning or performance and can lead to decreased performance and chronic fatigue. Some people believe that maximal improvements with training can be achieved only with excessive training. This is true with young trainers who believe that more is better and train in excess of two hours per day, sometimes more, believing that these overload periods will hasten their adaptation or build muscle quicker than using lower training volumes or intensity.
With excessive training, either or both, volume of training and intensity of training are increased to extreme levels. The philosophy “more is better” can only be taken to a certain point. Then performance either begins to plateau or decline.
Despite hard overload training some trainers experience an unexplained decline in training performance and physiological function that extends over weeks, months or even years. This condition is termed “overtraining”, a condition that has been attributed to both psychological and physiological causes. When the training load is too intense or the volume of training exceeds the body’s ability to adequately recover and adapt the body experiences more catabolism (breakdown) than anabolism (building up). Fatigue that often follows one or more heavy exhaustive training sessions usually is corrected by a few days of a reduction in training or total rest along with a carbohydrate rich diet. Overtraining, on the other hand, is characterised by a sudden decline in training performance and physiological function that cannot be remedied just by a few days of reduced training or rest and daily calorie manipulation.
When the training load is too intense or the volume of training exceeds the body's ability to adequately recover and adapt the body experiences more catabolism (breakdown) than anabolism (building up).
Effects of Overtraining: The overtraining syndrome.
Most of the symptoms that result from overtraining are collectively referred to as the overtraining syndrome and can only be identified after a decrease of exercise performance and physiological function has suffered. Most of the symptoms of overtraining syndrome can be highly individualised which makes it difficult to recognise that the reduced training results are brought on by overtraining. One of the first signs of overtraining is a reduction of training results with continued training. Normally a trainer will notice a reduction of strength, coordination and maximal working capacity and feelings of being fatigued. Other signs and symptoms of overtraining syndrome include:
- Changes in appetite and body weight;
- Sleep disturbances;
- Irritability, restlessness, excitability, anxiousness;
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of mental concentration; and
- Feelings of depression.
The underlying causes of overtraining syndrome are often a combination of emotional and physiological factors. Studies have noted that a person’s stress tolerance can break down as often from a sudden increase in anxiety as from an increase in physical distress. The emotional demands on a person with such things as a fear of failure, unrealistically high training goals and other expectations can be sources of intolerable emotional stress. Because of this, overtraining is typically accompanied by a loss of training or competitive desire leading to a loss of enthusiasm for training. It has also been shown in other studies that the overtraining syndrome symptoms and clinical depression involve remarkably similar signs and symptoms. Physiological factors responsible for the detrimental effects of overtraining are still not fully understood. However, many abnormal responses have been reported that suggest that overtraining is associated with alterations in the neurological, hormonal, and immune systems. Although a cause and effect relationship between these changes and the symptoms of overtraining has not been clearly established, these symptoms often can help determine whether a person is overtrained.
Autonomic Nervous System Overtraining.
Some studies have shown that overtraining is associated with abnormal responses in the autonomic nervous system. Physiological symptoms that accompany the decline in a persons training often reflect changes in the neural or endocrine systems that are controlled by either the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous systems. Sympathetic overtraining can lead to;
- Increase in the resting heart rate,
- Increased blood pressure,
- Loss of appetite,
- Decreased body mass,
- Sleep disturbances,
- Emotional instability,
- Elevated basal metabolic rate.
Other studies suggest that the parasympathetic nervous system might be dominant in some cases of overtraining. In these cases people show the same performance failures but have markedly different responses than those with sympathetic overtraining. Signs of parasympathetic overtraining include;
- Early onset of fatigue,
- Decreased resting heart rate,
- Rapid heart recovery after exercise, and
- Decreased resting blood pressure.
Although some of the symptoms of associated with autonomic nervous system overtraining are also seen in people who are not overtrained. For this reason, we cannot always assume that the presence of these symptoms confirms overtraining. Of the two conditions, symptoms of sympathetic overtraining are the most frequently observed.
Hormonal Responses to Overtraining.
The measurements of various blood hormone levels during periods of heavy training suggest that marked disturbances in endocrine function accompany the excessive stress. When athletes increase their training by 1.5 to 2 fold, their blood levels of thyroxin and testosterone usually decrease and their blood levels of cortisol increase. The ratio of testosterone to cortisol is thought to regulate anabolic processes in recovery, so a change in this ratio is considered an important indicator, and perhaps a cause, of the over training syndrome. Decreased testosterone coupled with increased cortisol levels might lead to more protein catabolism than anabolism in the cells. Other research, however suggests that although cortisol levels increase with heavy training and the early stages of overtraining, both resting and exercise cortisol levels are generally decreased in the overtraining syndrome. Overtrained athletes often have higher blood levels of urea, and because urea is produced by the breakdown of protein, this indicates increased protein catabolism. This mechanism is thought to be responsible for the loss in body mass seen in overtrained athletes. Resting blood levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine are elevated during periods of intensified training. These two hormones elevate heart rate and blood pressure. Some people suggest that the blood levels of these hormones should be measured to confirm overtraining. Unfortunately, measurement of these hormones is very costly and as such is not widely used. Acute overload training and heavy intense training often produce most of the same endocrine changes that are reported in overtrained athletes. For this reason, measuring these and other hormones might not provide a valid confirmation of overtraining. Athletes whose hormone levels appear abnormal may simply be experiencing the normal effects of hard training. These endocrine changes simply might just reflect the stress of training rather than a complete breakdown in the adaptive process.
Immune System and Overtraining.
Your immune system provides defense against invading bacteria, parasites, viruses, and tumor cells. This system depends on the actions of specialised cells and antibodies. These cells primarily eliminate or neutralise these foreign invaders that might cause illness. Unfortunately one of the most serious consequences of overtraining is the major negative effect it has on the body's immune system. Studies have shown that excessive training suppresses normal immune function, increasing the overtrained athlete’s susceptibility to infections. Other studies have shown that short bouts of intense exercise can temporarily impair the immune response, and successive days of heavy training can amplify this suppression. Intense exercise during illness might decrease your ability to fight off the infection and increase your risk of even greater complications.
Predicting the Overtraining Syndrome.
It is thought that the cause of overtraining syndrome is likely to be caused by a physical or emotional overload, or a combination of the two might trigger the condition. You should not exceed your own stress tolerance by regulating the amount of physiological and psychological stress experienced during training but this will be difficult to assess. Many people rely on intuition to determine their training volume and intensity, but not many can accurately assess the true impact of their workout. No symptoms will warn you that you are on the verge of becoming overtrained. By the time you realize that you have pushed yourself too hard, it is often too late. The damage done by repeated days of excessive training or stress can be repaired only by days or in some cases weeks, of complete rest of reduced training or complete rest.
Treating the Overtraining Syndrome.
As mentioned above the exact cause for performance deterioration with overtraining is not clear, reports suggest that training intensity or speed is a more potent stressor than training volume. Recovery from overtraining syndrome is possible only with a marked reduction in training intensity or complete rest. Although people sometimes think that reductions of training will suffice, overtrained trainers require considerable time for full recovery, and this may necessitate the total cessation of training for a period of weeks or months. Sometimes it may be necessary for intervention from a psychological councilor to help cope with other stressors in a person’s life that might contribute to this condition. The best way to minimise the risk of overtraining is to follow periodisation type training, which means alternating easy, moderate, and hard periods of training. Although each individual will have different tolerance levels even the strongest athletes will have periods when they are susceptible to the overtraining syndrome. It is important to pay particular attention to the carbohydrate intake. Repeated days of hard training will deplete muscle glycogen. Unless the person pay attention to their consumption of extra carbohydrates during their hard training periods the muscle and liver glycogen reserves may be depleted. As a consequence, the most heavily recruited muscle fibres are not able to generate the energy for training.
Nutrition for Recovery.
As mentioned above, carbohydrates plan an important part in the recovery after training but are required also as part of a balanced diet, along with adequate protein and fats. Consuming quality carbohydrates, especially post-workout, helps to replenish muscle glycogen stress and provide sufficient energy for intense training. Protein is also an important part of the recovery process. There are many studies that have been conducted that state that weight trainers or strength trained athletes require twice the amount of protein than do sedentary people. Lastly, and not forgetting that you may also need extra vitamins and minerals due to the possibility of being deficient in one or more. It is normal for athletes to supplement their food intake with a vitamin and mineral supplement as insurance to being deficient.
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Physiology of Sport and Exercise: J H. Wilmore. D L Costill