Jerome of Balitmore, Maryland asks:
"How much is too much working out?"
That's a great question Jerome.
The short answer is: you should be able to workout as much as you want as long as you can a recover from that workout.
The more detailed answer: you need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of what causes overtaxing, how to maximize your recovery strategies, and basic plan of how to put it all together. This article will take a look at each aspect of optimizing your workout for maximal results.
Overtraining Vs. Overtaxing
The first point is to distinguish between overtaxing and overtraining. Overtraining is a precise scientific phenomenon. Here are the specific criteria that identify overtraining:
- An excess accumulation of physiological, psychological, emotional, environmental, and chemical stress
- A sustained decrease in physical and mental performance
- A response to constantly loading the immune, hormonal, and nervous system
Overtraining takes months to develop and months to recover.
Overtaxing is a more acute phenomena and can be recognized by the following:
- A decrease in sex drive
- A sudden increase in feeling bloated
- A decrease in grip strength
- Muscular and/or joint soreness lasting over 2 days
- Decrease in explosiveness (not able to jump as high)
- Muscles feel and look flatter than normal
There are some things you can do to prevent overtaxing and we'll start with the most important aspect of your training which is your nutrition.
Most people who suffer from overtaxing are on hypocaloric eating plans, either to lose weight (crash diet) or to cut weight for some type of competition (combat sports, Olympic lifting). When you start consuming less fuel in your body to perform the same level of intensity in the gym, there is a potential for your performance to lead to injury and/or not being able to recover like your body is normally used to doing.
When it comes to weight loss, for psychological reasons, most people cut calories drastically (a deficit of greater than 1000 calories than normal) instead of creating a plan where you gradually decrease the number of calories you need to perform at a high level and lose fat mass at a steady rate.
Proper supplementation is even more important during times of overtaxing than normal or for some, proper supplementation can help prevent overtaxing in the first place. Here are a few supplements one should consider to help prevent or manage overtaxing:
- A pre/intra workout shake that contains di and tri peptides to signal the muscle rebuilding process, and high quality carbohydrate complex, such as cyclic dextrin, that gives you the energy you need to fuel your workout.
- Rhodiola: an adpatogen that helps the body resist physical, chemical, and environmental stress.
- Neurotransmitter production: compounds such as Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Acetyl-L-Tyrosine, CDP Choline, and the like help the nervous system recover and keeps performance levels high.
- Deeper sleep boosters: compounds such as Phenibut, L-Theanine, 5-HTP help promote deeper sleep and in turn helps you recover as well.
- Natural anti-inflammatories: compounds such a fish/krill oil and curcumin help manage and decrease inflammation that most often leads to over.
Soft Tissue Repair
Everybody wants to hit the weights, but hardly anyone wants to stretch and use other soft tissue repair techniques. Only putting a strain on the body and not stretching afterwards can definitely lead to and exacerbate overtaxing symptoms. Here's a list of techniques that will help you muscles, ligaments, and joints recovery:
- Myofascia release: self myofascia release or ART (active release therapy) performed by a professional can help break up adhesions/ scar tissue that you develop around the connective tissue of your muscles so they can recover and allow you to perform your exercises optimally and pain-free.
- Acupuncture: a professional acupuncturist can needle certain points can increase blood flow to affected areas that can in turn help with recovery.
- Cyrotherapy: reduces pain, overuse injuries, and inflammation.
- Epsom salt bath: also known as Magnesium sulphate, increase perspiration, helping to get rid of toxins and impurities. also stimulates vasodilation, facilitating blood flow to the muscles and helping reduce inflammation. As a result, these baths can greatly increase the rate of recovery after a hard training session and, as a bonus, they reduce muscle and joint pains associated with an excessive inflammatory response.
Restorative Pulse Electromyostimulation: Sub-tetanic (non-maximal) EMS utilized in a low-intensity pulsating manner can act much like a sports massage. It can stimulate blood flow to the muscles by creating a pumping effect. It can also induce a state of relaxation in the muscles and help breakdown adhesions between muscle fibers.
Contrast Baths and Showers: Alternate between 30 seconds of cold water and two minutes of hot water. Perform this cycle three or four times. This technique is very effective at increasing peripheral blood flow, thus facilitating recovery. Don't use this method if you're suffering from an overuse injury or excessive inflammation.
Chiropractic: helps correct postural misalignment by manually manipulating the body's muscles and joints.
Stretching: passive or actively increasing the flexibility of a muscle or muscle groups by lengthening the muscles and their range of motion by self-stretching or using a partner.
Methods to Use After a High Volume Session
If the session was very hard and left you winded, go for a contrast shower alternating cold (as cold as you can stand) and warm water. If the session was arduous but nothing extraordinary, stick with only a cool shower/bath.
Methods to Use Weekly (1-2 Times a Week)
A whole-body massage, especially during periods of high training stress, would be ideal. An Epsom salt bath at the end of a grueling training week is also perfect. Two consecutive days of Epsom salt baths will supercharge you for your next week of training.
Methods to Use When You Have Tendon Pain
Cryotherapy applied to the injured muscle can be performed for three to five days in a row, but after a training session involving the injured structure is the most important time.
A lot of people have no idea how to properly plan their workout routine and either rely on their friend's routine or some cut-and-paste routine online and expect to get results without getting injured or overtaxing the body. This haphazard way of thinking is a recipe for disaster. There's a systematic way to approach structuring a workout to stay injury free and achieve optimal results. Before one decides to begin a workout program, you should consider the following:
- What are your goals?: fat loss versus muscle gain, or something performance based which can be broken down by energy system dominance such as - Max power (Olympic lifting), Max strength (Powerlifting), Endurance (long distance running), Cross training (Crossfit and other team sports that require a combination of different energy systems).
- Strategize workout quality and quantity: There are three variables involved in training: volume, frequency, and intensity.
- Frequency is how many times a day or week you plan on training.
- Intensity has 2 variables. It can be the load on the bar or how difficult the set was (often defined by something like RPE, or rate of perceived exertion).
- Volume is your total workload per training session. There's a myriad of ways to measure volume, but let's keep this as simple as sets and reps.
Manipulate and gradually increase frequency, intensity, and volume based on your goals, and what you can realistically stick to and recover from.
- Plan to taper and reevaulate your workout: your body can only progress on a routine for a certain amount of time. After about 4-6 weeks, your body adapts to a routine and it will not progress any further. If you continue to push yourself, you sustain an overuse injury or you may overtax the body. To prevent these maladies, it is recommended that you plan a taper week into the end of your routine where your reduce the workout load in some capacity 25 to 50%. At the end of your taper week, it would be wise to reevaluate what went right with your program, what didn't go so well, and what adjustments need to be made when creating the next workout program.
I hope this gives you some idea of different ways you can strategize aspects of your nutrition, supplementation, soft tissue repair, and workout planning to be able to identify whether you are working out too much or not. If you need any assistance putting together a program to maximize your results and minimize the risk of injury, don't hesistate to contact me.
Until next time - ENVISION, BELIEVE, EXECUTE and SUCCEED
To your health!
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