So what biochemical mechanism leads to this
over trained state? After
the onset of high-intensity training exercise the body pumps out
cortisol which breaks down protein into their constituent amino
acids and routes them to the liver for conversion to glucose.
The longer the workout, the more cortisol is
pumped in and the more protein is destroyed.
This causes a "catabolic state" as the largest
supply of protein lies in the muscles so that is
where the cortisol goes first.
Research by Costill and Nieman et al., has shown
that one hour of intense strength training will
increase the protein stores in our immune and
skeletal systems, but that any further training
will only begin to deplete these stores.
Overtraining can force the body into a weakened
physical state, which, at best can produce a
cold or the flu and, at worst, can tear muscles
ligaments, and tendons once these body parts
lose their structural integrity protein loss.
The culprit is a built-in "survival" drug
hormone called cortisol. Immediately following a
high intensity effort, the body pumps out this
hormone whose function is simple: It carries off
the proteins to the liver, where they are
converted into glucose, for energy use in the
Why does this weaken our defense mechanisms?
Because all our immune systems are based on
proteins, and the influx of control in our
biological mix steals the proteins that make up
our immune system.
Nieman, a researcher at Loma Linda University
found that athletes who train twice as intensely
as normally prescribed will wind up with twice
as many colds, and viruses.
Nieman investigated the athletes for cortisol.
He found that astonishingly, after only ONE
grueling strength training session, their bodies
revealed a 60% increase in cortisol production.
Among the first proteins to go were the T-cells
that make up our front line of defense against
viruses. This watchdog system was depleted by
more than 30 percent. However, this shortfall
lasted only 6-8 hrs.
So you're probably thinking "What's the big
deal? Is putting your body at risk for only 6-8
hours such a high price to pay?"
Well, Nieman and other researchers found that
after a few days of such exercising, the "at
risk" time became longer and longer, until the
T-cells stopped rejuvenation.
In addition, the body's first line of defense
against bacteria and viruses an antibody known
as IgA, which is found in the saliva, was
reduced to nearly non-protective levels.
The conclusion of the researchers was that
athletes can over train themselves into illness.
Thus the logical conclusion would be that high
intensity strength training should be limited to
one hour or less to restrict the amount of
Other ways to reduce the risk of
overtraining: Emphasize carbohydrates: make them 60-70% of
your total diet. Take carbohydrates two hours
prior to exercising and immediately following
exercise. Research has shown that your fatigued
muscles seem most responsive to energy storage
within the first 30 minutes following your
workout. There is a lesser response for the next
10 hours. Take protein one to two hours before
and immediately following exercise. Again I use
regular food, but I see no problem with
supplementation to save time (at the expense of
more money however). Research has also shown
your body to be more receptive to protein
immediately following a workout. Continue eating
high carbohydrate foods every 2 hours during the
first 4 to 6 hours after hard training. During
the first 6 hours post-exercise, simple sugars
appear to replace muscle glycogen better than
complex carbohydrates. Post-exercise muscle
glycogen storage can be enhanced with a
combination carbohydrate-protein supplement as a
result of the interaction of carbohydrate and
protein on insulin secretion. The addition of
protein with carbohydrates can allow for a more
rapid return recovery. Drink a re-hydration
beverage during and after exercise, for example,
Take periodic layoffs. Use the best "miracle supplement" there is
- WATER. You can't "overdose" on water. The
worst side effect you can get as mentioned
previously, is a few more trips to the washroom.
Your body functions optimally when it is fully
hydrated. A general recommendation is to consume
at least 128 ounces (one gallon) of water a day.
During hot weather you should double or triple
LEAVE YOUR WORKOUT IN THE GYM
Give your undivided attention to your training when your in the gym.
But when you're outside the gym, cast your attention to other things
in life. Establish your other priorities, set goals, and keep busy.
There are many athletes who fall into the trap of letting their mind
continually dwell on training. Train hard when your in the gym, but
try and relax more when your not. Stress has been shown to increase
levels of CORTISOL in the body - the catabolic hormone, so try to
find ways to manage stress in your life and relax, and your results
will be improved.