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Overtraining Syndrome is described by the National Institute of Health as " a maladapted response to excessive exercise without adequate rest, resulting in perturbations of multiple body systems"

This includes but is not limited to these systems:

  • Neurological
  • Endocrinological
  • Immunological

Essentially, overtraining syndrome is going too hard, to fast with inadequate recovery. For a little look at self-diagnosis of overtraining, check out our blog here.

We must add that this is entirely dependent on the individual, as someones getting off the couch and walking around the block is another man's marathon. 

So please keep in mind this isn't a lecture to every professional athlete that they're wrong. Moreso how to handle the effects of overtraining once it sets in.

The follwing is a guide in no particular order of what to do when you feel the pinch and begin the slide into a performace plateua that attacks your mind, hormones, immne system and mental/physical performance.

Delicious wholegrain spaghetti

1. Eat Carbs.

Yes, you have our blessing. 

Carbohydrates are central to athletic performance and without them, you are forcing your body to rely on its own tissue to complete hard workouts.

Go hard enough without enough and your body will enter a state of catabolism, which means it will consume your own precious muscle tissue as fuel.

You do not want this.

Carbohydrates should make up 45-65% of your daily calories, so if you're eating closer to zero you are doing life wrong. To this day there has been no recorded study in which an athlete has performed better without carbs than when carbs were plentiful. 

A general rule for carb prescription is between 5-10g per kilo of bodyweight. Save the 5 for slower days and 10 for the days when you really step up the duration or intensity. 

Try to keep them healthy, minimally processed and low glycemic like sweet potato, brown/black rice or wholemeal. 

Two full days of rest can help beat overtraining

2. Take 2 days off, minimum.

A complete 2 days off.

Take 2 days from your training schedule and do next to nothing.

Again, you have our permission to laze about and give your glycogen stores and adrenals a chance to catch up. 

You train hard, you have to rest hard to balance it out, it's just science. 

To those who say embrace the grind at times like these, I'd recommend checking out the programs Olympic athletes like Usain Bolt use and get back to me.

You don't redline your car expecting it to get better, so don't do it to yourself. 

Periodization can help prevent overtraining

3. Shorter sessions.

Now we're not saying do less, quite the opposite actually.

Do MORE in LESS amount of time. 

After about an hour your testosterone drops and cortisol (the hormone responsible for weight gain as your body thinks you're dying) kicks in to keep you alive by storing weight. 

Not good, bad. 

Take what you'd do in a 3-hour workout and try to cut it down into one blowout session where you get everything done.

I would not include learning technique in this, purely hard sparring or situational training where intensity is over 80%. So a good hour of rolling is sufficient with a belly full of carbs. 

If this seems like too much of a lifestyle change then come into each session with a plan in mind and hammer it before cortisol hammers you. 

To recover from overtraining you need sleep

4. Sleep.

If you can manage it on your two days in lieu of training, nap and sleep between 7-9 hours. 

If overtraining is in such a state that it is not allowing you to drift off, turn off all lights int h house and stay away from the blue light in your phone as the sun sets.

This blue light mimics sunlight and shoots directly into your eyes, convincing your body that it is still daytime. Unfortunately, this stops sleep activating hormones like melatonin that keeps the rhythm of your sleep cycles. 

Picture a dance floor and you're the only one out there with no rhythm. 

Uh huh, that's you and your relationship with sleep. 

Instead of staring into the portable sun you take everywhere you go, take a very hot bath around half an hour before bed and then let yourself cool down naturally.

This triggers the body into sleep by mimicking the feeling of cooling down as the suns sets. 

Periodisation is the first step in preventing overtraining

5. Periodisation.

Alter the frequency of your intense and less-so workouts so that you're not burning yourself out. If you go hard for 3 hours on Monday and Tuesday and then expect to be as fresh on Wednesday this is not going to be the case.

Sure, you might always do this.

Sure you might think you feel okay.

But what is really happening is that you're trying to steal tomorrow's gains for today. 

This is inefficient and insufficient training when you look at the week. 

Come Friday you will be a shell of your Monday self in terms of output.


Your efforts in training need to be effectively planned with ample recovery time accounted for, otherwise, you will overdraw your body and find yourself a slave to cortisol with a belly and wasted muscle. 

Find the proper balance between hard, effective sessions with carbs for fuel and adequate days to rebuild.

Jake Anderson is a Bachelor of Sport Development and Mixed Martial Arts commentator with over 18 years of combined training in various Martial Arts and tertiary education in health & sport. His blogs on the foundations of health and martial arts are dedicated to the communication and education of leading a holistically fulfilling life. 

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