How to Avoid Over-Training and Maximzie Muscle Mass

Over-training is one of the most detrimental things to weight loss and muscle gain, yet not many people know how to avoid it.  The ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality usually pushes us to train as much and as often as we can.  Our thoughts are that we can put in that one last set to help push our muscles that little bit extra.  Unfortunately, that little extra may be too much.  Simplistically, over-training is pushing your muscles further than they can repair within a given time.  It gets much deeper than that, but let’s save all of that for a different article.Effects of Over-training Some of the common effects that over-training has on our nervous system are:

  • Irritability
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Early Onset Fatigue
  • Increased Metabolic Rate (not in a good way)
  • Weight Loss
  • Elevated Resting Heart Rate
  • Insomnia or Trouble Sleeping

If you are experiencing more than one of these symptoms, it is time you re-evaluated your training routine.  More is not always the answer.  In fact, it almost always tends to be too much. On top of the lovely effects on our nervous system, over-training effects our hormone levels as well.  Decreased testosterone and increased cortisol are two of them.  These two combined lead to loss of muscle mass through protein tissue break down.  Don’t forget the weakened immune system as well.   If you are feeling weak, irritable, having trouble sleeping, not interested in working out, etc. you are in a state of over-training.  It is important that you put the weights down for a week and revamp your routine.  To continue down the path of over-training is particularly destructive and should be avoided at all costs.How to Avoid Over-Training Since we know a small amount about the negatives of over-training, we now need to figure out how to avoid it.  Luckily, we can avoid over-training with three simple changes in our daily lives/work out routines.

  1. Correct Volume Training
  2.  Proper Nutrition
  3.  Rest and Recovery

Correct volume training involves paying close attention to your body.  If you go super hard one work out, then you have to be ready to skip the next if you are not recovered all the way.  It will be hard to do at first, but you have to decide what weight you can lift x-amount of times per set.  It will take some experience, but as you learn it will get much easier to do.  The best philosophy is to under shoot your weight estimations and just jump them up the next set or next workout.  If you estimate too heavy, back the weight down.  Injuries occur when pride gets in the way of judgement.  Leave your pride at home and you shouldn’t hurt yourself. Proper nutrition is 70% of your muscle building.  Eating too much, skipping meals, or not eating enough can derail any gains your work outs may have offered.  There are rules everywhere on how to eat, when to eat, etc.  I will lay out the simple stupid steps to muscle building nutrition for you though:

  • Do not allow your body to grow hungry.  As your body starts to starve, it cannibalizes your muscles for protein.  So you should be ensuring you are eating enough quality foods to feed your muscles.  
  • Do not skip meals.  We tend to skip our breakfast when we are running late, but that starts you off on the wrong foot.  Your metabolic furnace needs to be stoked within an hour of you waking.
  • Put something in your stomach prior to your work out.  If you are looking to burn fat as well, make it a smaller meal, but you need the glycogen in your system to sustain a workout.  
  • Your largest portion of calories should be taken in post work out.  Your largest meal should be consumed within one hour of finishing your workout in order to feed your worked muscles.
  • Eat every two to three hours to ensure your body stays in an anabolic (muscle building) state.

Proper rest and recovery is almost as important as nutrition is.  Aim for seven hours of sleep a night.  There are proponents for more sleep than that, but with our modern society that type of rest may not be possible.  More importantly, get yourself on a schedule and adhere to it.  You shouldn’t work out 7 days a week.  It is best to aim for a day off between your weight workouts.  If you can’t take the day off in between, at least avoid training the same muscles on consecutive days to allow them enough rest.  So there you have how to avoid over-training.  Don’t be afraid to honestly judge your routine and make changes where you need to.  Chances are you are working harder than you need to for muscle gains.  Good luck and happy lifting!