Overtraining and Burn Out: The Common Pitfalls Athletes Fall into During Their Training and How It Effects Their Overall Performance
By: Heidi Harris, RD-N, LD-N, CD-N
I get it. There’s a lot of demand when it comes to being an athlete. Between the pressure to perform, all eyes on you and the heavy weight of doing your absolute best for yourself and your team, that’s a lot of responsibility on your shoulders! Not to mention the actual physical demands of putting your body through so much exercise and practice. There’s a lot for you to take on mentally and physically as an athlete.
One thing to be mindful of is overtraining. Overtraining your body without taking the time to rest may affect both athletes and physically active individuals both mentally and physically. Studies have even found that overtraining has been linked to mood changes such as occasional stress. Overtraining and constantly fatiguing your muscles have also been linked to potential injury and burnout.1
In this blog, we are going to discuss how you can spot overtraining and burnout, the common pitfalls athletes succumb to with overtraining and how to overcome it to power an optional season.
How to Spot Overtraining
As an athlete, you’re exercising for a longer duration and a higher power output than the average individual. You do this to help achieve your peak performance. But, conditioning for athletes requires a balance between work and recovery. This means, too much work output combined with too little recovery, or time to let your body rest, may lead to complications of overtraining.2‡
If you think you’re experiencing overtraining, the things to be on the lookout for are major fatigue (more than just feeling tired), reduced performance and changes in mood and sleep. All of which are necessary for optimal peak performance.1
Trainers and coaches can be on the lookout for overtraining in their athletes by noting which of their athletes show up to practice feeling exhausted, indicate decreased competitiveness, exhibit muscle soreness, difficulty concentrating, lack training capacity and reduced intensity of performance.1
All of these red flags may lead to burnout in athletes or the state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion brought on by repetitive and physical stressors. But, not to worry! With a combination of healthy hydration, nutrition and recovery, overtraining can potentially be mitigated or avoided.‡
The Common Pitfalls of Overtrained Athletes
It’s no secret that many athletes want to do their best and be the best in their sport. It’s just the nature of competition. Still, a perfectionist outlook may also be contributing to overtraining and burnout.‡
Overtraining and burnout isn’t just about personality, environment plays a big role too! Athletes may run into overtraining or burnout due to many factors. Some of these include having high training volume or competing and performing multiple times per week. Another physical example is inconsistent coaching practices. For example, are you an athlete that competes in university or school sports and club sports? That’s at least two different practices and two different coaching techniques.3
Mentally, overtraining and burnout may occur when an athlete feels as though their expectations haven’t been met or they may be feeling overly critical of themselves or their performance. A good example of this would be when an athlete perceives their performance evaluations are more critical versus supportive.3
Let’s switch gears and discuss some strategies to help manage athletes to help minimize the potential for burnout and overtraining.
How to Manage Overtraining and Burnout
One of the most important things an athlete can do, should they suspect themselves of overtraining, is to rest and recover. I know, it sounds easy right? Well, not really. When you’re constantly pushing yourself to perform you may have that “go, go, go!” mentality. It may be hard to overcome that nagging feeling and allow yourself to turn your mind off so you may focus on rest and recovery.
Rest and Recovery
When an athlete overtrains, their muscles and organs are constantly undergoing physical stress. This constant contraction of the muscles may take a toll on the body. For this reason, reducing or taking a break from exercise to allow yourself time to rest for a few days may help provide your body with the resources it needs to help recover from your training days.
Our Klean Recovery was formulated with an athlete’s recovery in mind. It contains a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein to help support glycogen re-synthesis and muscle protein synthesis immediately after workout. It’s also rich in amino acids, including branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), glutamine and arginine, which are crucial for muscle building and nitrogen balance.‡
Why do carbohydrates matter so much for the recovery process? Research suggests that a combination of carbohydrates, protein and fluids help support healthy recovery and fuel for the training athlete.4
A common misconception amongst athletes is that they just need some water and electrolytes to replenish their hydration. Well, it goes beyond that. Your body also needs simple and complex carbohydrates. These carbohydrates help support the intestine’s ability to absorb fluids in order to help maximize hydration efficiently.5
That’s why our Klean Hydration consists of 6% carbohydrates (the simple sugars glucose and fructose) and the complex carbohydrate branched dextrin. This is in combination with minerals and electrolytes like calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium to help replace fluid and electrolytes that were lost during physical activity.‡
Getting adequate fluids and staying properly hydrated is part of the key to both recovery and limiting the effects of overtraining.2
Striking a balance between training and recovery is essential to prevent overtraining. One way to achieve this is by getting enough sleep. If you haven’t already, you can read my blog about the importance of sleep for athletes here.
Sleep is essential. Athletes know that exercise improves sleep quality, but too much exercise can make it hard to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. The American Sleep Foundation suggests athletes receive at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night, and this need increases for those experiencing burnout or overtraining.6
Studies have also found that sleep helps support overall athletic performance. For example, one study found that both male and female swimmers who slept for at least 10 hours had faster reaction times off diving blocks, improved turn times and increased kick strokes increased. Plus, it was found that these athletes experienced improved mood and less daytime sleepiness and fatigue. As we learned earlier, fatigue and mood are major indicators of overtraining and burnout!7‡
Conversely, research has found that a result of overtraining, causes fatigue and may impair athletic performance. Athletes should prioritize sleep during periods of high training volume to adapt better to training and season demands.8
Our Klean Melatonin contains 3 mg of pure melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone and supplemental melatonin works by supporting the body’s natural sleep cycle. External factors such as physical stress affect the body’s ability to produce melatonin. This is another option an athlete may consider when trying to support their sleep quality and allow optimal resting time for recovery.‡
During periods of high volume or high intensity training, your body needs proper nourishment to help replenish and fuel the nutrients lost during energy expenditure.
In general, athletes and exercising individuals are encouraged to consume foods rich in healthy whole grains such as carbohydrates like fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats. Lean protein includes foods such as fish, poultry, beans, lentils and for our vegan-friendly athletes, tofu. Healthy fats are found in olive oil, avocados and nuts. Fish and flaxseeds provide the essential omega-3 fatty acids.9
Traditionally, the Western Diet tends to be low in omega-3 fatty acids and higher in omega-6 fatty acids, owing to heavy consumption of processed foods and refined vegetable oils. Omega-3 fatty acids play a key role in muscle recovery.10‡
Our Klean Omega provides a total of 1,250mg of fish oil concentrate consisting of 500mg of EPA and 250 mg of DHA, which are the two active omega-3 fatty acids.
Another macronutrient essential for athletes to consume is protein. Protein supports muscle growth and recovery after physical exercise.
Collagen is a different type of protein that provides connective tissue support. Collagen peptides help to maintain cartilage health by promoting its regeneration via collagen production.11‡
Our Klean Collagen+C contains 15 grams of hydrolyzed collagen to help aid any athlete’s recovery and provide connective tissue support.‡
Overtraining Awareness to Overcome and Perform
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with overtraining in athletes, the common pitfalls of overtraining and how to harness the power of nutrition to overcome overtraining, you can take the next steps in optimizing your peak performance this season. Check out our Klean Athlete products today and see which products are right for you and your physical goals.‡
- Kreher, J. (2016).. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 7(7), 115–122. https://doi.org/10.2147/oajsm.s91657
- Cadegiani FA, et al. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/3937819 J Sports Med (Hindawi Publ Corp). 2020;2020:3937819. Doi:10.1155/2020/3937819)
- Integration, C. (2021, July 27). Overtraining and Burnout in Young Athletes: What to Know. UPMC HealthBeat. https://share.upmc.com/2021/07/overtraining-and-burnout/
- Kanter, M. (2018). High-Quality Carbohydrates and Physical Performance. Nutrition Today, 53(1), 35–39. https://doi.org/10.1097
- USADA. (2019). Fluids and Hydration | U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). https://www.usada.org/athletes/substances/nutrition/fluids-and-hydration/
- Fry, A. (2021, January 22). Sleep & Athletic Performance. Sleep Foundation; Sleep foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-activity/athletic-performance-and-sleep
- Vitale, K. C. et al. (2019). Sleep hygiene for optimizing recovery in athletes: Review and recommendations. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 40(8), 535–543. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31288293/
- Campbell, E. H., et al. (2021). Evidence That Sleep Is an Indicator of Overtraining during the Competition Phase of Adolescent Sprinters. Journal of Sports Medicine, 2021, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/6694547
- Eidel, S. (2022, July 5). Runner’s Diet. Www.hopkinsmedicine.org. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/runners-diet
- Anzalone, A., et al. (2019). The Omega-3 Index in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Collegiate Football Athletes. Journal of Athletic Training, 54(1), 7–11. https://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-387-18
- Shaw et al, Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan;105(1):136-143
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