Are You Overworking Your Body? When to Scale Back

October 1, 2015

Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. Even if that good thing is fitness. Rigorous exercise releases a flood of endorphins, which can become increasingly appealing as you ramp up your regimen. It’s not uncommon for people to become hooked on the physical and mental thrill of exercising. But once you’ve teetered over into workout excess, your body will experience more harmful effects than benefits.

What about those athletes who practice for more than eight hours every day? For one, their bodies have been slowly conditioned to endure strenuous training. They’re also usually working under the guidance of an experienced trainer. When it comes to working out by yourself, you might feel tempted to push yourself to the next level before cooling down for the day. It’s important to challenge your fitness goals, but how do you know how much is too much? Check if you’re showing these signs of overworking your body.

Are You Overworking Your Body? When to Scale Back

Are you pushing yourself too much?

You Can’t Sleep
Workouts can unleash a surge of positive endorphins, but they can also leave you with excess cortisol lingering in your system. If you’ve been exercising a lot, but find yourself tossing and turning at night, there’s a decent chance you’ve got superfluous cortisol in your bloodstream due to working out too much.

You Keep Getting Sick
The excessive cortisol produced by overtraining can also weaken the body’s immune system by draining its supply of testosterone. As a result, people who work out too much will be more likely to catch a cold or come down with the flu. Upper respiratory infections and other infectious diseases flourish in this compromised environment.

You’re Not Even Hungry
One immediate benefit of an exercise regimen is that it triggers the body to release peptide YY, a natural appetite suppressant. A high-intensity routine can cause you to have such an extreme loss of appetite that you may start feeling bursts of epinephrine and norepinephrine, and burning more calories than you consume. The American Council on Exercise lists appetite loss as one of their top 10 signs of overtraining.

You’re Just Plain Grumpy
Agitation, depression, impatience, apathy — these aren’t symptoms you’d expect after exercising, but they are closely tied to overworking your body. If you’re short on patience, you’re probably pushing yourself past your physical limit.

You’re Just Not That Into It
Are you having a hard time dragging yourself to the gym? Are your workouts taking longer than they usually do? Do your legs seem to feel like lead? These symptoms could result from the cumulative effect of too much training.

You Missed Your Period
Intense exercise can wreak havoc on hormones. Pair this disruptive hormonal imbalance with rapid weight loss, and women may experience amenorrhea, a cessation or shortening of their menstrual period. If your cycle is interrupted or doesn’t last as long as it usually does, consult your gynecologist to eliminate other potential problems, and to determine if your fitness routine is to blame.

You Experience Exercise Withdrawal
Yes, exercise withdrawal is real. Scientists performed a study using lab rats and withdrawal-inducing naloxone, and were able to witness telltale signs of addiction. Gym fanatics also experience withdrawal symptoms that are not unlike those felt by alcoholics or heroin addicts. If you’re noticing compulsive behavior involving your time at the gym — lying about it, using it to level off from intense emotions, or avoiding friends — you might be taking things a step too far.

These are just some of the warning signs that indicate a workout regimen is taking an unhealthy toll on the body. Keep in mind that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest working out for just an hour or less each day. Fitness buffs should keep their calorie intake up to offset burned energy, and supplement their diets with melatonin to foster a healthier sleep routine. When in doubt — or if you’re experiencing symptoms, but cannot stop — contact a health care provider immediately.

Also by Bonnie: 7 Ways to Get Whiter Teeth Naturally

More fitness tips: 7 Best Tips to Recover After Workouts

6 Tips to Lose Fat and Build Lean Muscle

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Bonnie is a Certified Health Counselor and graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition at Columbia University. She now helps clients at Natural Horizons Wellness Centers with certain health issues such as dental health.


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