Are you a marathon runner who has been feeling more tired than usual lately? A crossfit pro who does a lot of strength training but isn't getting the results you want? If so, you may be suffering from overtraining syndrome.
The most obvious solution to overtraining syndrome is to rest or stop whining. However, biomarkers in the blood can provide a good picture of the cause of overtraining, allowing you to prevent overtraining in a very targeted way. In this article, we explain how you can use a blood analysis to determine whether you are overtraining.
The bottom line: what is overtraining?
Always tired. Burnout. It's very frustrating when you step up your training to get better results, but feel weaker and more tired than ever. Scientists define overtraining syndrome as "a maladapted response to excessive exercise without adequate rest resulting in disturbances of multiple body functions (neurological, endocrinological, immunological) combined with mood swings." Overtraining syndrome occurs when a training schedule drastically increases or does not allow for adequate recovery. The result is usually a decline in performance and health.
An estimated 15% of professional athletes suffer from overtraining syndrome in a season. It can take several weeks or even months for them to return to peak performance.
The most common symptoms in overtraining syndrome are:
- Chronic fatigue
- Increased risk of injuries
- Muscle pain
- Prolonged recovery after exercise
- Reduced muscle strength
- Anxiety and depression
The prevention, detection and successful treatment of overtraining syndrome is of paramount importance to both elite and recreational athletes. Persistent periods of fatigue can interfere with preparation for major sporting events, resulting in poor performance. Overtraining syndrome can be counterproductive, turning the health benefits of exercise into an increased risk of disease, such as cardiovascular disease, depression and type II diabetes .
No muscle growth? Check your testosterone
Because testosterone is important for growth and recovery, low levels of testosterone can cause a lack of muscle growth. When your blood analysis indicates a lack of testosterone, it is important to take enough rest for your recovery.
Afraid of an injury? Check your sex-hormone binding globulin(SHBG)
Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin(SHBG) is a protein produced by the liver. It binds to sex hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen, and transports them through the bloodstream. Much of the testosterone in the body is bound to SHBG. When testosterone attaches to SHBG, it is inactive and can no longer provide muscle repair. Scientists refer to the sum of SHBG-bound testosterone and free testosterone as "total testosterone."
An elevated SHBG level can indicate overtraining and lead to poorer athletic performance and health, as it inactivates testosterone.
Suffering from inflammation? Check your C-reactive protein (CRP)
C-reactive protein (CRP) is produced by the liver and is released into the bloodstream within hours of inflammation resulting from tissue damage or infection. A chronically elevated CRP level can lead to depression and various cardiovascular conditions.
Research shows that regular exercise with adequate recovery leads to a decrease in CRP. Overtraining and inadequate recovery can undo the beneficial effects of exercise.
Tired? Check your Cortisol
Cortisol, also known as the "stress hormone," has a number of important functions. It breaks down tissue to give you energy for the big race, athletic performance or everyday activities. It also counteracts an overactive immune system (autoimmune disease).
But an unhealthy cortisol level can be a sign of overtraining, which can lead to constant fatigue, a weak immune system and chronic stress.
Muscle pain that won't go away? Check your creatine kinase (CK)
Creatine kinase (CK) is an enzyme found in our muscles, heart and brain. When these tissues are unharmed and healthy, CK levels remain low. However, when damage occurs, CK will become more active and enter the blood, raising blood levels.
What can you do to ensure that CK remains low? Unfortunately, research on lifestyle interventions for lowering CK is lacking. Therefore, we recommend that you get plenty of rest and recovery. A relaxing massage or a visit to the spa is also a good option...