Over Training and Metabolic Damage
By Neil Perkins
Since opening Fighting Fit City Gym in 2007 and later Henrietta Street Gym, over 3000 people have passed through my doors for either gym membership, casual classes or personal training.
As much as every person needs to be looked at as an individual, we tend to see the same person, hear the same problems and encounter the same set back’s over and over again. We also very often hear the same desires and goals from our clients and them classic words that every gym owner hears – LOSE WEIGHT AND TONE UP.
My own personal journey has evolved during my time in the fitness industry. I have gone from been a novice level boxer, to an elite level amateur, a full time professional athlete, an in denial ex athlete and now to a coach. During this time I have always worked with the ‘every man’ and personal trained and coached ‘everyday’ people from a cross section of society. The reality is that every person is an ‘athlete’ in one way or another and the lessons you take from coaching elite level sports persons can translate to the every man. The same rules apply for nutrition and the same rules apply for training and we see a common problem that reoccurs on a regular basis with recreational trainers as much as it does with elite level sports people – Over training and under eating.
‘There is no such thing as over training, only under eating’ Ronnie Coleman
Bodybuilding legend Ronnie Coleman came out with that great statement.
The Common Goal – Weight Loss
Boxers who I work with are in a weight restricted sport and we have a huge culture problem with boxers that has been glamorised by the likes of Ricky Hatton. The crash dieting culture of ‘boom and bust’ with your weight was employed by Ricky. Off-season he would balloon up to in excess of 13 stone and be dubbed ‘Ricky Fatton’ and then he’d strip to light welterweight (10 stone) ready for fight night.
Every day people also want to hit the gym and very often want to lose weight. Seeing to emulate the likes of Ricky Hatton, they will seek to hit the gym twice per day, reduce calories and crash to their weight. This long term can damage your health and also short term can impede our fat loss quest.
Your recovery and rest is as important as your training
Recovery relates to your nutrition and your sleep/ rest. If you are going to put 100% into your training you need to ensure you put 100% into your recovery. The protocol if you are going to train twice in one day would mean a morning session would immediately be followed by a post workout snack, followed by a lunch containing quality carbs and protein and again a second snack mid-afternoon again with the aim or muscle recover from protein and glycogen (carb) replenishment. Only after two or three quality nourishing meals and with adequate rest would you be ready for a second gym sessions.
Your BMR, getting the balance right
Your BMR refers to your basal metabolic rate. This is the minimum number of calories your body needs to function. If you drop below this figure, your body will shut down, your metabolism will shut down and not only will you stop losing fat – you’ll store more fat.
If you are going to cut to your BMR then you need to ensure you are eating a nutrient dense diets and ensure your calories come from quality protein, slow releasing carbs, plenty of fibrous veg and with micro nutrient dense foods. If you are eating empty calories, yet still maintaining your BMR, you are heading into trouble, if you do what many people do and cut below their BMR and eat empty calories your heading to disaster!
Ricky Hatton would consume 1800 to 2000 calories when making his weight, this was probably around his BMR. A nutritionist will work out your BMR by multiplying your fat free mass in KG by 25. Typically Hatton would loss his fat mass by sensibly creating a deficit with a diet that contained nutrient dense foods. We commonly hear of people trying to train twice per day on 1200 calories – on less than desirable food choices.
Rest, recovery and replenishment are the key factors to deciding if you should or if you shouldn’t train twice in a day. Rest relates to how well you recover, during a fight camp, Lennox Lewis would sleep 10-11 hours per day including his afternoon naps – how many people do you know who could factor this into their lifestyle. It is common for coaches to ban athletes from any device that shines light into their eyes – TV, Video and social media on I-phone for an hour before bed. This affects the quality of their sleep so relates to their recovery. It is also critical that you have minimal physical or mental stress placed on you during your down time? Most people who chose to train twice per day will very often do it either side of a busy day at work, will make less than optimal food choices and due to stressful circumstances outside of their control will not be properly recovered. This has been summed up as putting 100% into your training but only putting 50% into your recovery.
I’m going to lose three stone and have a six pack by summer!
This is a common goal for new starters, when gym motivation is high. Excitingly looking over the gym timetable they select and book classes and some days ‘double up’ and perform back to back sessions. They base their schedule on training twice per day on some days and pencil in 8 sessions per week. There is no thought for nutrition (comes from the word nourish: provide with the food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.) more the diet they’re going to follow (Diet: a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight) and as for rest – they can rest when I’m dead.
Effect 1 – Over-training
I am a gym owner and I am going to tell you one thing that other gyms wont – THE GYM CAN BE BAD FOR YOU! They’ve put so much emphasis on exercising and dieting that they have not thought about nourishment and rest. Excess exercise has encouraged their body to release a stress based hormone – cortisol and it now stores excess body fat, particularly around the mid-section. They are tired before their second gym session of the day they have a black coffee – its low calorie. The caffeine further raises cortisol which will store more fat. Now their performance is dropping, they become anxious and want train more, their fat loss slows and they restrict calories further. This anxiety now means they are not sleeping properly, yet are always fatigued. Physically and mentally this is damaging them. They are in the over training cycle and identifying this is key and then – rest, recover, nourish and then start again.
Effect 2 – Metabolic Damage
If they continue the uphill battle from the over training cycle they fall into the trap of metabolic damage. A diet that restricts you of nourishment with the aim of weight loss coupled with large training quantities will cause metabolic damage – your metabolism will shut down. Due to starve response, your body holds onto body fat – super effectively, you will become metabolically damaged. Couple metabolic damage with overtraining and your cortisol levels with shoot through the roof and you will be at risk of problems beyond excess weight – you are a heart attack waiting to happen.
How to ensure you don’t over train or become metabolically damaged.
- Chose nutrient dense foods that provide your body with quality nutrients.
- Eat adequate calories.
- Plan rest days from exercise and ensure down time and plenty of sleep.
- Listen to your body, when you feel tired take a day off and do it without guilt.
- Base your gym time on performance, a drop in performance will be the first indicator your over training. When this happens rest, recover, nourish and start again. 36 hours minimal to let your glycogen stores recover.