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LMU 105 – Managing Overtraining Syndrome: Recognize and Prevent


LMU 105 – Managing Overtraining Syndrome: Recognize and Prevent

Source: Sports and Exercise Nutrition (fourth edition): 235

Lifestyle Medicine Update (September 21, 2018)


In this edition of the Lifestyle Medicine Update, the focus is on overtraining syndrome. While a structured exercise routine is essential for enhancing strength, endurance, and flexibility, it’s crucial to strike a balance between pushing oneself and allowing sufficient recovery. Neglecting this balance can lead to overtraining syndrome, which can harm your progress and overall well-being.

Recognizing the Signs of Overtraining Syndrome

Overtraining syndrome manifests through a variety of symptoms, indicating that your body needs attention and recovery. The following key indicators can help identify its presence:

  1. Unexplained Poor Performance: A sudden decline in performance, whether it’s lifting lighter weights, slower running or cycling, reduced repetitions, or an overall lack of energy and strength.
  2. Disturbed Mood States: Experiencing fatigue, irritability, and even depression that deviate from your usual mental state.
  3. Physical Signs: Elevated resting pulse, muscle soreness, increased susceptibility to infections, and gastrointestinal disturbances.
  4. Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns that are unusual for you.
  5. Unhealthy Weight Loss: Losing weight, particularly muscle tissue due to elevated cortisol levels, which weaken the immune system and intensify muscle inflammation.
  6. Overuse Injuries: Developing injuries like muscle strains, tendonitis, or conditions such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, tennis elbow, or golfer’s elbow.

Holistic Impact of Overtraining Syndrome

Beyond fatigue, overtraining syndrome encompasses other consequences:

  • Risk of Infections: Elevated susceptibility to infections due to weakened immunity.
  • Injury Proneness: Increased vulnerability to overuse injuries.
  • Muscle Soreness: Persistent discomfort and inflammation.
  • General Malaise: A sense of unwellness.
  • Loss of Interest: Reduced motivation for intensive workouts.

Preventing Overtraining Syndrome: The Unloading Phase

To avoid overtraining syndrome, incorporate an “unloading phase” into your routine every 3 weeks. During this period, engage in lighter activities, such as lifting lighter weights, fewer repetitions, or slower jogging or cycling. This phase allows your body to recover, bolster the immune system, and enable muscle repair and growth for subsequent intense efforts.

Periodization of Training: Mental and Physical Benefits

The practice of alternating intense training with unloading phases not only prevents physical strain but also guards against mental staleness and fatigue, maintaining long-term exercise compliance.

Physical Activity Guidelines and Health Benefits

It’s essential to note that regular physical activity is linked to numerous health benefits, including lower risk of chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, and mental health concerns. To attain these advantages, adults are recommended to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity weekly.

Balancing for Long-Term Success

While striving for progress, avoiding overtraining syndrome is paramount. By staying vigilant, you can prevent demotivation, immune suppression, and declining strength and endurance. Strive for a balanced exercise routine that promotes overall health and vitality.


Avoid overtraining syndrome for sustained progress. Recognize signs like poor performance, mood changes, injuries, and weight loss. Incorporate “unloading phases” every 3 weeks and balance intense training with recovery. Safeguard mental freshness and overall well-being. Regular physical activity offers health benefits; aim for 150 minutes weekly. Prioritize a balanced routine for lasting success.


  1. Overtraining Syndrome: Sports and Exercise Nutrition (fourth edition):235
    • William D. McArdle
    • Frank I. Katch
    • Victor L. Katch
    • Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott & Wilkins (2013)
  1. Statistics Canada:

Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. Meschino

Dr. James Meschino


Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.

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