In order to improve you've got to work hard.
Hard training like heavy, speed, or endurance training with less rest between sets, more sets, or less days off will break down your muscles and in the very short term, make you weaker. To grow and to get stronger, the most important part is not necessarily how hard you train. In some cases more is not always better. I believe that is so true when it pertains to fitness. To make the gains we all want, training success can not be thought of in a vacuum. Any experienced athlete, understands the importance of the three other keys to success which are, proper nutrition, hydration, and rest. There are still many fitness enthusiasts, who do not realize or at least underestimate the important role rest plays in obtaining results, from the hours spent in the gym and on the field. It's rest that makes you stronger, because it's the rest that allows the muscles that you have broken down to heal, and recover. Rest allows you to recover so you can be strong, and handle the increased weight, and increased number of sets and reps, or more, and longer skill drills needed to progress. Why does rest play such an important role in muscle recovery? It is during sleep where Growth Hormone (GH) levels are at their highest. That's why consuming the proper foods, supplements, and water or electrolytes immediately following training, is key.
Over training can best be defined as the state where your body has been repeatedly stressed by training to the point where rest is no longer adequate to allow for recovery. The most common cause of over training is when the same muscle group is trained on successive days or with too much frequency without adequate amounts of rest. This can also occur to supporting muscle groups that are not being specifically trained, thereby never giving these muscles a chance to recover. Systemic over training is potentially the most serious type of over training. Systemic over training will affect the entire body causing the body to enter a negative nitrogen balance, a catabolic state. Like a person who runs high mileage every day. Day in, and day out. They feel great, until there is a training related injury. When a person enters this state the body also produces an increased amount of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal cortex in response to stress. Cortisol impedes muscular repair, and function, decreases testosterone production, inhibits protein synthesis, accelerates proteolysis (protein breakdown), and inhibits muscular growth. Making matters worse it also reduces the body's ability to use fat as an energy source, increasing the amount of stored fat within the body.
There are many signs of over training. Physical symptoms could include elevated morning pulse, consistently elevated blood pressure, persistent muscular soreness, increased frequency of common illnesses, like colds, increased incidence of injuries, and decreased appetite and weight loss. The effects from over training may not only by physiological. Emotional and behavioral symptoms typically will only occur as a result of chronic long term over training. Although everyone has varying recuperative abilities, a period of 48 to 72 hours is usually required for adequate recovery between heavy strength or long endurance training sessions. There have been several clinical studies done regarding over training. In over training conditions, the body will continue to make increasingly greater amounts of cortisol, while reducing the amount of DHEA produced. DHEA is an important endogenous steroid hormone. It is the most abundant circulating steroid in humans, it is produced in the adrenal glands, the gonads, and the brain, where it functions predominantly as a metabolic intermediate in the biosynthesis of the androgen and estrogen sex steroids. Which oversees muscle regeneration. The consequences of elevated cortisol and reduced DHEA can be devastating. Over training has also shown to cause an increase in the amount of free radicals within the body. This can serve to exacerbate the catabolic effects of over training, making symptoms worse. There are many positive methods to reduce stress and aid in recovery. Such methods may include massage, which increases blood flow to the muscle to aid in recovery, meditation, yoga or ice bath, and after 24 hours a jacuzzi or steam. Studies show that as we age we need less rest, but those studies are not geared towards athletes or fitness enthusiasts. Regarding nutrition, nothing beats a good balanced diet. Consuming quality raw organic carbohydrates, and proteins especially post-workout, helps to replenish glycogen stores and provide sufficient energy for training, and muscle rebuilding. There is an abundance of evidence that people who train with weights for athletic competition need up to 2x the amount of protein than the average person. As a minimum, anyone lifting weights or training for competition should consume approximately 1-2 grams of protein per pound of body-weight per day, to maintain a positive nitrogen balance. This means that a 200 pound man should consume at least 5 protein meals of approximately 40 grams of protein. So when it comes to training if you can't keep track of sleep, meals, rest, and supplements, and still live your life. Seek the help of a competent coach or personal trainer, this may be your key to success. So work hard, but work smart, and get some rest. Good Luck...
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