WRITTEN BY NATHALIE NIDDAM | ACADEMY OF LIONS NUTRITIONIST | TORONTO

As you ramp up your training for the CrossFit Open or your next marathon or even if you are just ramping up your training, it is important to be aware that overtraining is a real issue and if not addressed, can lead to loss of gains and health issues. Overtraining is essentially defined as training beyond the body’s capacity to recover.

You may be overtraining if:

  • You are exhausted all the time
  • Working out is just no fun anymore, you have to drag yourself in
  • Your body just doesn’t seem to be recovering between workouts
  • You are getting injured over and over again
  • You are having trouble sleeping and trouble waking up
  • You keep getting sick
  • Your performance is getting worse
  • Your joints ache, a lot

Your resting and training heart rates can also give you some insight into whether you may be overdoing it. If you're resting heart rate seems to be higher than usual and your working heart rate seems unusually high consistently then you may be heading for trouble.

So, what to do? If you start to feel like you're nearing an edge, speak to one of the coaches and check in with them. Keep a log of your workouts and how you are feeling and training. Make sure you are eating a good diet whatever that may mean to you - not having an appetite is not an excuse for not eating - loss of appetite can also be a sign of overtraining.

If you fall into the above category you may have to take a step back and take a break. If however, you are just training hard and feel like you are generally ok but maybe could use some support helping your body deal with the stress read on.

There happens to be a class of herbal supplements that can help the body to deal with stressors, called adaptogens. These are herbs that may help the body to deal with stress, be it from emotional, physical or chemical (toxins, etc.). They appear often in traditional Chinese medicine, and Ayurvedic medicine and the Russians are also pretty well known for using these in training their elite athletes. Interestingly enough some of the most powerful adaptogens grow in some of the most forbidding climates (like Siberia, at high altitudes) which herbalists believe may have something to do with their potency. A word of warning though, the clinical research on these is mixed and still in progress, but from a holistic perspective these herbs are used quite often to help people with adrenal imbalances and most good sports supplement lines include at least one blend in their offerings.

There are many different herbs in this category but the ones most commonly used for athletes include:

  • Rhodiola Rosea - general adaptogen, may help alleviate fatigue
  • Ashwaghanda - adaptogen, stress reliever, may help to improve performance, may help to reduce anxiety and normalize cortisol induced by stress
  • Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng) - adaptogen that may boost immunity and increase work capacity during strenuous aerobic exercise (needs more research) quite often you will find these in combination as they all work a bit differently and can be synergistic.

Ashwaghanda can be purchased on its own as a powder and added to smoothies, Organic Traditions at Fiesta Farms is a good brand. Rhodiola and Eleuthero are more commonly found in supplements, for example Energy Xtra by Pure Encapsulations includes all 4 while Adrenal Restore by Genestra is more focused on the adrenals so includes B Vitamins as well.

As always, stick to reputable/professional brands as the world of herbal vitamins can be a bit dodgy at times with capsules stuffed with a lot of ingredients you don't want and very little of what you do want.

In the end nothing can really replace a properly structured training program, a solid diet, good sleep and stress management strategies, however, these herbs may be helpful in taking the edge off for people trying to push themselves to the edge of their abilities.

Let me know if you have questions, if you are interested in more info on any or all of these let me know and I can post on them individually.

Happy Training!

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