Can working out too much be bad for you?

By | September 9, 2009

We have all heard about the benefits of exercise and all its positive effects, but can you exercise too much? Yes, you can, and the net results can cancel out any positive benefits you might have gotten from working out. What are the signs to be aware of, regarding overtraining?

One of the first signs is insomnia, or poor sleep. This frequently happened to me when I was working out too much for too long – like 5 or 6 times a week. There was even a period when I was working out 7 days a week! Things like muscle soreness, and fatigue were commonplace, but I did not realize it until quite recently. Even the number of repetitions I could do for strength training exercises diminished or did not improve, despite the amount of work outs I was doing. It was due to too much exercise.

Another drawback of too much exercise is increased oxidation of the cellular DNA and RNA, which actually accelerates aging. What happens when you work out intensively? Your breathing increases and you take in much more oxygen than normal. Metabolism also shoots up. This actually speeds up the aging process if you don’t counter it by taking enough antioxidants. This second point is important enough to keep in mind when you’re tempted to go overboard. Some compulsive exercise addicts actually look older than their age, due to all the accelerated oxidation of their cells.

too-much-exerciseExercise also increases your body’s demand for raw protein. If not supplied with sufficient protein, your body will soon start to consume your muscle tissues, and this will break down your muscles, not build them up. Meals will soon have to be supplemented daily with whey protein. Too much exercise strains the heart muscles, and accelerates the breaking down of ATP in the cells, which will then increase the need for supplements, like coenzyme Q10.

So if you’re working out too much, it makes a lot of sense to consider toning down the intensity and regularity of your exercise sessions. If you’re not a professional athlete, a more ideal schedule would be 3-4 times a week of 1-2 hours each time achieving the lactate threshold, and alternating between the muscle groups on different days.

For increasing those growth hormone levels, achieving 60-70% of VO2 max is usually sufficient. For those who don’t know what it means, suffice to say VO2 max stands for maximum oxygen uptake which is not actually measurable (and somewhat dangerous for the typical sedentary layperson), unless you have proper medical equipment and a trained medic on standby. If you’re working out those muscles to exhaustion though, just remember that more is not necessarily better.

Aim for quality, not quantity.