T Nation

Can Calories Help 'Overtraining'?

It’s the holidays for me now so I’m training with pretty high frequency and intensity and somedays I feel quite tired and generally lethargic. Rather than cut back training frequency/intensity (its boring sitting around all the time, I’d rather do some power cleans!) will consuming more good quality calories help me not to feel so tired?

I’m already eating quite a bit by the way, I’m just thinking that maybe if I eat more I can avoid ‘overtraining’ and general fatigue so I can maintain training frequency/intensity. I’m also getting at least 8 hours a sleep by the way.

short answer yes it can help excess intake will help you recover of course to a point you still need rest and recovery.

But it aint going to hurt and will help.
Phill

I always make great gains over the Christmas hollidays. Get away from the school social life, go home with the parents for 3 weeks or so, get a good nights sleep every night, always food in the fridge, good food too. turkey, ribs, pork chops, fish, everything.

train hard, and just eat. when your bored, eat. when your finished eating, eat your parents left overs. obviously it’s no miracle cure, but you can definitely handle a few weeks of increased intensity and volume (yes i said ‘and’) if you eat good food non stop.

if you’re overtraining you’re overtraining, overeating will not help you.

if you’re sore and lethargic due to not eating enough, that’s called undereating. undereating is not the same as overtraining.

you’ve stated that you think you are eating enough, and if we all assume that to be true, it’d time to reduce the volume and/or intensity of your training to allow yourself to fully recover before really stepping up and challenging yourself with new training parameters.

so no, overeating will NOT fix overtraining.

Yeah, it gets “fuzzy” due to terminology really.

Eating more calories should ramp up your ability to recover… to a point. There is only so much ramping that can be done.

Anyway, if you aren’t all ramped out, then yeah, upping calories will aid recovery, which might let you stave off overtraining, but as noted above, if you actually are overtrained eating more isn’t a magic get out of jail free card.

[quote]vroom wrote:
Yeah, it gets “fuzzy” due to terminology really.

Eating more calories should ramp up your ability to recover… to a point. There is only so much ramping that can be done.

Anyway, if you aren’t all ramped out, then yeah, upping calories will aid recovery, which might let you stave off overtraining, but as noted above, if you actually are overtrained eating more isn’t a magic get out of jail free card.[/quote]

I agree. A friend of mine lifts weights 4x week and runs 5-6 miles every day. I asked him how he kept from burning out and he said it was the copious amount of food he ate. Tons of Chicken, brown rice, whole wheat bread or pasta every two-three hours.

He also gets 8-9 hours of sleep per night, which I think has more to do with it than anything. Certainly training hard, not resting enough AND under eating will probably burn you out faster than eating up.

[quote]vroom wrote:
Yeah, it gets “fuzzy” due to terminology really.

Eating more calories should ramp up your ability to recover… to a point. There is only so much ramping that can be done.

Anyway, if you aren’t all ramped out, then yeah, upping calories will aid recovery, which might let you stave off overtraining, but as noted above, if you actually are overtrained eating more isn’t a magic get out of jail free card.[/quote]

Eating more has always helped me recover faster. The moment I decrease my food intake, the longer it takes for me to recover from training. yes, the terminology is confusing because I think the word “overtraining” is way too “overused”. Most people are simply not eating enough or are training so haphazardly that they either workout for far too long each session or have no structure to what they are doing.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
vroom wrote:
Yeah, it gets “fuzzy” due to terminology really.

Eating more calories should ramp up your ability to recover… to a point. There is only so much ramping that can be done.

Anyway, if you aren’t all ramped out, then yeah, upping calories will aid recovery, which might let you stave off overtraining, but as noted above, if you actually are overtrained eating more isn’t a magic get out of jail free card.

Eating more has always helped me recover faster. The moment I decrease my food intake, the longer it takes for me to recover from training. yes, the terminology is confusing because I think the word “overtraining” is way too “overused”. Most people are simply not eating enough or are training so haphazardly that they either workout for far too long each session or have no structure to what they are doing.[/quote]

And would we be in some agreement this comes from the attempted dual goal of muscle gain and fat loss???

Run out and do some haphazard M&F routine while ‘gorging’ down 2200 cals.

[quote]sasquatch wrote:

And would we be in some agreement this comes from the attempted dual goal of muscle gain and fat loss???
[/quote]

No doubt. If your goal is to somehow get huge on only 2,000cals a day, you aren’t feeling run down and making no progress because of “overtraining”. You are feeling that way because you aren’t giving your body what it needs to make progress. I would bet most of the guys on this board who would even use that the word “overtraining” are suffering from that mentality.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
sasquatch wrote:

And would we be in some agreement this comes from the attempted dual goal of muscle gain and fat loss???

No doubt. If your goal is to somehow get huge on only 2,000cals a day, you aren’t feeling run down and making no progress because of “overtraining”. You are feeling that way because you aren’t giving your body what it needs to make progress. I would bet most of the guys on this board who would even use that the word “overtraining” are suffering from that mentality.[/quote]

I couldn’t agree more. If people (especially “hard gainers”) would keep a food log for a week, just a SINGLE week… they would probably be shocked by how LOW their caloric intake is… even though they are “eating tons”.

[quote]hueyOT wrote:
if you’re overtraining you’re overtraining, overeating will not help you.

if you’re sore and lethargic due to not eating enough, that’s called undereating. undereating is not the same as overtraining.

you’ve stated that you think you are eating enough, and if we all assume that to be true, it’d time to reduce the volume and/or intensity of your training to allow yourself to fully recover before really stepping up and challenging yourself with new training parameters.

so no, overeating will NOT fix overtraining.[/quote]

You’re wrong. G-flux buddy.

More energy(calories) in= more energy out

[quote]tremelo24 wrote:

I couldn’t agree more. If people (especially “hard gainers”) would keep a food log for a week, just a SINGLE week… they would probably be shocked by how LOW their caloric intake is… even though they are “eating tons”.
[/quote]

Well said.
Sadly I had to learn that the hard way (back in the day) as did many of my clients (before they got to me ;).

[quote]Roy wrote:
You’re wrong. G-flux buddy.
[/quote]

Do you mean; ‘Your [sic] wrong’ ?

[quote]Roy wrote:
hueyOT wrote:
if you’re overtraining you’re overtraining, overeating will not help you.

if you’re sore and lethargic due to not eating enough, that’s called undereating. undereating is not the same as overtraining.

you’ve stated that you think you are eating enough, and if we all assume that to be true, it’d time to reduce the volume and/or intensity of your training to allow yourself to fully recover before really stepping up and challenging yourself with new training parameters.

so no, overeating will NOT fix overtraining.

You’re wrong. G-flux buddy.

More energy(calories) in= more energy out
[/quote]

i hope this is a joke. if you’re overtraining you’re overtraining. overeating won’t fix it.

and like i said earlier, if the symptoms a trainee is experiencing are similar to those of overtraining <fatigue, soreness, lethargy, mental slowdown> but CAUSED by undereating, by all means, eat more and correct your condition.

but under optimal conditions, if a trainee is experiencing these symptoms due to overtraining, the only solution will be an adjustment to his/her training parameters. basically, a reducation in volume/intensity.

[quote]Roy wrote:
You’re wrong. G-flux buddy.

More energy(calories) in= more energy out[/quote]

Roy if you want people to take you seriously you have got to quit posting shit like this.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
sasquatch wrote:

And would we be in some agreement this comes from the attempted dual goal of muscle gain and fat loss???

No doubt. If your goal is to somehow get huge on only 2,000cals a day, you aren’t feeling run down and making no progress because of “overtraining”. You are feeling that way because you aren’t giving your body what it needs to make progress. I would bet most of the guys on this board who would even use that the word “overtraining” are suffering from that mentality.[/quote]

You hit the nail on the head.

There is alot that goes into overtraining, and it is a somewhat general term. If the main cause of overtraining is lack of ability to recover from one workout to the next and to not have energy when you are working out. But if your nervous system is fatigued more calories wont help.

I agree with the journal thing. I had a hockey player who told me he couldn’t gain weight if his life depended on it. And the dude was fairly strong for his size (he power cleaned 127.5kg at a bodyweight of 170lbs on 6’1"!!!) and trained very hard.

He told me that he was eating A LOT OF FOOD. Then I asked him to write down everything he ate during a week and a pattern started to emerge:

He would eat around 2500kcals a day BUT most of his calories were coming from a single meal, at noon-1:00pm. At that meal he would eat something like 1700kcals and feel full and bloated till the late evening. The rest of the day he would eat like an anorexic bird.

He THOUGHT that he was eating a lot because he would feel full most of the day (he would train in the morning so he didn’t really think about hunger at that time and play hockey at 7pm to 9:30pm). But in reality he was severely under eating considering his training schedule.

This assessment was made during the 3rd week of his off-season program. His goal was to reach 190lbs (he was 170lbs at the beginning of the summer, down from 180lbs at the end of his off-season training period last year) I then designed a more balanced eating plan in which he was eating 7 meals a day and around 4000kcals. After two weeks on this regimen he comes up to me and asks “Chris, can I cut down on my food intake” … I asked him why, he answers “because I already reached my goal (190lbs)”.

Obviously that wasn’t all new muscle (probably regained the 10 he had lost during his season, maybe 2-3lbs of glycogen, a small amount of fat and water, but some new muscle too). But that illustrates how he was severely under eating despite thinking that he was overeating!

For some reason I’m now known as the “don’t bulk” guy. Which is erroneous. I do believe that you must eat more calories than you expend every day to gain muscle. The problem is that a lot of peoples don’t know how much they are eating. I’m anal retentive about this stuff and could tell you exactly how many calories, protein, carbs, fat, fiber, etc I’ve eaten each day of the past two years! No need to go to that extent. But knowing approximately how much you are eating is very helpful in avoiding “unplanned under eating”.

That having been said: a larger caloric expenditure requires a larger caloric intake. If you take a long road trip, you will need to fill up your car more often! So in that regard if you train a lot, you will need to refuel more.

So regarding your question; YES eating more can help you recover faster: this is true mostly for the energy portion of the training equation (restoring glycogen stores).

HOWEVER it isn’t true for the protein synthesis/muscle-building portion of the equation. Yes, eating more will help you build more muscle UNTIL you reach your anabolic ceiling. Your body has a limited capacity to build muscle tissue. This limit is set by your natural level/production of anabolic hormones. Once you ingest food past that ceiling it will not increase the rate of muscle repair.

So basically:

  1. Eating more carbs will help you restore your energy reserves faster.

  2. The more energy you use, the more carbs (or fat to some extent) you need to eat to properly recover from training.

  3. Muscle-building and muscle-repair cannot be increased by force-feeding when you are already consuming the max amount of protein your body can turn into muscle tissue.

And as PX stated, overtraining is an overused term. People wrongfully associate it with “training too much” (after all there is “over” and “training” in the term).

In truth, overtraining is a physiological state; it isn’t the action of “training too much” (although training too much can contribute to developing an overtraining syndrome).

The definition of the overtraining syndrome is this:

“An accumulation of biological and psychological stress caused by social, environmental, physiological and biochemical factors that results in a stable decrease in physical performance”

Training too much is only ONE of the stressors contributing to the onset of an overtraining state.

Another important element is the “stable” decrease in physical performance. If for some reason your performance decrease for 3-7 days it doesn’t mean that you are overtraining… it is most likely acute fatigue or cumulative fatigue. Both of which are normally responses to the training process.

A TRUE overtraining syndrome is actually very rare in an activity such as weight training. Chronic fatigue is a frequent occurrence and do require 3-5 days of rest to recover from. But a real overtraining syndrome is super rare.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
vroom wrote:
Yeah, it gets “fuzzy” due to terminology really.

Eating more calories should ramp up your ability to recover… to a point. There is only so much ramping that can be done.

Anyway, if you aren’t all ramped out, then yeah, upping calories will aid recovery, which might let you stave off overtraining, but as noted above, if you actually are overtrained eating more isn’t a magic get out of jail free card.

Eating more has always helped me recover faster. The moment I decrease my food intake, the longer it takes for me to recover from training. yes, the terminology is confusing because I think the word “overtraining” is way too “overused”. Most people are simply not eating enough or are training so haphazardly that they either workout for far too long each session or have no structure to what they are doing.[/quote]

Hmmm… yes I was hesistant to use the word ‘overtraining’ (hence the inverted commas). I just wanted a word to describe fatigue probably caused from training volume or something along those lines.

See I weight train for athletic purposes as I’m a football (or ‘soccer’ as Americans call it) player and it’s currently the off-season here (I’ve read Eric Cressey’s book, great stuff btw). The thing is I also play what is known as summer soccer, basically just 7 a side but still pretty high intensity with the amount of running involved.

The weird thing is in the weight room my performances are good but on the pitch I feel so tired and run down. It’s a strange sensation and I’m sure is due to the volume of my weight training but the thing is, I don’t really want to train less since it’s the holidays I’m just lazing around… I’d rather lift something!

Thanks for your reply Christian it was quite helpful, I TOTALLY agree with you on the whole journal thing, I use to track my daily intake using Fitday.com and it was a real eye opener on how little or a lot you REALLY are eating.

But after doing that for several months I’ve learnt to pretty much to ‘play it by the ear’ rather than be so pedantic about measuring all my food all the time. However it was definitely a good experience as it taught me how to estimate my food intakes.

Anyway, back to the point, I’m going to try increasing my carbohydrate intake as I think that’s what can help my performances on the pitch (the whole glycogen thing). Currently I’m doing NO energy systems work aside from summer soccer once or twice a week as I’m looking for strength/power gains (or increasing the size of the glass as EC would say). I also have a suspicion that my lack of cardiovascular fitness work may also be causing me to feel fatigued on the pitch.