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How to Maximize Performance without Overtraining

Learing Objectives:

  1. Identify the signs and symptoms of overtraining.
  2. Determine ways to help your clients recover from overtraining.
  3. Understand the importance of training breaks in the prevention of overtraining.

You’ve seen it before, and you’ll see it again.  That star athlete, who has been intensely training for months, but starts to mention that they haven’t slept well for weeks, and the stress is starting to get in the way of their performance. You may suspect they’re overtrained, which is quite common among competitive athletes.  While overtraining can occur in a variety of different ways, it typically results from a combination of hormonal, neuroendocrine, and nutritional imbalances, secondary to heavy training (Kreher, 2012).

The Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining

Although it can produce positive outcomes, intense training completed too frequently without sufficient rest, can compromise an athlete’s muscular, endocrine, and immune systems, as well as psychological state. Signs and symptoms of overtraining can be (Kreher, 2012):

  1. Underperformance
  2. Extreme muscle soreness or stiffness during and in-between training sessions
  3. Unintentional weight loss
  4. Chronic fatigue
  5. Swollen lymph nodes
  6. Depression and/or anxiety
  7. Sleep disturbances

Avoiding Overtraining

Once you detect these signs and symptoms, you can work with your athlete to avoid overtraining.  By monitoring performance, mood and physical changes, you’ll be able to quickly identify at-risk athletes, and swiftly offer practical interventions:

When You Meet an Overtrained Athlete

If overtraining is suspected, a variety of therapies can help promote healing while minimizing additional stress. To assist in the recovery from overtraining, suggest a holistic approach that includes dietary modifications, support for the mental aspects of training and additional rest.

At some point in your career, you will meet competitive athletes who are doing everything they can to gain an advantage over competition—at any cost. What they may not realize is that passion can both fuel their motivation and, unknowingly, increase their chances of overtraining. You can direct these athletes in the right direction by using a training schedule that includes rest days, promoting a well-balanced diet and encouraging adequate sleep. As fitness professionals, you are crucial to maximizing performance and minimizing the risk of overtraining for competitive athletes.

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Kreher J. (2012). Overtraining Syndrome: A Practical Guide. Sports Health. 4(2), 128-138.

Vetter R. (2010). Correlations Between Injury, Training Intensity, and Physical and Mental Exhaustion Among College Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24(3), 587-96.

Zoorab R. (2013). Sports Nutrition Needs Before, During and After Exercise. Primary Care. 40(2), 475-86.

Zaryski C. (2005). Training Principles and Issues for Ultra-Endurance Athletes. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 4(3),165-70.