RECOVERY AND OVERTRAINING

By Nenad Rodic,
posted 04/05

RECOVERY

There are three aspects of recovery I’d like to mention.

1) Fuel replenishment
2) Detoxification
3) Muscle repair

     Every training needs energy and that energy is supplied from various fuel sources as mentioned earlier. Trained endurance athletes have about 36 g of glycogen per kilogram of wet muscle. In training this value goes down to 21 g/kg. It is safe to say that your triathlon training will lower or deplete glycogen stores in your body. Even if one workout does not do it, five or six consecutive days of training will lower the levels of glycogen to the point when any serious workout is almost impossible. That is why most programs insist on easy days or days off. I am not a great fan of off days since they usually require another day to get back into training. An easy day a week is enough to restore the glycogen. There are things you can do to prevent depletion in the first place. One of the most important things is eating before, during and after exercise. Eating before and during exercise will ensure the high glucose levels and slow down the use of liver glycogen. It is also important to eat within fifteen minutes of completion of training session. This meal should be mainly carbohydrates with some protein for transport. This, short carb replacement opportune period after exercise is what we call glycogen window. Studies show that athletes who miss this window are more likely to go into catabolism and lose lean muscle mass. The real meal consisting of mainly carbs should follow within the two hours of the completion of exercise. Unless you are training a lot of high intensity workouts (VO2max) this practice will be enough to keep your glycogen levels at reasonable levels. If you are in a period of training where you train efficiency and try to increase the metabolism of fat you may want to maintain low glycogen levels at all times. This will shorten the period needed for metabolism of fat to engage and become the main path for energy supply. When training like this it is likely that you will feel very weak and sluggish first couple of hours of every training session. As the workout progresses you’ll feel better and better. Side effect of this type of training is a loss of weight and if you are not careful, the loss of red blood cells. That is why it’s important to eat fresh raw food accompanied with a lot of protein when doing this.

     Training also creates waste products like lactic acid for example. Triathlon is not a sport of high intensity and high lactate production. Lactate created by most training sessions is recycled and gone within minutes. It is worth mentioning that workouts that cause severe acidosis require longer period of recovery: VO2 session up to 48 hours and lactate tolerance session up to 72 hours. Day after day acidosis is the main cause of overtraining since it prevents muscle repair and glycogen replacement and can finally lead to the loss of muscle mass and aerobic capacity. Under certain circumstances, oxygen can precipitate the tissue damage through formation of free radicals. Training causes accumulation of free radicals and one of the main reasons for rest or easy training as means of recovery is to get rid of them.

     Muscle repair is also an important factor of recovery. It is closely related to fuel replenishment, especially the protein intake. Basically high intensity training can tear muscle fibers (micro-tears) and ultra distance training can take you into catabolic state that affects muscles in similar manner. To prevent these things from happening good nutrition and a proper season planning with adequate progressive overload are necessary. Good nutrition would entail high protein diet during high intensity (power) mezzo-cycle and a high-energy carbohydrate based diet during peak (aerobic overload) mezzo-cycle.
Make sure you consult your coach or a nutritionist when approaching this issue.
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OVERTRAINING

    Overtraining or failing adaptation is a term that identifies a condition when athletes perform poorly because of training. It causes the loss of previously gained training effects. Usual symptoms of overtraining are: loss of weight, prolonged muscle soreness, allergic reactions, loss of appetite, head colds, nausea, lack of energy, increased resting heart rate and inability to reach the maximal heart rate during exercise on the physical side and depression, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, lowered motivation on the psychological side. Not all of these symptoms need to be present. Some of them are also normal occurrence during hard training but they usually persist not longer than 48 hours. Overtraining is usually caused by prolonged period of intense training. This happens due to lack of understanding of proper season planning and cyclic nature of training on most people’s part. Rushing toward intense or extremely long training (improper implementation of progressive overload principle) is the main cause of overtraining. It is essential to monitor your progress through season with certain tests, so you know when you ready to advance to the next level of training.
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By Nenad Rodic, founder of  TriathlonPlace.com