Overtraining & Fueling: The Importance of Controlled Reverse Diets

Improve your energy levels with reverse dieting

Written by
8fit x Dani Roche from LetsGetTChecked @ 8fit
Written by
8fit x Dani Roche from LetsGetTChecked @ 8fit
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You completed your morning run and you feel like you could push yourself for one extra mile, or maybe you finished a strength session and want to add in some extra reps to finish; the temptation to push ourselves that bit further when the workout endorphins have well and truly kicked in is something all of us are guilty of every now and then.

Still, as important as it is to move our bodies, it’s just as important to rest and avoid exercising too much, commonly known as overtraining. You can take steps towards doing just that by listening to your body and making sure to fuel it with the nutrients it needs before and after training.

What is overtraining syndrome?

The age-old saying “too much of a good thing” applies to plenty of factors in our lives, and exercise is no exception. Sometimes referred to as burnout, overtraining occurs when you experience fatigue or declining performance as a result of an increase in training. This is something that can occur in a number of endurance athletes, with U.S. Olympic swimmer and bronze medalist Simone Manuel recently speaking out on how overtraining syndrome affected her training.

Risk factors for overtraining are higher if you specialise in a specific sport, which is why it affects endurance athletes most commonly. However, it can happen to just about anyone who suddenly increases their training and doesn’t give their body the time it needs to recover.

What are the symptoms and signs of overtraining syndrome?

The symptoms associated with overtraining are a result of a change in hormones, a weakened immune system, and a mix of physical and mental fatigue. Some common signs and symptoms of overtraining include:

  • Muscle soreness or stiff muscles  

  • Weight loss

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances

  • Loss of motivation      

  • Decreased performance

If any of the above symptoms sound familiar, it’s important to take a rest from exercise and speak with your healthcare provider to ensure these signs aren’t a result of another condition.

How does reverse dieting work?

The key to fueling your workout and aiding the recovery process all lies in your kitchen cabinets! That’s right, following a balanced diet and getting the right nutrients before and after your workout is crucial to avoid burnout or overtraining syndrome. This is why if you are feeling fatigued, it’s important to make sure you’re eating enough calories to fuel your day-to-day activity. 

Remember, you need plenty of energy to move your body! If you are currently in a calorie deficit or suspect that you might not be giving your body what it needs to train and recover, reverse dieting may be something to consider. 

Controlled reverse dieting is pretty much exactly what its name suggests, it’s a plan that involves slowly increasing your calorie intake over a specific period of time. This approach can benefit those who aren’t getting the right amount of calories in their current daily diet, would like to increase their food intake and improve their energy levels. 

Reverse dieting involves increasing your calories by about 50-100 each week until you reach your target calorie intake. This target calorie intake should be based on your individual recommended calorie intake to maintain a healthy weight and not the calorie intake of an “average” person. Because let’s face it, we’re all unique and so are our nutritional needs!

It’s important to note that there is more research needed surrounding the advantages and disadvantages of reverse dieting but giving your body the right amount of essential nutrients and energy through food can help improve muscle recovery and potentially performance. Remember to speak with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet. 

Macronutrients vs micronutrients: The importance of nutrients in training

As mentioned above, fueling our bodies with the nutrients it needs is crucial to reduce the risk of muscle fatigue and overtraining. Nutrients can be divided into two groups: macronutrients and micronutrients. 

Macronutrients are the nutrients our body needs in large amounts, some of these being protein, fat, and carbohydrates, the role of each in supporting training and exercise include:

  • Protein provides your body with the amino acids it needs to help build and repair muscle. It’s recommended to eat 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight if you are very active. Sources include lean meats, dairy products or beans, and lentils.

  • Fat helps your body absorb vitamins and gives you the energy to get reach PB during your next workout! It’s best to opt for unsaturated fats over saturated and trans fats when you can. Sources of unsaturated fats include avocados, peanut butter, nuts, and seeds.

  • Carbohydrates, although sometimes given a bad rep, can help your body during long and intense workouts. It’s recommended to eat 3-5 grams of carbs for every kg of bodyweight if you want to fuel a light workout. Sources include brown rice, quinoa, and vegetables.

Micronutrients are the nutrients our body needs in smaller amounts and include vitamins and minerals in general. Vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin E, zinc, and magnesium are just some of the 30 essential micronutrients we need for energy production, their other functions include:

  • Vitamin D is critical for keeping bones strong and healthy. For adults between 19-70, it’s recommended to have around 15 mcg of vitamin D a day. Sources include oily fish, red meat, and fortified foods.

  • Vitamin B12 is needed to help create and maintain red blood cells, too little can lead to anemia which can leave you feeling tired and weak. Sources include meat, fish, and cheese, or dairy products, and fortified foods for vegetarians or vegans.

  • Vitamin E promotes a healthy immune system and is important for supporting muscle cells. It’s recommended to have 15 mg daily. Sources include cereals, nuts, seeds, and plant oils such as rapeseed oil.

  • Zinc helps boost the immune system and also plays a part in muscle protein synthesis - the process in which the protein in your body is used to repair muscle damage and build muscle. It’s recommended to have 11 mg of zinc per day. Sources include red meat, poultry, chickpeas, and nuts.

  • Magnesium has many functions, one of those being to help maintain healthy nerve and muscle function. The recommended daily allowance for magnesium is 420 mg for adults. Sources include seeds, whole grains, and wheat.

It might seem pretty overwhelming but remember, following a balanced diet that includes a mixture of foods will put you on the right track to getting the nutrients and energy you need to support your training plans!

A deficiency in any of the above nutrients will not only impact your training but can lead to a variety of complications. You can check if you’re getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals with a lab test, this can be done by taking a trip to your doctor or from home with LetsGetChecked’s at-home lab test

Micronutrient testing: How it works

If you would like to make sure that you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs to fuel your next workout or are simply curious about your nutrient levels, checking in is easy with LetsGetChecked’s at-home Micronutrient Test which tests your levels of vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin E, zinc, selenium, copper, and magnesium. 

LetsGetChecked’s primary aim is to empower you to take control of your health from the comfort of your own home and the Micronutrient Test is just one of many tests available to help you on your health journey. 

The test gives you the chance to check in on your vitamin and mineral levels and identify any potential deficiencies. Most people might not even realize they’re not fueling their bodies with the correct amount of nutrients so checking in is key to understanding your levels, improving recovery and performance, and reducing the risk of overtraining. 

Each test requires a simple finger prick sample and online results will be available within 2-5 days. A dedicated clinical team is available throughout the whole process so you will be provided with support every step of the way - this includes a one-on-one call to discuss your results.

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