By now you have probably heard both sides of the debate on overtraining. Does such a concept actually exist? It does, but only under certain circumstances. There are two factors that play a role in overtraining. Let’s discuss them.
As the saying goes, “you can’t train like a horse and eat like a bird.” If you’re not eating properly you’re probably not training properly. To put on incredible size, especially in the shortest amount of time, you need to be training past your limits. You need to be pushing or pulling more weight, and repping out more movements.
To do this you need to be training on this type of diet:
✓ High calorie
✓ High protein
✓ High carbs
You damn sure won’t be putting up record weight and higher rep sets on a diet that consists of 2,000 calories. Double your current caloric intake and watch yourself break your personal records. Along with them, your recovery time will decrease significantly.
Be your own judge when scaling your progress. You know your body better than any other critic. Use the mirror as your judgment. If you begin to put on fat past your liking simply cut back on your calories and your carbs. The chances of this happening are slim, as you should also be increasing your training intensity and/or training duration. If you want to log three hours in the gym you have to log high calories! I’m talking 5,000 minimum. From my experience, this is harder than the actual training.
However, I have put on more size using this technique (doubling calories, doubling training intensity) over a three month period than I have in any other period during my last eight years of training. And to be clear, when I say training intensity I am referring to the use of much heavier weight than used to (even if it means lower reps, which it should), shorter rest periods in between sets, and more sets. Depending on your goals you can use more sets with more reps per set, but I have found more sets with lower reps to be more beneficial for packing on size.
A major area often overlooked when observing diet is hydration. As a bodybuilder, or even a casual lifter, you should be drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Hydration differs slightly from the macros part of the diet as there should be a cap on how much water you consume, no matter the intensity of your training. This cap should be set at 2.5 gallons per day and should never be exceeded. I aim for two gallons per day with an absolute minimum of one gallon. Ensuring hydration needs are met will keep your muscles full and able to perform at their maximum output. This is just as important as the actual diet itself.
In retrospect, a person consuming 3,000 calories daily along with one gallon of water, with one hour spent training in the gym will be significantly smaller than someone consuming 6,000 calories daily along with two gallons of water, with two hours spent training in the gym. It’s common sense. Eat more, drink more, train more.
Right behind diet in importance to training is sleep. Same concept as the diet: the more sleep you get the more training you can do. Someone getting eight hours of sleep and training two hours daily will get much better results than someone getting four hours of sleep and training one hour daily. You need to get a minimum of six hours of sleep every night if you are looking for serious results. The higher intensity your training is, the more sleep you need to be getting.
If you are only getting a few hours of sleep each night while staying in the gym for three hours every day, the results will be counter intuitive:
✗ Your workouts will be harder to complete
✗ Your recovery time will be seriously hindered
✗ Your energy levels will plummet (both in and out of the gym).
✗ Worst of all, you will steadily lose muscle mass while replacing the loss with body fat.
This is where overtraining creeps up into your routine.
One night, or even a few nights, of poor sleep will not affect your results much long term. However, if you get under six hours of sleep on a given night, better to take the following day off from lifting, as your body is not prepared to train at its maximum potential. If you lift on a few hours of sleep you run the risk of tapping into your existing muscle mass for your body’s energy source (overtraining) and thus moving further away from your goals.
Take Home Message
Don’t get wrapped up in the training. Take it seriously, but know that what you do outside the gym is just as serious. Every seasoned athlete understands and applies this concept. Follow their lead.