Recovering From Post-Workout Burnout
Rest and diet are essential to recovery.
For those who work out regularly, burnout is one of the common hazards. It's caused by over training, an imbalance between your exertions and the corresponding rest time you allocate. It can occur occasionally without significant ill effect, but if you find yourself burned out in the longer term you'll need to take steps to restore some balance to your workout regimen.
Symptoms of Burnout
There is no single symptom that will tell you you've been pushing your workouts too hard, but there are a number of well-established signals you should be heeding. If your workout performance has plateaued or begun to decline, this is a possible warning. You may find that you're tired, stressed and irritable all the time, even after working out. You might lose your appetite, or begin to lose muscle mass. You might find you have trouble sleeping, and tend to get sick more often than usual. Any combination of these symptoms should raise concerns about burnout.
Causes of Burnout
The primary cause of burnout is simply that you're working your body too hard, too often, and not allowing adequate time and resources to help it replenish itself. This has a number of undesirable physiological consequences. Your muscles will lose both mass and strength, and you will be both more injury-prone, and slower to recover. Your body will show elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which accounts for the moodiness. The adverse effects of burnout are magnified considerably if you aren't eating enough to support your level of activity. Your muscles can't regenerate if you don't provide your body with enough raw materials.
The most important single factor in recovering from burnout is rest. Give your muscles time off, to replenish their fuel stores and heal from the damage caused by intense workouts. If you've only been experiencing burnout symptoms for a few weeks, Rice University's Dr. Mark Jenkins suggests that three to five days' rest will be adequate to repair most of the damage. In more severe cases, you might need to take several weeks away from training, and stage a months-long recovery. Dial back the frequency and intensity of your workouts during the recovery period, and seek professional advice.
Eating enough to fuel a heavy workout regiment is an important part of avoiding and managing burnout. Those in search of weight loss and fitness often restrict their diet at the same time they engage in intense physical activity. This is counterproductive, because if you're not feeding your body adequately it will defend itself by increasing fat stores, and shedding hungry muscle tissue. Athletes and those working out intensively need to provide their bodies with adequate carbohydrates, protein and fats to minimize burnout. Consuming a mixture of protein and carbohydrates immediately after the workout speeds recovery, and helps also helps reduce the risk of burnout.