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Overtraining 102 – Symptoms, Remedies and Prevention

While we are on the topic of overtraining let’s beat that horse to death. For folks who missed yesterday’s post, here it is. Overtraining 101 was an introduction to overtraining since most people probably don’t even know that such a thing exists. Today I’ll talk about symptoms of overtraining to see if you are indeed overtrained or close to it and then about how to prevent and/or remedy it.

Symptoms

The first part of any problem is to understand that you have a problem and overtraining is no exception. You need to realize that you are overtraining and for that you need to listen to your body. Trust me when I say your body is always talking to you. The following are some common symptoms of overreaching* or overtraining in some cases.

  1. A feeling of general tiredness during the day a.k.a. chronic fatigue
  2. Blunt incessant aches/pains in some joints. This happens mostly if you’ve been doing the same activity (running, squatting, biking etc.) over and over again.
  3. Increased heart rate and basal metabolic rate (BMR) during the day.
  4. Gradual drop in performance (strength or endurance) or plateauing.
  5. Fat loss plateauing.
  6. Lack of appetite.
  7. Disturbed sleep
  8. Menstrual disruptions.
  9. Lack of energy and drive immediately after waking even after a good night’s sleep.
  10. Chronic hunger during the day.
  11. Lack of motivation to workout or stay active.
  12. Frequent headaches and gastrointestinal issues.
  13. Not being able to shut off your mind before bed time.

Note: These are also symptoms of another very widespread and dangerous disease. This disease has affected the entire world and science does not seem to have an antidote for this. It’s called laziness. If you suffer from this disease, I suggest you stop looking for excuses and start moving that fat heiney of yours.

Remedies

Keep in mind though that these are pretty common symptoms that can be triggered by non-training related stresses too. Sleep deprivation and a diet composed of nutritionally poor ingredients can produce almost all these symptoms with or without training. That said, let’s look into a couple of scenarios and the respective remedies.

Case 1:

  • Sleep is bad. Nutrition is bad. Training volume is too high.

Remedy:

  • Week off.
  • Fix nutrition.
  • 3 stretching sessions (M-W-F or T-H-S)

Case 2:

  • Sleep is good. Nutrition is bad. Training volume is too high.

Remedy:

  • Maintain training intensity.
  • Drop training volume.
  • Fix nutrition.
  • Additional rest day.
  • Stretch on rest days.

Case 3:

  • Sleep is bad. Nutrition is good. Training volume is too high.

Remedy:

  • Couple of days off. Increase sleep duration by 25-50% during the off days.
  • Maintain training intensity and training volume.

Case 4:

  • Sleep is good. Nutrition is good. Training volume is too high.

Remedy:

  • Maintain training intensity.
  • Drop training volume. Perform static stretching for 10-15mins post workout.
  • Revisit supplementation.
  • Additional rest day.
  • Stretch on rest days.

Case 5:

  • Sleep is good. Nutrition is good. Training volume is just right.

Remedy:

  • Drop training intensity for a week.
  • Maintain training volume. Perform static stretching for 10-15mins post workout.
  • Revisit supplementation.
  • Revisit sleep quality. Sleep in a pitch black room with no disturbances.
  • Additional rest day.
  • Stretch on rest days.

Key:

Week off means…

  • Take the whole week off.
  • Don’t even drive close to your gym/training center.
  • Light activity (walking your dog etc.) can be done everyday.
  • Sleep 9 to 11 hours everyday.

Fix nutrition means…

  • Drop cereal grains, sugars and other foods that contain no nutritional value.
  • Increase intake of vegetables, eggs and meats. Increase starches (yams etc.) and fruit if required.
  • Eating plenty of good food but make sure you are not overeating. Fuel your body based on the level of activity.

Stretch means…

  • Perform a 40-60min session of full body stretching.
  • Yoga can be performed instead.

Drop training volume means…

  • Reduce your total training volume. 6 sets of 6 reps will become either 3 sets of 6 reps or 4 sets of 4-5 reps. 20 miles of running per week will become 10 miles.

Maintain training intensity means…

  • Stick to using the same loads or speed as the case may be.

Drop training intensity means…

  • Drop the weight or speed down as the case may be.

Additional rest day means…

  • In addition to your existing rest day, add one more.
  • If you currently don’t have a rest day, you’re stupid.

Revisit supplements means…

  • If you’re not having fish oil start immediately. If you already are ensure you are taking in enough. If you are taking in enough look behind the bottle to make sure you’re getting enough EPA/DHA and not just ALA.
  • If you’re not taking in a multi-vitamin everyday, start immediately.
  • Vitamin D3 supplementation is super important. Get about 4000-6000 IUs everyday. And no you won’t get enough sunlight to compensate for the supplementation.
  • Get a good magnesium supplement and consume ~ 400mg per day.

Prevention:

For those of you who are already overtrained, the above stated remedies should help. But for those who are not overtrained (yet), obviously prevention is better than sure right? The only way to prevent overtraining (which will result in burn-out and injury) is by smart training. Multiple posts can be written about smart training, but to summarize,

  • Keep training volume high enough to produce result but low enough to prevent CNS overload and/or joint overuse.
  • Oscillate between high intensity days and low intensity days during the week.
  • Work different energy pathways to avoid burn-out.
  • Track your workouts and be aware of performance drop or rise.
  • Eat plenty of nutrient rich foods like vegetables, eggs and meat.
  • If endurance training is your thing be sure to get the required carbs in the form of natural starches like yams and sweet potatoes. Occasional consumption of rice will probably help in this case.
  • Make a conscious effort to get the required amount of Omega-3s.
  • Listen to your body and get plenty of rest between training sessions.
  • Perform static stretches after every training session.

Peace.

* Overreaching: An accumulation of training and/or non-training stress resulting in a short-term decrement in performance capacity with or without related physiological and psychological signs and symptoms of overtraining in which restoration of performance capacity may take from several days to several weeks.

Who am I

Your experiences in life make you who you are. These are my experiences and they have made me who I am today.

1983-1994:

  • I was born in Chennai, India. For 17 years my diet consisted of rice, wheat, lentils, yogurt, milk, sugars, oils, fruit and little vegetables. Snacks were frequent and either savory, fried stuff or sugary, fried stuff… or both.
  • At the age of 9, I was hospitalized with typhoid. It took me weeks in the hospital to recover. Once discharged I remember being advised to eat only biscuits/cookies soaked in milk for a month. So I gobbled in 2-3 family size boxes of biscuits/cookies with 1-2 liters of whole milk. Following this I was advised to eat only rice, yogurt and lentils for a month. I ended up a 115 lbs (52 kgs) 10yr old.
  • At the age of 10, I was diagnosed with sinusitis. A month later I was diagnosed with asthma.
  • By 1994, I was the sick fat kid who could not play any sport.

1994-2006:

  • I was forced to go for Karate and Tennis  classes to lose weight. When made to run laps, I would collapse with an asthma attack within 3 mins of starting to run. I’d cry because I couldn’t breathe.
  • I would be admitted in a hospital every single year without fail. I would get the flu twice every year.
  • By the time I turned 12, I figured out that physical exertion was the source of my asthma. In an effort to treat the disease at it’s source I stopped exerting myself physically. Life was good.
  • I went on a “diet” when I was 13 and lost weight. I ate no breakfast, 2 idlies (rice cakes) for lunch and 1 roti for dinner.
  • When I turned 14 I discovered cricket – a sport that requires minimal physical exertion. I always had a runner.
  • Meals in college revolved around white rice, bread, potatoes, soda, chocolates and ice cream. I was not fat because I never ate. I was not tired because I never played.
  • In grad school I tried my hand at squash once. I was out of gas and had an asthma attack just 15 mins into the game. I hid the discomfort and ran out of the gym.

2006-2008:

  • In 2006 I got my first job – a well-paid desk job, and finally could afford 3 good meals a day. I discovered cuisines. I fought hard to finish my giant plates every meal, every day. I forced myself to like Starbucks.
  • I cheated on pizzas with burritos… threesomes were pretty frequent too. Jack-in-the-Box and Carl’s Junior were my midnight booty calls.
  • By 2006, I made my way to 185 lbs (84kgs) @ 5′ 7″. Body fat was unknown and irrelevant. My lipid profile was a mess!
  • Nov 2007 – a series of bad incidents made me want to fight back and redeem myself .

2007-2009:

  • Running had been my greatest enemy and I decided to fight that first up.
  • The first week of running was torture to say the least. I would run 1/10th of a mile, have an asthma attack and sit on the curb. My will power and my inhaler helped me go further. My first ever mile took 23 mins (+ 4 puffs of the inhaler at the end). I ran more… and then some more. In a few months I was clocking in 45-50 miles (70-80 kms) per week.
  • By mid 2008 I could run 15 miles @ 9 min/mile at any point of time on any given day. I didn’t fear the junk foods. I could burn off anything by running some more.
  • I lost 50 lbs – A proud 132 lbs light weight with aching joints.

2009-2010:

  • Early 2009, I conquered P90X and p90X+.  I saw body composition improvements and muscle gains for the first time. Tony did me good and I will be forever grateful.
  • My endurance got way better but my inhaler was still my best friend.
  • I realized the importance of fueling my body right. I started geeking out on nutrition.
  • Hours and hours of obsessive reading followed.
  • Oct ’09 I took the fitness trainer certification exam. I scored more than I did in any course in my life. Passion trumped everything.
  • I tried Crossfit. I was humbled. My inhaler was still in my left pocket.
  • Early 2010 I discovered Mark SissonRobb WolfDr. Kurt HarrisDr. Michael EadesMartin BerkhanJohn WelbournRichard Nikoley and Petro Dobromylskyj.
  • I dropped the grains, upped the fats and embraced intermittent fasting.
  • In 3 months my asthma disappeared! The demon that screwed my life for 18 yrs was defeated just like that. As a plus, my lipid profile became impeccable with a HDL value in the 80s!
  • I gained about 20 lbs of muscle during this time and resurrected my joints that were pounded over and over from running.

Now:

  • I believe nutrition is king.
  • I read nutrition related papers, books, blogs and articles for ~ 3-4hrs everyday.
  • I program my workouts and design my diet.
  • While I push my limits all the time I also realize the importance of listening to my body. I don’t just train hard. I train smart.
  • I lift/push/pull as heavy as I can, run as fast as I can and jump as high as I can.
  • I train to take on life and whatever it throws at me.

My Goal:

  • Today I am healthier, faster, stronger and leaner than I’ve ever been.  I want to be able to make the same claim when I’m 50.

Transition to Clean Eating

Irrespective of what I say or how I communicate it you will end up doing what ‘works for you’… but there is really no harm in trying something right? So here is some information on what not to eat, what to eat and how to transition from one to the other.

The good, the bad and the ugly:

Based on the nutritional benefits each of these foods contain I have graded them from A to E.

Grade A : Green Vegetables, starchy vegetables, berries, lean meats, seafood, eggs, nuts, dairy, whey protein

Grade B : Beans, legumes (including peanuts), white potatoes. Why beans & legumes are not good.

Grade C : Rice, corn, quinoa (all non gluten containing grains). 10 Reasons to go grain-free.

Grade D : Wheat/gluten related products (bread, roti, tortilla… anything with gluten). Why gluten is bad.

Grade E : Sugar and junk foods (soda, cookies, pizza, fries, cheese puffs, biscuits etc.). Why sugar is pure evil- Must read!

Obviously  all your meals can’t contain only grade A ingredients.  But as long as the majority of your meals contain only grade A foods… you are super good to go!

Making the transition:

Reasons to make the transition:

  1. You will be gradually transitioning to meals which are far more superior than grain based meals.
  2. You will stay fuller longer due to consumption of real foods which have loads of fiber and high satiation.
  3. You micro-nutrient (vitamins and minerals) intake will drastically increase.
  4. You will lose fat without the pain of weighing and measuring food or counting calories.
  5. If you workout or play some sport you will  recover faster and perform better.
  6. You will still be able to eat your favorite foods every week. (Trust me when I say this, a once a week cheat meal makes you favorite foods taste so much better!)

The Transition:

  • Week 1: Have one clean meal per day. Clean meal = food prepared using Grades A & (if required) B. For the other two meals stick to your usual foods. Sunday will have 3 open meals. 6/21 (30%) meals will be clean (assuming you eat 3 meals a day)
  • Week 2: Have two clean meals per day. Clean meal = food prepared using Grades A & (if required) B. For the other meal stick to your usual foods. Sunday will have 2 open meals. 14/21 (65%) meals will be clean.
  • Week 3: Make all meals clean. Clean meal = food prepared using Grades A & (if required) B.  Sunday will still have 2 open meals. 19/21 (90%) meals will be clean.
  • Week 4: Stick to week 3… and if possible try to reduce the number of open meals on Sunday from 2 to 1. 20/21 (95%) meals will be clean.
  • By week 5 or 6 you should start experiencing higher energy during the day, fat loss, sound sleep, better performance, faster recovery and overall betterment in the quality of life.

    Sample 4-Week Transition:

    Week 1:

    • Monday & Tuesday: Dinner [Grades A, B only]
    • Wednesday & Thursday: Lunch [Grades A, B only]
    • Friday & Saturday: Breakfast [Grades A, B only]
    • Sunday: Open [All meals]

    Week 2:

    • Monday & Tuesday: Breakfast and Dinner [Grades A, B only]
    • Wednesday & Thursday: Lunch and Dinner [Grade A only]
    • Friday & Saturday: Breakfast and Lunch [Grade A only]
    • Sunday: Open [2 meals]; Other meal [Grade A only]

    Week 3:

    • Monday & Tuesday: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner [Grades A, B only]
    • Wednesday & Thursday: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner [Grades A, B only]
    • Friday & Saturday: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner [Grade A only]
    • Sunday: Open [2 meals]; Other meals [Grade A only]

    Week 4:

    • Monday & Tuesday: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner [Grade A only]
    • Wednesday & Thursday: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner [Grade A only]
    • Friday & Saturday: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner [Grade A only]
    • Sunday: Open [1 meal]; Other meals [Grade A only]

    Grain Free Recipe Resources:

    None of this in here could hurt you (except that you might love me for making you do this and that can’t be a good thing!). May be after 4 weeks you’ll end up eating clean only 60% of the time. But that’s still way better than eating crap 7 days a week (1400 times a year)!

    Peace.

    As a side note…

    My diet:

    Grade A – 95%

    Grade B – 0%

    Grade C -3%

    Grade D – 0%

    Grade E – 2%

    I don’t count calories but my estimation is that I eat anywhere between 1600-1800 calories per day. Let’s say 1700 calories for easy math. I have an awesome cheat meal once in 2 weeks which accounts to about 1000-1200 calories (The most recent cheat meal looked exactly like this + this +  this). Since my total calorie intake for 2 weeks is 1700 x 14 = 24,000 calories (apprx), the 1200 calories works out to 5% of my total calorie intake.

    Flippin Delicious Four Course Meal

    The weekend was pretty awesome in a multitude of ways with creative and delicious food definitely being one of the highlights. I happened to cook lunch for a couple of lovely ladies who are ovo-lacto-vegetarian. [Lovely lady 1’s blog and lovely lady 2’s blog.]

    For those of you who think delicious meals cannot be made without grains and cereals… eat this!

    Main Dish: Crunchy Tofu on Romaine

    Ingredients:

    4 oz Organic Firm Tofu (or any other protein), Romaine Lettuce Leaves, 1 cup Mushroom, 1 Sweet Red Pepper, Green Onions, 1 tbls Butter, 1 tbls Soy Sauce, Salt, Cayenne Pepper

    Instructions:

    1. Cut the tofu (or any other protein) into tiny cubes and saute in 1/2 tbls butter till the sides turn brown. Set aside.

    2. Chop the mushrooms and red pepper into tiny cubes and saute in remaining butter till done.

    3. Add browned tofu to the pan. Mix.

    4. Add soy sauce, salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

    5. Place mixture on fresh and crunchy lettuce leaves.

    Side: Buttered Baked Sweet Potato Oregano Fries

    Ingredients:

    1 Sweet Potato, Salt, Crushed Black Pepper, Oregano Flakes, Chili Flakes, 1/2 tbls Butter

    Instructions:

    1. Cut the sweet potato into french fries and put them in a bowl.

    2. Add salt, pepper, oregano, chili flakes and melted butter to the bowl and mix. (You can season these any which way you like. Garlic goes awesomely well by the way!)

    3. Bake in oven at 400 F for ~ 20 min turning once in between.

    Dessert 1: Coconut Apple Cinnamon Pudding

    Ingredients:

    1/3 cup Real Coconut Milk, 1/2 Apple, Cinnamon

    Instructions:

    1. Pour coconut milk in a bowl and bring to a boil. (Remember to use REAL coconut milk… the one you get in Asian or Indian stores).

    2. Add chopped apple and cinnamon to the coconut milk. Simmer for ~ 20-25 min or till the apples get mushy.

    3. Blend in a blender or food processor.

    4. Pour in a cup, dust over with cinnamon and place in refrigerator to set. This cooling step is what gives it the custard consistency.

    * Note: Credit for the recipe goes to Robb Wolf and Andy Deas.

    Dessert 2: Protein Berry Verrine

    Ingredients:

    1/4 cup Coconut milk, 1/4 cup Cottage Cheese, 2 tbls Whipping Cream, 1 scoop Vanilla Whey Protein Powder, 1 tsp Vanilla Extract, 1/2 cup Blueberries, 1/2 cup Strawberries

    Instructions:

    1. Blend the coconut milk, cottage cheese, whipping cream, whey protein powder and vanilla extract.

    2. Pour in a wine glass and freeze for 30-40mins.

    3. Add the berries just before serving.

    Note: Credit for recipe goes to Vidya.

    Just so you know…

    • No crappy chemicals or  syrupy sugars… all natural all healthy ingredients!
    • Not an ounce of sugar in any of the recipes.
    • No grains or cereals or beans or legumes in any of the recipes.
    • All four items together add up to ~ 700 calories with ~55 grams of protein.
    • All fats are from awesome sources – butter, coconut milk
    • All carbs are from vegetables and berries and hence super high fiber content.
    • Calories were not counted (of course duh!) and everyone ate to satiety.
    • All items were made by one person and total cooking time for all 4 dishes was ~ 60 min.
    • Funny story – The two desserts are nutritionally superior than the main dish… thank’s to the MCT’s from the coconut milk and the protein content of the verrine!

    Try it out and let me know what you think.

    Peace.

    Spicy Coconut Curry & Dark Chocolate (Tea)Cupcake

    Spicy Coconut Curry (with Tofu)

    Ingredients:

    Garlic – 2 to 3 cloves

    Green Chili – 2 to 3 little ones

    Ginger paste – 1/2 tbls

    Red Bell Pepper – 1 big

    Vegetable broth – 1/2 cup

    Vegetables – 1 lbs (This one has mushrooms, red peppers and green onions)

    Olive oil – 1/2-1 tbls

    Coconut milk – 3/4 to 1 cup

    Cayenne pepper – to taste

    Soft Tofu – 8 oz (or any other protein you prefer)

    Sea salt – to taste

    Preparation:

    1. Blend the following – garlic, green chili, ginger paste, red bell pepper, vegetable broth, salt (if required).

    2. In a bowl lightly saute vegetables in olive oil (in low heat). Say ~ 3-5 mins

    3. Add blended paste from step 1. Bring to boil.

    4. Add coconut milk. Bring to boil.

    5. Add tofu (or whatever protein you’d like). Simmer until you get to the consistency you desire.

    6. Eat by itself or with cottage cheese on the side.

    Nutrition:

    Calories ~ 700 calories; Protein ~ 30 gm; Fat ~ 50 gm; Carb ~ 30 gm

    Finish off this awesome meal with some of this all protein dark chocolate goodness!

    For the recipe check out… http://theoffsetspatula.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/and-were-back-on/

    Slightly high in fat maybe… but how often do you get a dessert which has ~ 35 gm of protein and less than 5 gm of carbs!

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