Recovering from Overtraining Syndrome

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Because of the complexity of Overtraining Syndrome, and the ethical issues in performing scientific studies, there is no clear prescription for recovery. The advice below is the aggregation of the available advice.

  • Because there is no clear diagnostic for Overtraining Syndrome, it is difficult to determine when recovery has occurred. One metric that should be focused on should be Mood State and enthusiasm for training.
  • A reduction in training load is required, and this often needs to be a dramatic reduction. While complete rest may be warranted, this could be counterproductive[1]. Given the importance of Training Monotony, it seems reasonable to include greater periods of recovery. Rather than complete rest, I would recommend light training every other day, alternating with complete rest. The light training should be limited in duration, and should only be as much as is enjoyable.
  • Rest time should be more than simply not training. Instead, some of the time freed up due to the reduction in training load should be dedicated to focused relaxation, such as gentle Yoga, meditation or times of prayer.
  • Massage is beneficial[1], and this may help in several ways. Massage can help with physical recovery from training stress, it can provide relaxation, and the human contact can help psychologically.
  • Using Ice[1] can help with physical recovery.
  • Depending on the severity of the Overtraining Syndrome, I would suggest counseling.
  • Extra sleep[1] is likely to be required for recovery.
  • Diet is an important part of recovery. The correct calorie balance and a diet with a balanced ratio of carbohydrates/protein/fat is highly recommended[1]. The change in training load requires that the diet is carefully evaluated.
    • Vitamins C[1] is probably one of the most important supplements to support adrenal functioning[2]. It is essential for the synthesis of steroid hormones by the adrenal gland.
    • Vitamins B6 is a cofactor for various enzyme reactions in the adrenal gland[2]. Other B vitamins[1] are also recommended.
    • Calcium and magnesium are both important nutrients[1]. Calcium is generally believed to calm the nervous system which is why a glass of warm milk is often suggested at bedtime. Most people get plenty of calcium through dairy products, but if you avoid dairy then you may want to seek some form of calcium supplementation. Magnesium deficiency is far more common[3], especially amongst runners[4] and is not only critical for bone health, but is also used in many enzymes in the body, including adrenal functions[2].
    • Zinc may be benefitical[1] and is important for immune system functioning.
    • Ginger may[2] help normalize blood pressure and heart rate, improve digestion, and modulate cortisone levels. The evidence to support ginger is limited but if you like the taste, there appear to be few downsides. I enjoy ginger in a hot chocolate for instance.
    • Choline has been suggested[5] and choline is a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which has been shown to be depleted by running.
    • I believe that ensuring a high intake of Omega 3 is wise.
  • A greater variety in training may be beneficial[1]. This could be some form of cross training, or simple changing routine. Running different routes, running with people (if you normally run alone), running alone (if you normally run with people), running with or without music, etc.
  • There are reports of successfully treating [[Overtraining Syndrome]] with serotonergic antidepressants[6] and SSRI antidepressants [5].
  • Hormone replacement therapy can provide a dramatic recovery from Overtraining Syndrome[2]. However, there are many drawbacks to this approach. The most significant downside is probably that hormone replacement therapy is a short term treatment. Over time, the body reacts to the supplementary hormones by producing even less of them naturally, a process known as down regulation. Many of the commonly used hormone replacements are also considered performance-enhancing drugs that are banned in competition.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Physiological Perspective of Endurance Overtraining – A Comprehensive Update
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Alternative & Complementary Concepts/ Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, Part 2: Adrenal Function and Overtraining
  3. Human Nutrition Products and Services
  4. The Effect of a Marathon Run on Plasma and Urine Mineral and Metal Concentrations
  5. 5.0 5.1 The unknown mechanism of the overtraining syndrom... [Sports Med. 2002] - PubMed - NCBI
  6. The stigmatisation and denial of mental illness in athletes -- Schwenk 34 (1): 4 -- British Journal of Sports Medicine