I used to believe that more was better when it came to exercise. I wouldn't stop until I was red in the face and puffing and panting. Over time, through research and trial and error, I began to realize that this wasn't the way to a lean, high energy, healthy body. Although the initial shock to my system of intense exercise resulted in weight loss, after a few months my body fat percentage started to creep up again, and I became fatigued. My nutrition was perfect, so I had to look to the way I was exercising. When I started doing some research into this, what I found was that over-exercising or overtraining is very counterproductive.
This is why...
Exercise puts every system in your body under stress. When you experience stress, your body secretes a very powerful hormone called cortisol. Cortisol impacts your body in a way that is counterproductive to peak performance. Cortisol is catabolic, meaning it breaks down your muscles and bones for fuel. Next, cortisol causes your body to store fat. Cortisol is a neurotoxin, meaning brain poison. It accelerates brain aging. Lastly, it suppresses your immune system.
So you can see that when you overload your body you increase your risk of injury, infection, and disease. Even diseases like cancer. Cancer cells are constantly being produced in our system. Whether we end up with the disease depends on the strength of our immune system. As British Physician, Sir Peter Medewar used to say in lectures, "Cancer is a systemic disease, born of immune failure." Athletes and body builders have much higher rates of immune failure than those that are sedentary. In a well-known study, international Soviet athletes dwindled down to a handful only 4 months into the season because of illness caused by training overload. Elite American and British athletes also have more days off training because of illness than recreational athletes. Research shows that serious athletes of all disciplines do little to protect their immunity and are generally immune suppressed and prone to illness and injury.
Are you overtraining?
For some simple but effective rules of thumb that you can use to spot training overload, remember the acronym "HIBI."
H is for waking heart rate. Take your pulse immediately upon waking every morning, before you get out of bed. If your pulse is 8 beats or more above its average level for the past week, your immunity is overloaded. Don't train that day. Take a rest day to restore your immunity.
I is for insomnia. If your sleep gets erratic, despite being tired, it's a good sign of immune overload. Cut back on training and rest as often as you can.
B is for body composition. If your body fat percentage starts to creep up for no obvious reason you may be overtraining. Test your body fat percentage with skin fold calipers and enter your measurements at www.energyfirst.com.
I is for immunity. This test requires a complete blood count, but it's worth it if you are having training injuries or illness. Look for elevated levels of neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, or eosinophils. If you have no detectable illness or injury at the time of the test, you may be in immune overload.
If you discover that your immune system is in overload, cut back on training and get more sleep. Otherwise you risk losing months of gains to illness and injury.
There are certain nutrients that are proven immune boosters. We recommend you include them religiously in your daily regime.
Whey protein, particularly 100% whey protein isolate, has been proven to enhance your immunity. Whey protein contains higher levels of the amino acid Cysteine than any other protein. Cysteine is a precursor to Glutathione, your body's strongest antioxidant and the foundation of your body's immune system. In studies, Glutathione has been shown to enhance immunity by up to 500%. So, in addition to the muscle building qualities of whey, you also give your immune system a boost, which is why cancer clinics use whey in high doses to help rebuild their patient's immune system against further onslaughts of the disease.
Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids are also important for strong immunity. Athletes under severe physical or mental stress overproduce series 2 prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that regulate everything from inflammation and pain, to heart, liver, and kidney function. Series 2 prostaglandins promote inflammation and suppress immunity. Omega 3 essential fatty acid, form series 1 and 3 prostaglandins that help reduce inflammation. Avoid commercially raised red meat (organic, free-range wild game is acceptable), whole dairy, and other foods high in saturated fats. These foods contain arachidonic acid which promotes inflammation. Use 3 tablespoons daily of a raw seed oil or raw seed blend containing both omega 3 and 6 to ensure a strong immune system. Try the versatile Energyfirst OmegaEnergy Oil blend or OmegaEnergy Mix, in your Energyfirst shake or on salads.
Other nutrients, proven to be effective immune boosters are Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Beta-carotene and L-Glutamine.
These supplements are recommended not just for athletes and body builders, but for anyone seeking optimal health and performance.