The supplements highly recommended in this article for recovery and shattering your bodybuilding plateau for dramatic, noticeable gains in muscle size and strength are:
Most muscle enthusiasts who engage in intense, regular workouts sometimes become frustrated when strength and muscle gains slow, injuries occur more frequently and motivation drops off. I have heard countless bodybuilders and strength athletes blame their genetics or diet for their halted progress.
The most common remedy is to lift harder and more often. This typically results in compounding the reduced muscle and strength gains and lead to more injuries and greater frustration.
More often than not, slowed progress in the gym, lack of motivation and frequency of injuries are a direct result of overtraining syndrome. Some naïve, inexperienced bodybuilders and athletes are of the attitude that “there is no such thing as overtrainging, just under-eating.” That statement is dangerous, completely erroneous and results in stagnated growth, injuries and excessive body fat accumulation.
Signs of Over-training Syndrome
- Strength levels stagnant or reduced
- Sore joints
- Lack of motivation
- Reduced explosive power
- Onset of illness
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Extended period of delayed onset muscle soreness
I have noticed that those who do not believe that overtraining syndrome is real fail to make consistent progress. The fact is a disciplined approach to recovery and proper nutrition will reduce or eliminate the frequency of overtraining. An experience athlete is sensitive to his or her body and can recognize when their body is approaching the state of overtraining.
The following three recommendations will help combat overtraining syndrome and allow for continued, long term progress to levels of strength and muscularity.
1. Take an Extended Break from the Gym
As difficult as it may be to stay away from the gym for an extended period of time, it is often the best remedy when you have hit a wall with your progress. Many fitness professionals suggest taking a week off when evidence of overtraining appears.
I generally advise taking 10 to 14 days off from lifting at the onset of symptoms of overtraining. I understand that this statement may ruffle the feathers of seasoned athletes who swear that a break from the gym that lasts longer than 72 hours is detrimental to strength and muscle development.
An abundance of evidence exists that supports regular, extended breaks from resistance training for continued progression of strength and muscular development. These frequent periods of reduced training allows the nervous system to recover, muscle fibers to adapt and nutrients to saturate muscle cells. While a seven day period of recovery may be adequate for the casual exerciser, strength and power athletes would be better suited taking a break that lasts up to two full weeks.
An extended period of recovery is not a license to become a glutton or lazy slob. The purpose of the extended rest period is meant to provide the mind and body with the ingredients required for recovery.
Frequent, high quality meals will provide the muscles with the nutrients that they need to fully recover and store energy for future use. A full 8-9 hours of nightly sleep with a half-hour daily nap will help the mind and the nervous system recover from the stress of regular intense workouts. Participation in active, enjoyable, recreational activities will expose the body to a varied physical stimulus and allow the mind to divert its focus to events other than constant mental preparation and execution of intense workouts.
After a period of recovery of ten to fourteen days, the nervous system should be adequately recovered and the mind prepared to conquer new challenges. It is not uncommon for athletes to return to the gym following an extended break with greater motivation, enhanced explosive power and extended endurance. With proper nutrition during a period of recovery, the muscles should be saturated with glycogen and water upon return to the gym. Some of the best pumps can be experienced following an extended period of recovery.
2. Double Down on Creatine and Glutamine Intake
I am aware that that this recommendation is controversial and will be disputed by some of my fellow muscle enthusiasts. I don’t make this recommendation lightly. The fact is, creatine monohydrate and glutamine supplementation work. They both play a role in supplying depleted muscle cells with compounds that enhance recovery, increase explosive power and promote uptake of essential nutrients need for recovery.
The standard recommended dose of creatine monohydrate and glutamine is five grams daily. Doubling this quantity by taking five grams of each supplement twice daily will supply the muscles with an adequate quantity of the compounds needed for recovery during a period of overtraining. The argument that is frequently made when I recommend mega doses of creatine supplements is that the excess will be excreted and produce “expensive urine.” While it is true that oversaturation of creatine monohydrate will result in the excess being excreted, addressing overtraining and expediting recovery requires oversaturation to ensure that adequate amounts are being consumed.
3. Bump Up Caloric Intake
Just as taking an extended period of recovery is not a green light for becoming lazy; the recommendation of increasing caloric intake is not a license to binge on junk food. Increasing the quantity of quality food products along with rest from intense physical activity will provide an environment for recovery and recuperation of a fatigued mind, body and nervous system.
It is critical to monitor food consumption and ensure that the increased calories come from quality food sources. During the period of recovery it is acceptable to ingest a moderate amount of carbohydrate to allow glycogen stores to be replenished. Consumption of carbohydrates during the period of recovery will also help stimulate a serotonin response, which greatly influences the reduction of mental stress.
Adherence to the principles and recommendations that have been explained above will result in improved performance upon returning to the gym following an extended period of recovery. It is important to remember that levels of intensity should be cycled throughout the duration of all fitness programs.
When returning from an extended period of recovery, it is essential that intensity be dialed back a little bit to allow for continued progress. Jumping right back into an intense workout program will result in a rapid return to an overtrained state and stagnated growth.
For muscle enthusiasts, taking an extended period of recovery can be difficult. However, some of the greatest gains in strength and muscularity can occur in the weeks and months following a much needed period of rest and recuperation.
Once again, the supplements highly recommended for recovery and shattering your bodybuilding plateau for dramatic, noticeable gains in muscle size and strength are: