Can Too Much Exercise Prevent Weight Loss

by Marixie Ann Obsioma
Published on December 4, 2019 and last updated for accuracy on December 5, 2019

People often make declarations to swear off junk food forever and sign up for a membership at the gym, especially after the holidays. Out of the eagerness to lose weight instantaneously, most of them will take more than a single class or spend a couple of hours at the gym.

Many will speed up their efforts and hit the gym every day for hours when preparing for a beach trip or an event while some just prefer to work out regularly to meet their body weight goals in no time. Whatever your reason is, if you are hitting the gym and doing a lot of physical activities recently and still not seeing your desired results, then it is time you learn the truth why working out too much is not the best way to go.

Working out daily to reach your weight goal seems like a great idea. In your head, maybe if you double your efforts, the results will be worth it. But, what if you are exerting too much on something and it ended up just being counterproductive? Would you still want to do it?

Athletes, who are used to extreme training on a regular basis, also suffer from reduced performance and slight fatigue. According to one study, if there is no balance between recovery period and training, overreaching or overtraining may be experienced (1). Mind you, even these professionals may miscalculate. When done incorrectly, exercising might lead your fitness level to plateau and cause muscle over-fatigue. Scroll down to know more!

What Happens When You Have Done Too Much Workout?

A particular study weighed in the correlation between running and lifespan. It showed that light and moderate runners develop 30% less risk of death from all causes compared to non-runners. While people who go running or sprinting three times weekly have an equal risk of dying as non-runners. It seems that more is not better when it comes to exercising (2).

Too much of something is never a good thing. This phrase also applies to physical activities. Too much workout can lead to the following:


  • Weight Loss Plateau


Over-exercising, in the long run, can hinder your weight loss as it prevents the body’s ability to burn fat. When you spend too many hours at the gym, your body’s overall cortisol level gets an immediate boost. The body responds to stress in the same manner. However, since the body is not equipped to decipher the sources of stress, it just responds to it like business as usual. 

Once your cortisol level soars high, your body will be unable to focus on fat burning. It will prioritize balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system first. Research on adults showed that if a physical effort is exceeded, the increase in cortisol level serves as the body’s way to respond to its intensity and duration (3).


  • Exertional Rhabdomyolysis


This is a rare but quite severe condition caused by too much working out. The muscle cells explode and its components enter the bloodstream. Problems like muscle soreness, weakness, and dark urine are some of the most common symptoms (4).


  • Female Athlete Triad


Women who overtrain are at risk for developing “female athlete triad.” The triad’s three corners are osteoporosis, disordered eating, and menstrual problems. This condition is a result of intense training and minimal energy intake. Sometimes, psychological stress can also be a factor (5).


  • Impaired Immunity


A lot of physiological processes and body systems can get affected by over-exercising. However, the immune system is particularly susceptible to degradation. When this happens, you are likely to suffer in terms of overall health, let alone performance (6). Long periods of intense exercise can impair immunity, rendering you susceptible to bacteria and viruses. Moderate exercises usually help boost the immune system, but intense and excessive exercise can put an end to it. 


  • Sexual Dysfunction


For men, it can affect sexual function. Doing regular high levels of progressively intense and long endurance training can lead to decreased libido in men (7). 


  • Addiction


If you think there is no such thing as exercise addiction, there is. Exercise addiction is a psychological problem. A person who is affected by this issue shows an obsessive and compulsive behavior on working out. Additionally, he or she constantly seeks for that “high” as a reward for overtraining (8).

All of these negative effects are downright alarming. The question is, are you doing it?

What is Too Much Exercise, Anyway?

First, there are some determinants that totally depend on a person. If you are hoping for a particular number of hours or days a week, there is no one answer. It depends on certain factors like health status, age, and workout options. 

Generally speaking, adults should have about five hours of moderate exercise weekly. For those who favor intense workouts, two and a half hours is enough time. If you want to mix up your workouts, you need to find the proper combination of the two. 

To give you an idea on what the sufficient length of a moderate exercise is, thirty minutes of physical activity daily is good enough to fight off high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar levels. Prolonging it will not make you healthier (9).

One way to distinguish if you are a health enthusiast or an addict is by understanding how you view workouts. If you organize your exercise depending on your availability, you are the former. If you adjust everything so you can fit in a workout, it is safe to say you are the latter. Of course, not everyone who overexerts efforts at the gym is an addict. So, it can be difficult to determine if you are overdoing it or not. 

Are You Working Out Too Much?

Maybe you can’t tell if you are because you’re pretty sure you are doing a good job maintaining your weight. You do encounter hiccups along the way, but you quickly recover from them anyway. But, is it enough to brush these off? Are you concerned that you have done your workouts repeatedly to the point that you reached a plateau? The negative effects need not be extreme. If you have experienced a lot of the signs below, then you might be overdoing it. Maybe you should take it down a notch.

1. You Are Getting Injured Quite Too Often

Most people who suffer from aching joints, aching back, and painful knee just blames improper posture. What if there is more to it than that? Repeating the same workout over and over again can lead to muscle overuse. True enough, there are many factors such as techniques, training, situational, heredity, and many others that can lead to overuse injury (10). However, it is also possible that you are not giving your muscles and joints enough time to recover after a strenuous workout.

2. Your Performance Is Dwindling

Practice makes perfect, right? So, why is it that the more you work out, the crappier your performance gets? Sure, it is a bit ambitious to strive for perfection. But, you expect to see improvements at least. So, why is it that you can’t seem to run the same distance as you did the other day? Well, it probably has something to do with the fact that overtraining can lead to some hormone level changes and muscle breakdown. You need to give your body ample time to recover.

3. Your Muscles Are Just Super Sore

When muscle oxidative stress becomes chronic, reactive oxygen species such as hydrogen peroxide can lead to inflammation and muscle soreness (11). If the soreness takes days to go away, it is your body’s way of telling you to take it easy. 

4. You Are Not Getting Enough Sleep

Moderate exercise can help you sleep better at night, but too much exercise can keep you wide awake. With the increase in hormones cortisol and adrenaline as a response to physical stress, you will find it hard to fall asleep easily or experience quality sleep.

5. You Have Become Too Anxious And Sensitive

Regular workouts have been helpful to people with anxiety.  The increase in physical activity has a good impact on biological and psychological mechanisms (12). But if you have been highly irritable, insecure, and unfocused lately, maybe you should think about how your physical overexertion might be causing your psychological stupor.

6. You Have Lost Your Appetite

One study suggested that the physiological training stress placed on the participants may have something to do with decreased ghrelin level (13). Ghrelin is a hormone that is responsible for stimulating one’s appetite. At the same time, overtraining also have increased levels of peptide YY, which is an appetite suppressant. 

7. You Are Getting Sick More Frequently

As mentioned earlier, overtraining reduces immunity. So if you have been susceptible to colds and cough recently, you might need to fuel up on vitamin C and minimize your workout’s intensity and duration.

8. You Get Tired Easily

Workouts take up energy, so it is normal to feel tired afterward. What is not normal is to feel tired for the rest of the day. If you are experiencing loss of vigor that is totally different from the typical fatigued state, you need to tone down your workout (14).

How to Avoid Doing Too Much Workout?

It is so easy to cross the line between a health enthusiast and an overtraining exercise machine (not the ones you use at the gym), so here are some tips you need to avoid over-exercising.

1. Listen to Your Body

Always listen to what your body is telling you. Have you been experiencing the majority of the symptoms listed above? If yes, then maybe you should rethink heading to the gym today and just do some stretches at home. Your body gets overworked and the way to build healthy and lean muscles is to give them some time to rest.

2. Monitor Your Workouts

Writing it down in a diary will help you form a strategy on what works well for you. Put all types of exercises you did in a day and add details regarding speed, intensity level, weight, and the number of sets and reps you did per activity. This can be your basis for identifying unhealthy or unproductive patterns, so you will not do things the same way again.

3. Give Yourself A Break

Recovery time is just as crucial as training. It is a part of the program that is often overlooked. Your downtime should not be synonymous to laziness. The more intense your workout is, the greater the muscle recruitment. This means that there is a bigger chance for the body to suffer from soreness and damage. Muscle recovery is greatly influenced by the training performed. Working out for two or three days in a week should equate to one to two days of rest in between sessions (15). Taking a break is also a good way to keep your motivation rolling. If you get fed up from working out, you might not continue in the long run.

4. Monitor Your Fluid Intake

Immediately after working out, you should load up on fluids by consuming six to twenty ounces of your favorite sports drink or just plain water. After that, you can eat nutrient-dense meals within an hour of working out. By doing these, you can help your muscles recover faster from the intense training you just had. Also, fueling up will keep you energized for the remaining hours of the day.

5. Sleep Well

Getting enough rest is one of the most favorable things you can reward yourself with. If you are regular in exercising, you need to sleep well to repair your muscles. Sleep and adequate exercise are important in maintaining health. A study suggests that these two provide substantial great effects on each other (16). Have a regular sleep schedule and if you can, go and take that nap!

Take-Home Message

There is a thin line between proper training and overtraining. The differences are not that obvious if you aren’t familiar with the symptoms. But, don’t worry! With the tips mentioned above, you can easily dismiss overtraining as something else. If you are always at the gym, maybe it is time you mix up your workouts or give yourself a break.


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