The best way to deal with the effects of overtraining -- known as Overtraining Syndrome -- is to prevent rather than treat the condition. That's the recommendation in a joint consensus statement on OTS from the European College of Sport Science and the American College of Sports Medicine.
Overtraining Syndrome occurs when excessive overload in workouts combines with inadequate recovery. Although overload is necessary to improve performance, it’s difficult to know when an athlete has been pushed over the limit.
Symptoms of OTS can include insomnia, headaches, fatigue, irritability, depression, injuries and a sudden drop in performance. If an athlete has OTS, he or she may need to reduce or stop training altogether to allow for adequate recovery.
Although several markers are used to identify OTS—including hormones, performance tests and psychological tests— “none of them meet the necessary criteria to make its use be generally accepted,” according to the abstract.
Because no simple diagnostic test exists to identify the problem and there is no evidence that OTS can be quickly treated, the focus should be on prevention.
The experts suggest these guidelines to help keep safe during training:
1. Follow a periodized training program with sufficient recovery times
2. Take a least "one passive rest day" per week
3. Get adequate sleep
4. Eat enough calories; that is, don't lose weight unintentionally
5. Don't let your glycogen supplies get depleted. Eat enough carbs to get you through increasingly tougher workouts.
6. Avoid excessively monotonous training routines
7. Keep a training log, and don't be afraid to adjust or skip workouts when you are overly fatigued.