Is your exercise routine making you sick?
By Thomas DeLauer
2019 is upon us and we know you‚Äôre motivated and ready to make it a killer year! Our HYLETE Community Captain, Thomas DeLauer is here to remind you why it‚Äôs important not to overtrain.
Here to help you start this new year off strong, are 3 foods to improve your focus.
About Thomas DeLauer
From 280 lbs. to the magazine covers... All by living a lifestyle that is honest and real. Thomas DeLauer brings nutrition expertise along with a unique perspective on health and wellness that is everything HYLETE.
The following is a transcription of the above video:
I'm gonna make you one promise, and that promise is that realistically you're probably more likely to be overtraining than you are undertraining. Time and time again, people come to me and they think that they need to change something with their training, or they need to train a little bit harder, to get the desired outcome. The reality is training is just a small catalyst. The diet does most of the trick. But anyway, what I want to talk about in this video is truly what happens with overtraining and how you can know if you're overtraining, but ultimately what is happening within your immune system because it's truly fascinating, fascinating science. So, I beg of you to stick with me through this entire video. Some of the stuff is gonna be complex, but I promise I will circle it back with the analogies that I usually do to help it make a lot of sense.
So, what I want to talk about is the correlation between training and our cytokines, our inflammation system, our ability to fight infection, okay? So, we're gonna talk about this specifically and this is gonna be just one part of an overtraining series that I'm gonna do because to be completely honest overtraining has become a big part of my life recently. Having a newborn, I'm sleep deprived, and I'm starting to really feel the effects of training on my immune system. So, I figured what the heck? Let me share my experiences with you.
So, overtraining can essentially be described as when you're training vigorously, or you're training frequently, and you're training at a high intensity, yet you're still finding that your performance either decreases or stays stagnant. So, we might ultimately say that overtraining is the ultimate plateau maker. What we want to talk about here is how overtraining is weakening your immune system. So, the main thing is that when we are training we are suppressing our immune system. There's no two ways about it. We're causing this microtrauma, we're causing these little injuries to our muscles and to our joints that are occurring through natural training, but that suppresses our immune system. That's of course known as immunosuppression. But what we're starting to find now through various science is that overtraining has a very strong link with upper respiratory infections. Now, why upper respiratory infections? Well, they're easy to measure, so when we look at peer reviewed science, we look at the studies, it's easy to take a look at an upper respiratory infection because they usually can be contracted quickly and they're easy to measure and correlate with overtraining.
So with that said, let's jump right in to the first study. So, this study took a five month look at three different groups, okay? We had a sedentary group, we had an elite athlete group, and we had a recreational trainer or athlete group. And what they wanted to measure was the overall rate in which each of these groups would potentially acquire an upper respiratory infection. So, over five months, believe this, what they found is that the elite athletes, the ones that were training vigorously, the topnotch athletes in their field, well 66% of them ended up getting an upper respiratory infection. They ended up getting sick. 66%. Okay, then next up the sedentary group. 45% of the sedentary group ended up getting sick, okay? Then get this. The recreational athlete, the person just working out to stay healthy, 22% of those guys ended up getting an upper respiratory infection. That's powerful in and of itself, okay? Nothing is going to slow your training down more than getting sick. You're better off to skip a day at the gym than you are to risk getting sick and miss five days.
But let's take this a little bit further. This has to do with what is known as the Cytokine Hypothesis. And this is, of course, a hypothesis. Now, it's not this hasn't been proven, it's just that the science is new, okay? We're always evolving when it comes to science and the immune system, especially when it comes down to overtraining. So, remember how I said when you work out you trigger all kinds of microtrauma? Well, that microtrauma, of course, suppresses your immune system, but what that does later on down the line is it drives the development of T2 lymphocytes. I'm gonna explain that when we get towards the end of the video, and I promise this is super, super cool stuff.
But I had to mention it here because basically what I'm trying to say is we increase white blood cell activity. This white blood cell activity is what is normally there to help us modulate illness, to get rid of sickness, or to fight a cold, or fight the flu. So, this continued microtrauma that we're doing, whether we're running, whether we're lifting, or even if we're just doing calisthenics, it's constantly causing an increase in these specific cytokines, okay? 'Cause we have this systemic inflammation that's now occurring. So, we have an increase in the white blood cells producing interleukin 1 beta, interleukin 4, interleukin 6, interleukin 10, and of course what is called tumor necrosis factor 1 alpha.
Okay, before you leave this video because I just rattled off a bunch of cytokines, I want you to know that all that really means is it's your immune system. We have heightened levels of the immune system coming into play. And this isn't just the immune system that's required to heal our muscles, this is the immune system that's required to heal a lot of things, and that takes a lot of energy from the body. One thing we don't realize because it's out of sight out of mind, is that when our body kicks on our immune system it takes a lot of our energy, which therefore means that we're not able to recover, which explains why you're at that training plateau, which explains why every time you go into the gym and you're trying to increase your one rep max or you're trying to push your run a little bit further and you're just not seeing it, it's probably because you're activating your immune system and your body, of course, is gonna prioritize that over your training. Survival, fitness? Survival, fitness? Do the math.
But I've saved the really good stuff for now. 'Cause this science is where things get earth shattering. Okay, so there was a study that was published in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medicine. And what this study looked at was four groups, okay? We had a sedentary group, we had a moderately trained group, we had an overtrained group, and then we had a recovered overtrained group. The recovered overtrain group was a group that had overtrained in the past, but was two weeks post recovery. So, they had recovered for two weeks from being overtrained. So, what they wanted to look at was, what was happening with their cytokines and ultimately those T cells. Remember? I mentioned the T lymphocytes earlier?
Okay, so what they did is they measured 24 hours after workouts, and they measured two weeks after workouts to see what their cytokine activity was like. So, what they found was that the overtrained, and even the recovered overtrained group, when measured directly after a workout, they had a massive increase in tumor necrosis factor 1 alpha, interleukin 4, interleukin 6, and interleukin 10. Some of the most powerful cytokines when it comes down to getting sick. Now, guess what. The moderately trained group, after a workout had reduced levels of interleukin 4. It means those that were training a little bit more of a moderate pace actually had a better immune system. They were activating less of their immune system, meaning they had the ability to recover. Now, if that doesn't make you rethink your training a little bit, I don't know what will.
But to make matters even better, the moderately trained group had an increase in something known as interferon. Now interferon, we have just started to scratch the surface of what it really does, but the fact is it's still a cytokine, but it's a little bit different. You see, interferon means that your body is under control with its inflammation. All these other markers that we're looking at, the interleukin 6, 10, 4, tumor necrosis factor 1 alpha, what these mean is that our body's going haywire with the immune system. Interferon means that our body's in control of the immune system. So, we had a decrease in interleukin 4, but an increase in interferon, meaning the body was now able to regulate its immune system better, meaning it could laser target illnesses, not just heighten the immune system altogether when it sees an illness.
So, it's a difference between being able to laser target an infection that's gone in your body and zap it versus your whole body shutting down. Think chemotherapy for a second. You take chemotherapy to get rid of a cancer cell, but you take down all the other cells with it. Then you think interferon, it's like laser target, let's get rid of that, right? That's what we want. So, pretty interesting stuff. But then, we get into the even cooler stuff, and if you're still with me I give you major props 'cause I know this video's got a lot of science in it.
Now, we're looking at T1 and T2, okay? These are T cells. You've probably heard of T cells when it comes down to cancer before 'cause that's where they're the most talked about. But T1 are helper cells. They go around throughout your body and they place little tags on cells and foreign invaders to say, ""Hey, this is a bad illness. We need to do something with it."" They're a label maker. Then T2 comes along and it creates antibodies, and it allows the process of inflammation to occur to get rid of the illness. So, what they found is that the overtrained groups had a huge up regulation of T2, but down regulation of T1. Really bizarre stuff. What does this mean? Okay, so T1 is what's actually gonna fight the infection and label it and find it. So, we had a decreased ability to find infections, but we had an increased ability to create antibodies. Well, what the heck are we going to create antibodies for if we have nothing that's actually labeled? So, our body continues to up regulate antibodies. What's gonna happen? What happens if your body's immune system turns on with nothing to target? It starts to target your organs. It starts to target your thyroid, it starts to target all kinds of things. And that's how you end up with what is called an autoimmune condition.
So, now we have these hypotheses that are coming out and showing that overtraining doesn't just put you in a training plateau, but it actually could give you an autoimmune condition. This is something that I'm very, very familiar with. My wife has an autoimmune condition that affects her thyroid. So, we could actually be suppressing our immune system to the point where we cause continued immunosuppression even when we're not training. So, what am I saying here? What is overtraining? I guess the ultimate point here is you're probably gonna be better off doing less than doing more. You may think that that extra trip to the gym is gonna help you out. You're actually better off controlling your diet and letting the gym just be a small portion of what you do, and let it be enjoyable. And 'member if you take a day off, you might just finally break through that plateau. But either way, I'm just here to give you science. That's all I'm trying to do, give you the information that you need to make the best decision, and maybe just give you one little nugget of information that helps keep you from getting the cold or the flu this upcoming season.