Advice on Overtraining: Long Post.
I realize that many of you have read this already; I also realize that I've done this all before. Just consider me an idiot; please, I ask you, be patient with me. God knows I could use all the assistance I can get.
I've cross-posted this in my journal; but I thought that I might as well post it here to get as much input as possible, particularly from those who've had similar problems with overtraining/undereating.
First, read this: http://www.sportsci.org/encyc/drafts/Overtraining.doc.
Every symptom I have -- from my abnormal blood work to my severe night sweats -- is found in that document. I'm overtrained. Badly.
As for the rest of my situation, just read the post.
First, an example. Why this doesn't convince me that what I'm eating now -- 1800-1900 calories -- is woefully insufficient, why this isn't proof enough for me, I have no idea. I'm just an idiot, I guess.
After my period of most drastic weight loss -- a time during which I went from a very lean, athletic 145 lbs to an emaciated 110 lbs in but three months -- this is what was necessary for me to regain my weight. Note that at this time I was far less active than I am now; note also that I had no muscle whatsoever; note finally that it wasn't until two months after I began eating as I'm about to describe that we discovered that my testosterone production had entirely ceased (I required test. supplementation.) So we have: 110 lbs, little activity (only ignorant and poorly-designed weightlifting three days a week), no muscle, and no testosterone. And this is what I ate.
I remember the breakfasts my father rose early to cook for me, the ones he forced himself to eat as well -- he sacrificed his own fitness, his own leanness, that I might, by his example, gain weight myself. I remember the thick ham steaks (which my father, unbeknownst to me, surreptitiously coated in trans-fat free margarine before cooking -- to secretely increase, of course, the caloric content) fried in olive oil. I remember the heaping plates of crisp hashbrowns sodden with oil and drenched in ketchup. I remember the sides of margarined-toast topped with over-veryeasy eggs. I remember the 16oz mugs of soy milk and orange juice, the sweetened coffee, the sides of jam. Or he would fry thick pancakes (from batter thickened, again without my knowledge, with soy milk and extra eggs, with olive oil or cups of sugar) topped with the same trans-fat free margarine and oceans of syrup, served with eggs and toast and steaks and sausuages, with orange juice and soy milk. He cooked massive breakfasts, lumberjack breakfasts. And I ate them all. And I followed with a large snack three or four hours later, a large (800-1000 calorie)lunch, a large snack in the afternoon, a snack after those poorly-designed lifting sessions, a huge homecooked dinner (which my parents made damn sure I ate every bite of), and a snack before bed. All this, without activity, without muscle, without testosterone.
And the weight didn't come back on. And then, agonizingly slowly, it did. A pound a month; two pounds a month. No more. And what little weight I gained was muscle. It took long, long months to see any weight gain at all; even at the end of six months, I had barely gained five or six pounds, to be honest.
Compare that to the diet on which I've been starving myself now. Compare that to how screwed up I've become.
Now, the evidence:
Personal, Historical Evidence:
1) I've always had a very fast metabolism -- I've always been extremely lean. Even when I was far less active than I am now, even when, at fifteen, I neither lifted nor trained regularly, I never exceeded 135-140 lbs, and I always had abs. Partly this was due to my allergies, of course; but even within the limitations imposed by my condition, I was always able to eat whatever I wanted, and as much as I wanted, without any consequences. And I did. I ate a ****load; I was always hungry. And then I went anorexic.
2) After my drastic weight loss, when I was lifting stupidly, when I had no muscle, when I weighed a mere 110lbs, when I had no testosterone whatsoever, I could barely gain weight at an obscene caloric intake. This, of course, only further demonstrates my metabolic needs.
General Scientific Evidence:
1) Metabolic set points are highly resistant to change. Witness the seminal "overfeeding" studies on prison inmates; witness the difficulty any formerly-obese person has in keeping lost weight off. This is scientifically documented and well-established.
2) Anorexic individuals typically require far greater caloric intakes to gain and maintain weight than would be predicted by their body weight alone. This too is well documented.
3) Individuals in a severely overtrained state typically, upon refeeding, show rapid protein synthesis and minimal fat deposition. This is thought to be an adaptive mechanism to facilitate the recovery process in a time of exigency. This too is scientifically substantiated.
1) I'm at an unhealthfully low BF% -- tested at 5% -- and I show every symptom of severe overtraining -- immune suppression, some anemia, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, lethargy, depression, fatigue, malaise, rapidly-decreasing gym performance, a constant feeling of "flatness," no appetite, digestive difficulties, weight loss, etc... I'm in a state well-described by points 2 and 3 in the scientific evidence. I'm sickly ripped.
2) I'm far, far more active than I've ever been in the past. I lift HEAVILY, typically to and past failure, four days per week; I have very high testosterone levels now, thanks to the necessary exogenous supplementation; I have far more muscle, relative to my low weight, than I did at any previous point in my history; I have to walk, while carrying a heavy backpack, upwards of one hour each day, and often as much as two; I have to do alot of biking; and I've been doing two hard HIIT sessions per week to boot. I always fidget; I rarely sit. Compare these activity levels to those in my past, those I evinced in times when I ate FAR MORE than I do now.
When you examine all of these factors together, from my metabolic history to my current activity levels, you get an idea of just how much I need to be eating. For god's sake, after my drastic weight loss, look at how much I needed to eat to gain weight -- and I weigh more now, have more muscle now, have twenty times more testosterone now, have ten times higher activity levels now, etc... My daily diet now is less, I think, than my breakfasts were then!
Okay, that's that. I hope today will be better. I feel a plan forming; it's yet nascent, yet ill-defined, but I'm working on it. I'm going to try to take some time off, to take a step back. I need to. I'm working myself into the ground. I haven't taken any time for myself in ages; all I've been doing is lifting and walking and HIITing and working and studying and going to and from class etc...
Okay, that's that. Now, I'm going to cut out HIIT, obviously; but I'd like to try to keep lifting. Is this wise? What else should I do? Any ideas at all? As for diet, I have two main problems (aside from allergies):
1) No appetite at all / digestive difficulties.
2) The overall tiredness/malaise/lethargy/depression caused by the overtraining -- I simply have no desire to eat, no sense of what I want to eat, etc...
Would I be better off to try and slowly increase my caloric intake, still calculating and regimenting it, or to just force myself to eat everything in sight, without thought of carbohydrate/protein/fat breakdowns, percentages/etc... (assuming, of course: A) sufficient protein intake; and B) within the severe limitations imposed by my allergies.) Based on the evidence I presented, what should I be aiming for? 3000? 4000? The post-weight loss experience seems to indicate I need a hell of a lot to gain weight.
Any thoughts/advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again.
And please, bear with me. I know I'm an idiot. Just know that, for once, I truly am committed to change -- I hit rock bottom not too long ago (see my journal for details) and I'm done with the obsessions that were my life. It's just a slow process to change old habits, you know?