Are You Overtraining and Under-Eating?

Written by: Sarah Gilbert


Healf Journal

The focus on health and well-being is more prominent than ever. We are inundated with messages endorsing intense workouts, strict dietary plans, and the notion that there's a so-called 'optimal' diet for every conceivable health goal. Yet, as we embark on the journey towards a healthier life, we may find ourselves unintentionally crossing the murky waters of overtraining and under-eating. While our intentions may be positive, the imbalance of too much training and not enough eating may be doing more harm than good to our overall well-being. 

What is overtraining?

Exercise is undoubtedly one of the best things you can do for maintaining good physical health and mental wellbeing, but there's a fine line between a challenging workout and consistent overtraining.

Overtraining occurs when the intensity and frequency of your workouts surpass your body's ability to recover. The signs can be subtle at first: fatigue, decreased performance, and even changes in mood. As you push harder, thinking it will lead to better results, you may find yourself facing a plateau or, worse, experiencing injuries.

Intensive and prolonged exercise elevates stress hormones, particularly cortisol. While moderate exercise is known to have stress-reducing benefits, excessive training can lead to a chronic increase in cortisol levels. This, in turn, can disrupt the delicate balance of the body's stress-response system which can compromise immune function and result in reduced energy levels, poor sleep quality and mood changes.

While the intention behind pushing oneself in workouts is often positive, it's important to understand that more isn’t always best. Striking the right balance between exercise and recovery is key to reaping the benefits of a healthy lifestyle without inadvertently subjecting the body to more stress.

The Pitfalls of Under-Eating

For those living an active lifestyle, not getting enough calories in can be a common issue. Under-eating can hinder training performance, as well as overall well-being.

Signs that you might be under-fuelling:

  • Feeling low in energy
  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Poor concentration
  • Loss of menstrual cycle
  • Poor recovery from exercise
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Brittle hair, skin & nails
  • Increased sensitivity to the cold

For your body to function at its best, it needs a well-rounded supply of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. We can get this from eating an abundant variety of whole grains and legumes, lean proteins, healthy fats (think nuts, avocado, salmon, olive oil), fruits and vegetables (and drinking plenty of water!). Consider food as the energy that sustains your everyday life, a shield against illness, and the power that drives your workouts. Emphasise the importance of nourishing your body, viewing it as a vital source of energy and support for you to be your best, every day.

Striking the Right Balance

Finding the equilibrium between exercise and nutrition is key to achieving long-term wellness and getting the maximum from your training. A balanced approach that considers both physical activity, proper nutrition and recovery is key.

Here are some tips to help you avoid overtraining & under eating:

  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to signs of fatigue, soreness, or persistent lack of motivation. These could be signs that your body needs rest.
  • Diversify your workouts: Incorporate a variety of exercises into your routine, including strength training, cardio, and flexibility exercises. This not only prevents boredom but also ensures that different muscle groups are engaged.
  • Fuel your body: View food as fuel for your body rather than a means of restriction. Consume a well-rounded diet rich in whole foods to provide the nutrients your body needs for optimal function.
  • Prioritise recovery: Allow time for your body to recover by incorporating rest days into your schedule. Activities like yoga, meditation, and adequate sleep can also contribute to overall recovery.


The quest for optimal health should be rooted in balance, mindfulness, and a genuine desire for your well-being. Give your body the TLC it deserves: listen to your body, nourish it with wholesome foods, and find joy in a well-rounded approach to health and fitness.


This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Healf