Rhabdomyolysis (Rhabdo): The Dangers Of Overtraining

rhabdo rhabdomyolysis overtraining

No matter what your fitness goal is, we understand your desire to build muscle, get shredded, and set new personal bests. The problem is that impatience can lead to injury. If you try to shortcut your way to seeing gains, or if you take the approach that focuses on work and not recovery, there is a good chance that you’ll push your body too far. Case in point: rhabdomyolysis, or rhabdo for short.

Let’s explore rhabdomyolysis (rhabdo) including symptoms to look for, when to get to a hospital, and how to prevent it.


Rhabdomyolysis or rhabdo is sometimes confused with over-training. Let’s clear up the differences:


Over-training is when you push a muscle group or your central nervous system past the point of recovery. This could be a combination of too much work and not enough rest or adequate nutrition. In either case, hard-earned gains such as strength and muscle mass can be lost until your body is able to get sufficient rest and nutrition.

Overtraining is relatively common, especially for newcomers to weightlifting who do too much too quickly without a proper meal plan. Common symptoms include fatigue, mood swings, and extreme soreness. Overtraining can lead to strain and injury.


Pushing yourself during a workout is a good thing but there is a limit. Both overtraining and rhabdomyolysis involve pushing your muscle tissue too hard during a workout, but it’s the severity that differentiates them.

Rhabdomyolysis isn’t as common as overtraining, but it’s becoming more prevalent due to the growing popularity of extreme forms of exercise without proper recovery measures. For example, a newcomer to CrossFit may push their body far past their ability to adapt.

While overtraining isn’t terribly serious, and it’s usually resolved within a week or two, rhabdomyolysis is dangerous and it can lead to hospitalization. Rhabdomyolysis is when the body starts to break down muscle due to the trauma from an intense workout. This is bad news. Not only do you lose hard earned muscle but the breakdown of that muscle may damage your kidneys.

The symptoms of rhabdo include extreme soreness that will not go away, unexplained bruising, extreme fatigue, nausea, and fever. If you have rhabdo, you must seek immediate medical attention as the breakdown of the muscle tissue could lead to kidney damage.


Yes, it’s important to give it your all in the gym but without proper recovery, you’ll find yourself heading down the path to overtraining and possibly rhabdomyolysis. This is why it’s essential to focus on recovery as much as you do your training. Recovery takes place in three stages:

  • Rest / Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Supplementation


Sleep: It is the easiest part of your training. The damage you do inside the gym is repaired during healthy sleep. Experts agree that you should be aiming to get between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Some serious athletes such as bodybuilders or powerlifters get ten hours of sleep every night.

If you’re serious about gaining muscle and burning fat, then you’ll make sure there are no exceptions to how much sleep you get. Here are some tips and tricks to getting more and better sleep:

  • Turn off all electronics (e.g., phone, television, tablet) an hour before bed.
  • Read a physical book (not an e-reader)
  • Drink an herbal tea such as chamomile
  • Take a warm bath
  • Make sure your room is cool – not warm or hot
  • Consider a sleep supplement such as melatonin and ZMA


You’ve probably heard this over and over again but that doesn’t make it any less true: The results you see in the mirror are made in the kitchen. Nutrition makes up 70% of your results. This is why it’s so important that you spend time getting to know the kitchen, learning how to cook, and beginning to do meal prep.

The importance of nutrition can’t be overstated. It helps you achieve your fitness goals, but wholesome nutrition is also essential for everyday life. Your nutritional choices have a direct influence on the following:

  • Mood and how you feel
  • Alertness
  • Sleeping patterns
  • Rate of recovery
  • Immune system
  • Aging
  • Disease risk

If you’re currently eating a poor diet, it’ll be time to start making small changes to healthier options. You can’t out-train a bad diet. Check out our article on meal timing and muscle building for tips on proper nutrition.


Whole food meals should always be the bulk of your diet. Supplements are important but eating real food is critical for results. With that said, there are certain supplements that are safe to use in order to achieve your muscle building goals. Protein shakes, for example, are a safe and effective way to build lean muscle and reduce body fat. Here are five supplements for recovery that we recommend:

  • Whey protein
  • Branched-chain amino acids
  • Creatine
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin D


What things do you do to avoid overtraining or rhabdo? Do you have a fool-proof recovery plan? Tell us about it on our Facebook!

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