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Workout Fatigue: How To Identify It & Prevent It

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Workout Fatigue: How To Identify It & Prevent It
Fitness Hangover

Have your muscles ever been so sore after a workout you’ve struggled to pull up your jeans or walk up the stairs? Perhaps your workout routine is leaving you feeling constantly tired? You might have been experiencing post-workout fatigue.

When you train hard or start to move again after time off from exercise, it’s normal to sometimes feel a bit tired or encounter DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) in the days after your workout. While normal bouts of tiredness may occur occasionally or last for short periods and DOMS should subside after a few days, significant fatigue can hang around for much longer — and can even impact your health and day-to-day life.

So how can you identify (and prevent!) this fatigue? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is post-workout fatigue? 

Workout fatigue is a result of overtraining or pushing yourself too hard. It can leave you feeling tired, your muscles sore and your body aching for long periods — and that’s just the beginning.

Signs of workout fatigue

Here are some of the symptoms of workout fatigue  — that go beyond the effects on your physical health.

Poor sleep

Overtraining can result in a nervous system or hormonal system overload which can impact your sleep

When you’re sleeping, your body produces hormones that facilitate muscle recovery. If your sleep quality is poor, your body will produce fewer recovery hormones and instead produce stress hormones like cortisol

A 2017 review published in Nature and Science of Sleep journal discussed the consequences of disrupted sleep and concluded  “short-term consequences include a heightened stress response; pain; depression; anxiety; and cognition, memory, and performance deficits.”

Poor quality sleep doesn’t just make you tired - it can also affect your mood, stress levels, and cognitive function. 

Lowered immune system 

When you overtrain and don’t get enough rest, your body is in a catabolic state, where your body breaks down both fat and muscle.

During this state, your body isn’t able to repair damaged muscle tissue and therefore cannot fully recover, which is when your immune system can become compromised.

A 2019 review published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science, found the risk of illness may be increased when an athlete competes, goes through repeated cycles of unusually heavy exertion, and experiences other stressors to the immune system. 

Prone to aches, pains and injuries 

Consistently overtraining can potentially make your body more prone to long-term injuries. 

The American Council on Exercise states that overused muscles and joints can cause constant aches or joint pain. “Pain that does not subside in two weeks (or so) should be considered a notable injury.”

Exercise Hangover

How to prevent workout fatigue 

Prevention is the best cure — here are some of the best ways to avoid workout fatigue.

Don’t skip your warm-up or cool-down

According to the Mayo Clinic, a proper warm-up and cool-down may reduce stress on your heart and other muscles. 

Warming up your body is important to increase blood flow to the muscle groups you are about to train is an important part of any workout. Mayo Clinic also highlights that warming up may help reduce muscle soreness and lessen your risk of injury.

A cool-down doesn’t need to be complex or take a long time. Just 5-10 minutes on a treadmill (walking or jogging) will increase the blood flow around your body.

You might also like to complete some static stretches as part of your cool-down routine, where you hold a single position for 10 seconds or longer to help promote flexibility and range of motion. 

Rehydrate after your workout 

The British Heart Foundation recommends 6-8 glasses of fluid a day. Staying well-hydrated is always important, but even more when you're training regularly. 

According to health experts at WebMD, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout, and you shouldn’t rely on thirst alone to tell you how much you need to drink. Often, by the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated! 

As a guide, you should aim to drink about two cups of fluid prior to a workout and continue to hydrate every 15-20 minutes during the workout. If you’re exercising for an hour, aim to drink around two cups of liquid, then more when you’ve finished.

If you don’t enjoy drinking water, try adding some fresh fruit to your water or drinking herbal teas, such as ginger or peppermint tea.  

Have a post-workout snack 

The Mayo Clinic suggests opting for a post-workout meal that includes both protein and carbohydrates to help your muscles recover and replenish their glycogen stores.

A protein smoothie or bliss balls are quick and easy options when you’re in a rush, but there are lots of foods that can help with muscle recovery!  

Schedule rest days 

According to Michigan State University in the US, rest and recovery days are an important part of any exercise program. Rest gives the body time to repair, adapt and strengthen itself in between workouts, as well as replenishing muscle glycogen (energy stores) and allowing body tissue to repair.

Without adequate rest and recovery, you may not see your performance and ability increase in future workouts.

Follow a progressive workout program 

Following a workout program that progresses gradually in complexity and intensity as your strength and fitness improve can help prevent the muscle soreness and workout fatigue that happens as a result of overtraining. 

Most programs in the Sweat app get progressively more difficult, and some programs even have foundational weeks to guide you through the basics. 

How to recover from workout fatigue 

If you’re already feeling fatigued, these prevention measures mentioned above will also help you to recover. Making rest and recovery a priority, drinking plenty of fluids and ensuring you maintain a healthy and balanced diet can ensure you help promote muscle recovery and replenish your energy stores so that you can bounce back to your training feeling your best.

If your fatigue or soreness doesn’t seem to be improving with rest, it’s best to see your healthcare professional for advice.

Take care of your body 

Self-care is where it’s at if you want to avoid fatigue. Instead of waiting until you feel burnt out, focus on prevention, listening to your body and being aware of your limits. 

A healthy diet that includes plenty of water and protein will help you to keep on track with your health and fitness goals, and stretching before and after your workouts can help you avoid any prolonged muscle soreness.

If you do find yourself suffering from workout fatigue, make sure to prioritise your health and take as much rest as you need.

Have you experienced workout fatigue and have some helpful tips of your own? Comment below!

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.

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