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How Tired Should You Feel After a Workout?

July 10, 2017
Lesley, a fellow fitness friend, took my spin class recently and texted the following:
Hey! 🙂 class was great and felt like a good workout. This afternoon I’m feeling super zapped though. Do you have advice for how to have more energy for the rest of the day if you workout in the morning? Is it normal to be tired after?
The answer is yes, it’s normal to be tired after a hard workout.
The apparently paradoxical solution for being less tired after workouts is to be more regular in working out. When you develop that consistency, your heart and body get stronger and better able to handle intensity and endurance, or activity over time. The American Heart Association recommends 5 30-minute cardio workouts per week, 3 of which include intervals that increase the heart rate to vigorous.
If you begin such a regimen, you’ll be a little more tired for a few weeks. Typically getting enough sleep, or a little more sleep, will help deter any weariness due to the increased activity level. But after that, your body will get used to, and come to rely upon, that rush of endorphins. Instead of feeling tired after a workout, you’re more likely feel energized.
If you’re feeling completely zapped, however, it’s time to check a few workout considerations:
  1. Dehydration can cause prolonged lethargy. If you haven’t already, develop a daily water consumption habit. I recommend getting a water bottle you like, which allows you to know the volume of water you’re drinking. Then decide how many times a day to fill the bottle and drink the contents so you never have to guess how much water you’ve consumed. Choosing set times to drink really helps. For example, I automatically drink my water at breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you workout, consider adding 1 more water bottle per day to your routine.
  2. Even if you’re hydrated, being low on sodium, potassium, calcium and other electrolytes can cause pronounced lethargy along with other symptoms that can become life-threatening. I bought a can of dried electrolyte drink mix at the grocery store. If I know I’ll be working out for longer than an hour (i.e., a hike) or will sweat more than normal (hot yoga) I put a scoop of the mix into one of my water bottles.
  3. Allergies can also cause fatigue. Even though I might remain well hydrated, and sufficiently up on electrolytes, I might come home from mountain biking or hiking feeling zapped just due to the allergens I inhaled while outside.
  4. Lastly, a common source of undue fatigue after a workout may be due to insufficient sleep. Take a look at how much sleep you’re getting. Even a few days of suboptimal sleep — 6.5 hours when your optimal length of sleep  is 7.5 or 8 — can lead to increased cortisol levels and feeling constantly tired.

I’d be remiss in not mentioning some people do experience exercise intolerance, what Wikipedia describes as “a condition of inability or decreased ability to perform physical exercise at what would be considered to be the normally expected level or duration. It also includes experiences of unusually severe post-exercise pain, fatigue, cause, vomiting or other negative effects.” Typically such reactions are the result of one or several other disorders, so contacting a doctor to determine the underlying causes is necessary.

Other questions? Let me know!

Happy working out!




From → Archive, Science

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