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What is Post Exercise Fatigue?

The post-workout tiredness that the majority of people feel after an intense workout session is completely normal, after all, you’ve just expelled so much energy, both mental and physical, to get you through a period of intense exercise.

However, not everyone just feels slightly tired and in need of a sit down for ten minutes to catch their breath, because some people battle with post-exercise fatigue.

Although post-exercise fatigue isn’t an illness in its own right, people that deal with illnesses such as chronic fatigue (take a look at my own chronic fatigue journey), heart conditions, and respiratory conditions.

But what are the symptoms of post-exercise fatigue? Is it the same as just being overly tired in day-to-day life? How can you manage post-exercise fatigue if you suffer from it?

In this article, I’m going to answer all of these questions and share my personal experience dealing with post-exercise fatigue caused by chronic fatigue syndrome. So, let’s get into it!

Is Post-Exercise Fatigue The Same As Just Being Tired?

Most people go through periods in their life when they’re significantly more tired than normal, whether that’s due to high stress levels, anxiety, bouts of illness, malnutrition, or simply because of a lack of sleep.

If you’re going through one of these periods of time when you’re more tired than useful, you will most likely find that when you exercise you feel even more tired, naturally.

However, feeling a little tired after a workout or needing to do lighter exercise because your energy levels seem to be running low is not the same as suffering from post-exercise fatigue.

Post-exercise fatigue is a syndrome that stops people from exerting energy through exercise and physical tasks, and it has a variety of symptoms that come with it, such as extreme loss of energy, nausea, muscle pain, and dizziness.

Most people that suffer from post-exercise fatigue feel as if every time they exercise they have just developed a severe cold or flu, and in most cases, it’s debilitating to the point where the person suffering may need to spend days in bed to recover.

What Are The Symptoms of Post-Exercise Fatigue?

If you think you may be suffering from post-exercise fatigue, you will want to compare your symptoms after exercising to this list below, and if you are experiencing a selection of these symptoms you’ll need to keep reading to know how to manage and recover from post-exercise fatigue!

The symptoms of post-exercise fatigue are (but not limited to):

  • Extreme loss of energy
  • Extreme muscle pain
  • Feeling of extreme exhaustion
  • A feeling of stiffness all over the body
  • Nausea and in some cases, vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and clumsiness
  • Prolonged breathlessness
  • Prolonged increased heart rate.

Although these are the most common symptoms of post-exercise fatigue, the symptoms are not limited just to this list.

If you notice any obvious, major changes in your levels of energy, the severity of muscle and stiffness, and you’re suffering from breathlessness and increase heart rate for a prolonged time after exercise, follow the tips below to manage post-exercise fatigue and consult a medical professional.

However, if you experience these symptoms but only occasionally, or you’re experiencing similar symptoms but to a lesser degree, there may be other reasons for this, which I will take a look at at the bottom of this article.

Competing in Triathlon Competition

When I used to compete as a Triathlete before getting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Tips To Manage Post-Exercise Fatigue

Individual people deal with and manage post-exercise fatigue in different ways, as suits their body.

Some people change the intensity or type of exercise that they do, whilst others devise a plan that allows them to build up energy by resting and then exert small amounts of energy every so often in the form of exercise.

However, generally, there are specific things you can do to manage post-exercise fatigue, and this comes in two parts.

The first part of managing post-exercise fatigue is preparing for it before it even comes – these are all of the things you need to prepare or tackle before you even put on your workout gear.

The second part of managing post-exercise fatigue is recovering after you exercise.

To Prepare:

1.Make Sure You’re Hydrated

One of the very first things you need to do is make sure you are hydrated.

This doesn’t mean having a glass of water before your workout, it means ensuring you’re drinking between 3-3.5 liters of water per day, every day, and especially on the days when you exercise.

When you exercise, the body loses water through sweat and if you’re not fully hydrated you may succumb to dehydration which reduces energy levels, can cause dizziness and muscle pain.

So, reduce the likelihood of these symptoms by ensuring you’re fully hydrated before exercising.

2.Make Sure You’re Not Stressed

Stress is one of the most common reasons why you may have a weak immune system, high blood pressure, experience headaches, and have low energy levels.

So, if you suffer from post-exercise fatigue, you need to ensure that your stress levels are consistently low, and you will need to make an effort to significantly reduce your stress levels before exercise.

If you exercise when your stress levels are high, you will most likely worsen the symptoms of post-exercise fatigue because you have less energy to give to the workout in the first place and may actually already be experiencing some of the symptoms such as headaches and increased heart rate.

You can reduce stress levels in a few ways – you might want to try mindfulness practices such as meditation and journaling which require little energy, and you might want to consume adaptogens such as ashwagandha that help to reduce cortisol levels.

3.Make Sure You’ve Consumed The Right Nutrients

Ensuring you consume essential nutrients and have a healthy diet that supports your body and mind is an absolute must when you deal with post-exercise fatigue.

This is exactly why I created SuperGreen TONIK, to support nutritional intake and provide essential nutrients (more on that later!).

If you aren’t fuelling your body with essential nutrients, your body is going to suffer. Obviously, this goes for everyone, regardless of whether they suffer from post-exercise fatigue or not.

However, when you’re dealing with post-exercise fatigue, it’s even more important that you prioritize good nutrition to support all of your body’s natural processes and provide yourself with nutritional energy.

Therefore, you need to ensure you’re getting all the vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients you need to support your body and be in a state of optimal health.

If you’re not getting these nutrients through your diet, you may want to think about supplementing with a superfood powder.

Supergreen TONIK

4.Make Sure You’re Well Rested

Although post-exercise fatigue can occur regardless of how well-rested you are, to reduce the symptoms of post-exercise fatigue and to lower the likelihood of experiencing it, you need to make sure you’re well-rested.

This means that you need to be getting between 7-8 hours of sleep every night at an absolute minimum, and it may mean reducing your physical exertion on the day before you decide to exercise.

If you struggle to fall asleep or you have difficulty getting high-quality, deep sleep, you might want to try supplementing with herbal extracts that promote and induce sleep.

To Recover After Exercising:

1.Always Stretch and Try Foam Rolling

One of the most important things you need to do after exercising is stretch out your muscles because doing this is essential to lower the muscle tension in the body and reduce the level of stiffness and pain you may feel the following day.

Foam rolling can be useful because it increases blood flow to the muscles, assisting with repair and recovery, and reducing the likelihood and severity of muscle pain the following day.

Obviously, you may be exhausted after exercising, but make sure you prioritize post-workout stretching.

2.Allow Yourself Time To Recover

After exercising, it’s imperative that you take time to fully recover.

Do not push your body into another intense workout the next day as this is most likely going to increase the likelihood and worsen the symptoms of post-exercise fatigue.

Instead, plan different intensity exercises throughout the week, don’t work out until you feel as if your body has fully recovered, and even take a few days in between exercises if you have to.

If you overdo it, you’re only going to deal with more intense symptoms of post-exercise fatigue, so listen to your body and allow yourself time to rest and recover after exercising.

3.Hydrate and Nourish (Increase Protein)

After-workout nutrition and hydration are just as important, if not more important than pre-workout nutrition and hydration.

You exert energy and lose water when you exercise, therefore you need to top those levels back up to ensure your body is fully supported and your body can replenish itself and recover.

Consuming protein after exercising provides your body with amino acids that are essential in repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue, so try to ensure that your post-workout snack contains an adequate amount of protein to support your body.

4.Focus on Sleep

Just as keeping a consistent 7-8 hour sleep schedule is important in order to work out in the first place, it’s important to keep up with this, and sleep more if necessary, to make sure the body and mind are fully restored and repaired after exercising.

If you feel like you need to sleep more after exercising, that’s perfectly fine – listen to your body and give it what it needs to be able to function properly.

I am using a cool piece of tech called the Oura ring to help me track and improve my sleep – check out my Oura ring review here.

Oura Ring sleep tracker

My Personal Experience With Post-Exercise Fatigue – This Is Why I Created Super Green TONIK

Last year, in 2020, I had my 25 year anniversary living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

As a triathlete in my younger years and someone who was pretty much addicted to exercising, I experienced Glandular Fever one Christmas, but believing that I simply had a bad cold, I decided that I wasn’t going to let it hold me back and I pushed my body and continued with my intense exercise regime.

However, I was knocked back over and over again by Glandular Fever until I came to realize that I had no energy left in me, and I was spending 10-12 hours per day in bed.

For years after, I battled with chronically infected tonsils, illnesses, and extreme fatigue, which coupled with uninformed doctors meant that I realize my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome diagnosis until much later.

However, unable to exercise in the way that I used to and deeply missing the excitement that comes with putting on trainers and heading out for a run, I started on a mission to get myself from fatigued to healthy, looking at how to support my post-exercise fatigue in particular.

Creating and altering an exercise routine that suited me, focusing on sleep, hydration, and lowering stress, as well as getting really into nutrition, I started to see progress.

However, it was only with the creation and consumption of my super greens supplement, SuperGreen TONIK, that I reality found something that lifted me up, boosted my immune system, increased my energy levels, helped with recovery, and provided the full range of essential nutrients I was looking for to support my health and fitness journey.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is one of the biggest reasons that people experience post-exercise fatigue, so if you’re experiencing the symptoms of post-exercise fatigue and you’re worried that CFS could be to blame, check out my post on my journey with Chronic Fatigue and seek medical advice from someone that specializes in CFS.

Pouring SuperGreen TONIK drink

Why Am I Occasionally Experiencing These Symptoms?

If you’re only experiencing the symptoms of post-exercise fatigue occasionally or you’re experiencing similar symptoms but to a lesser degree, there may be a selection of reasons why!

1.You’re Not Sleeping Enough

If you’re not getting enough sleep, the likelihood that you’ll be tired after exercise or experience symptoms such as headaches and dizziness, as well as increase muscle pain is high!

If you don’t have enough sleep to properly support your body and give it the restorative recovery it needs, you’re likely to experience increased muscle pain and stiffness, as well as headaches.

In addition, if you’re already tired before working out, expelling energy through working out is only going to leave you feeling worse, leading to feelings of exhaustion.

2.You’re Not Getting The Right Nutrients To Support Exercise

If you’re not consuming essential nutrients daily or you have a particularly unhealthy diet filled with processed foods that cause you to feel sluggish and don’t add to your nutrient intake, you will most likely feel tired after exercising.

Not eating properly and missing out on essential nutrients can lead to lack of energy, dizziness, nausea, muscle pain, and headaches – the same symptoms experienced with post-exercise fatigue.

3.You’re Not Drinking Enough Water

Dehydration reduces your blood pressure, therefore reducing blood flow to the brain and muscles, meaning you’re more likely to feel tired, experience dizziness, and have muscle pain and stiffness if you haven’t consumed enough water.

What Can You Do?

If you’re experiencing similar symptoms to post-exercise fatigue or you’re experiencing these specific symptoms occasionally, follow the advice on the ‘Tips To Manage Post-Exercise Fatigue’ section of this article!

The Bottom Line

Post-exercise fatigue can be extremely concerning and frustrating, especially when you’re trying to get fitter, improve your lifestyle, or lose weight.

However, as long as you recognize it and know how to manage it, you will find that your symptoms get better and you’re able to exercise in a way that suits your body.

As always, remember to hydrate, properly nourish yourself, and listen to your body.

Adam Author

About the LifeHacker Guy

Hi, I'm Adam the founder of the LifeHacker Guy.

I have a First Class Honours degree in Sports Science from Brighton University, specialising in exercise physiology and nutrition. In my youth I was a competitive Triathlete and long-distance runner placing top 10 in most triathlon races I completed.

Since suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I moved into web development, after a couple of years I then moved onto developing a number of online businesses. I've recently taken a sabbatical and I'm now looking to make big changes in my life, hopefully this may resonate with you - join me in my journey!

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