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Running on empty

Special Thanks to Coffs Coast Nutrition for this article (see details below to get in contact with them to help with your own nutrition).

Inadequate nutrition is often overlooked as a cause of fatigue. In many cases some simple changes in eating habits can result in increased energy levels & significant improvements in performance. Nutritional causes of fatigue include carbohydrate depletion, skipping meals, poor timing of meals & snacks, low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia), dehydration, gastrointestinal problems, & nutrient deficiencies such as iron. Underlying medical issues also need to be ruled out.

Symptoms associated with fatigue may include one or more of the following: elevated resting heart rate, increased perception of effort when training, poor performance, chronic muscle soreness & pain, loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss, reduced resistance to infections such as colds & ‘flu, sleep disturbances, changes in mood (eg depression), or loss of enjoyment in training.

Heavy reliance on processed snack foods, combined with inadequate intake of wholegrains, lean meat, chicken or fish (or vegetarian alternatives) & dairy, along with insufficient fruit & vegetables can lead to long-term fatigue, poor immune function & general ill health. Some ‘good’ fats (eg omega 3) are also important. Excessive use of caffeine-containing foods to mask fatigue, can actually set up a cycle of chronic tiredness as caffeine can interfere with sleep patterns, making it difficult to get good quality sleep & leading to morning tiredness & more caffeine to start the day.

Endurance athletes require more carbohydrate than the ‘average’ person. Carbohydrate is an important energy source for athletes & is stored as muscle glycogen. This fuel must be constantly replaced. Athletes often think that they eat plenty of carbohydrates, however in reality they may be consuming the wrong types of carbohydrate foods or eating less than their actual requirement (eg eating a high carbohydrate meal the evening before competition does not necessarily mean that sufficient carbohydrate has been consumed in order to fuel the next day’s exercise).

Chronic low intake of carbohydrate in combination with regular training can lead to gradual depletion of glycogen stores & a feeling of prolonged fatigue. An increase in training load or exercise intensity can also place extra strain on glycogen stores. High intensity exercise can sometimes result in loss of appetite which exacerbates the problem. Symptoms of depleted muscle glycogen include heavy muscles & lack of energy when training, especially at high intensity. Very low carbohydrate intake on a long-term basis can lead to chronic tiredness, low muscle glycogen & loss of muscle. It may also result in poor concentration, depression & mood swings.

How well you eat after training & competition will make a huge difference to your recovery & performance in subsequent exercise sessions. The goals after exercise are to replace fluids, electrolytes, energy & carbohydrates in order to restore muscle glycogen & ensure more rapid recovery. Some protein is also needed after exercise to build muscle & help repair any muscle damage. The timing of carbohydrate & protein intake is crucial for recovery. After moderate-to-high intensity exercise, muscle does not start to replenish glycogen at a fast rate until carbohydrate is consumed. This means that effective recovery only starts after a high carbohydrate snack or meal is eaten.

If you would like a nutritional assessment of your diet & personalised advice to suit your individual requirements contact Coffs Coast Nutrition on (02) 6652 7529 or www.coffscoastnutrition.com.au. Consultations are available in person & via email or phone.

CoffsCoastNutrition_LogoSpecial Thanks to the Guys at Coffs Coast Nutrition for the article – if you are looking for some help on reducing fatigue or having more energy, give them a call and get them to help you.

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