Whether you are starting to work out for the first time or you are a professional athlete, muscle fatigue is a normal side effect of exercise that may put a damper in your workout routine. Muscle fatigue is your body’s way of adapting to a fitness regimen and making you aware that you have reached your metabolic/psychological limit. Marla Ranieri, Physical Therapist, offers the following healthy lifestyle changes and workout tips for minimizing and preventing muscle fatigue:
1. Nutrition Maintain a well balanced diet that includes complex proteins, fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates. You should increase the amount of carbohydrates you eat beginning 7 days prior to exercising to about 40-60% of your caloric intake for aerobic athletes and 30-35% for anaerobic (nonaerobic) athletes.
2. Eating Schedule Eat a light meal or snack about 2 hours before working out. It is not recommended to work out on a full stomach or an empty stomach. Make sure to eat within one hour after you work out.
3. Hydration Drinking water throughout the day and drinking sports drinks during exercise is crucial to prevent dehydration, electrolyte loss and therefore muscle fatigue. It is recommended to drink 10-12 8-oz glasses of water daily. While exercising, it is recommended to drink 125-250 ml of an electrolyte-rich sports drink every 10-20 minutes or 1.5L per hour.
4. Endurance Improve your aerobic capacity. You can use a respiratory muscle-training device, or you can gradually increase your aerobic workouts with interval training to improve your endurance. The added boost of oxygen in your blood will keep your muscles working for longer periods of time and prevent lactic acid build up.
5. Body mechanics Use correct form when exercising. Pay attention to muscle imbalances and incorrect movement patterns; follow a regular stretching program. The right strength and flexibility will help you achieve correct form during exercising. If you can’t perform an exercise with proper form, then you need to either decrease your weight or modify the exercise.
6. Rest/Recovery Complete a warm up and cool down for 5 to 10 minutes each time you exercise. Start off slowly and gradually increase workout intensity levels so that your muscles are gradually challenged and can build over time. Allow adequate rest in between workout sessions and in between strength repetitions. If you experience fatigue, perform active recovery, which means participating in low impact, low intensity exercise such as walking, light swimming or yoga. Do not return to higher intensity exercise until you feel fully recovered and recharged.