Okay, here’s a weird question for you, how do you know if you’re just sleepy, or if your tiredness means something more? I’m not talking about when you’ve had a crazy Saturday night and wake up dusty on Sunday. I’m talking about our sportspeople, athletes and gym junkies!

At the elite level, or when you’re used to training pretty hard, you are always tired. Early wake up calls, pushing yourself to your limits and working your muscles constantly takes it out of you; but you can generally tell the difference between ‘healthy’ tiredness and ‘abnormal’ tiredness. Healthy tiredness can be reversed with a day of two of reduced training loads or rest. Abnormal tiredness however, especially when accompanied by decreased athletic performance that doesn’t go away after a short time is cause for a little more investigation.

Questions to ask

  • Are you constantly fatigued or only tired after training
  • Are you more prone to tiredness in certain locations (like a hot climate) this could mean training adaptations and acclimatisation isn’t up to scratch, or dehydration could be to blame
  • Was the onset of prolonged tiredness after any particular event (like an overseas holiday) is jet lag an option?
  • Are there any other symptoms like shortness of breath, pain, and discomfort or chest tightness

Asking yourself if you could have exercised induced asthma or a respiratory infection

These are all things that will help paint a bigger picture, determining the cause and possible triggers.

Common causes of tiredness in sportspeople

  • Overtraining
  • Inadequate carb and/or protein intake
  • Inadequate iron stores
  • Insufficient sleep (duh)

Why are these things causes of fatigue?

Iron deficiency, inadequate macronutrient intake, vitamin deficiency and dehydration can all be factors leading to fatigue and performance detriments. But the good news is, if you get it early, it’s totally preventable. This is why a whole, balanced and nutritious diet is paramount! Iron deficiency is most common in endurance athletes, menstruating females and vegetarians; getting sufficient iron in your diet through red meat, lentils, tofu or if need be, supplements, can counteract this. Inadequate carbohydrate intake. WHAT? WHO HAS TROUBLE EATING CARBS?! But, it’s a thing. A serious one at that. Glycogen is a major energy source for our bodies to move and perform, stores therefore deplete after an intense bout of exercise, and it is so important to adequately replenish these depleted stores ideally within 30 minutes of completing exercise. Failure to do so will lead to further depletion after your next session which will result in a lack of available energy causing FATIGUE. What about protein; this goodness found in lean meat, fish, eggs and a bunch of veggies and lentils provides about 10% of the bodies energy needs through converting amino acids to glucose. Muscular contractions break down protein stores; so refuelling your body with what’s broken is essential for rebuilding and replenishing the muscles you’ve worked so hard to get!

The overtraining syndrome is caused by increased training paired with inadequate recovery. The syndrome can lead to constant fatigue, performance decrements, and frequent illness. Easiest way to avoid? RECOVERY! There’s a whole post coming up on recovery strategies and importance reeeal soon.

Eating well, getting in you recovery and sleep, and still fatigued? Some other causes that could be contributing to your heavy eyes are

  • Dehydration
  • Asthma
  • Increased stress [how’s that rest day sounding now]
  • Vitamin deficiency [yet another reason why a wholesome diet is so important, like you needed one]

Listen to your body! Know when it’s time to take a rest and when it’s time to skip your session and book in a recovery day; “I’m too tired” sometimes is a good enough excuse. You just have to know when to use it.