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Everything you need to know about muscle fatigue

At the beginning of a workout session, whether at home or the gym, you will feel full of energy; you're smashing it and feel like you could keep going for hours. But then, as the session goes on, you start to feel more tired and weaker than when you started. And for a while after exercise, your muscles don't work in the same way as usual. 

If you regularly get tired muscles after exercise, you’re not alone. This is quite a common experience and often makes you feel like your exercise has been extremely productive. But when you over-exert yourself, you may find yourself at the mercy of muscle fatigue.

What is muscle fatigue?

Everybody has likely experienced muscle fatigue at some point in their lives, perhaps when you first took up your healthy lifestyle. It presents itself as a feeling of weakness and stops you from performing an activity as well as usual. 

Think back to the days after a session, where your muscles barked as you got out of bed, or you found it harder than normal to pick something up. 

That’s muscle fatigue. You can experience muscle fatigue in the legs, arms, stomach… in fact muscle fatigue may be felt in any part of the body where you’ve exerted a muscle beyond normal use.

Some people like the soreness that follows exercise, but soreness and fatigue, while similar, are different things. 

How long does muscle fatigue last?

The time you suffer from muscle fatigue will depend on how far you've pushed yourself. With that said, though, you should be fully recovered within three to five days. If muscle fatigue lasts longer than that, then chances are you've pushed yourself further than you should and consider that for any future workouts. 

What causes muscle fatigue during exercise?

Any exercise that results in a state of exhaustion can lead to fatigue. However, the most common causes of muscle fatigue are:

  • HIIT exercises

  • Extended, submaximal exercise (like distance running or cycling) and

  • Repeated-sprint exercises 

Thankfully, the more accustomed you become to your favourite physical activity, the less likely you will experience fatigue. But that doesn't really help in the short-term, does it?

How to prevent muscle fatigue 

Once you’ve felt muscle fatigue once, you won’t want to feel it again. There are a few simple things that you can do to protect yourself from falling victim to exercise fatigue:

  • Create an exercise plan that builds your ability gradually.

  • Eat a healthy snack or even a light meal two hours before exercise.

  • Drink plenty of water during and after a workout.

  • Stretch before and after your workout; this will protect you from injury too.

  • Eat fresh foods that will provide your muscles with energy.

  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep to allow your body to repair itself.

  • Try some gentle exercises to combat fatigue.

  • Don’t skip your rest and recovery days.

Muscle fatigue is a common occurrence, but these simple precautions will help to protect you. 

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