August 27th, 2019
By: Diana Davis Without Limits Registered Dietician
Nutrition-Related Fatigue in Sport
Exercise-related fatigue is the inability to continue exercise at the desired pace or intensity. There are several nutritional factors that contribute to fatigue.
- Depleted muscle glycogen stores
- Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels due to blood glucose uptake by skeletal muscles)
- Dehydration (McArdle 2008)
In addition to these factors, iron deficiency anemia is associated with fatigue during aerobic exercise performance. If you have a history of anemia or suspect that you may be anemic, ask your healthcare provider to check your iron levels.
Prolonged intense endurance exercise heavily relies on muscle glycogen and blood glucose as fuel for energy (ATP) production. Depletion of these reserves results in sensations of fatigue and reduced exercise intensity. The terms “hitting the wall” and “bonking” are typically used by endurance athletes to describe the sensations they experience when muscle glycogen or blood glucose drop to levels that impair exercise performance.
Although fatigue cannot be entirely prevented, it can be delayed by implementing the following strategies:
- Maintaining adequate carbohydrate availability (pre-exercise, during exercise, recovery)
- Maintaining adequate fluid intake
- Adhering to appropriate aerobic exercise training
- Wearing appropriate clothing for the environmental condition
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