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Fatigue and Sport

Who has never experienced some sort of fatigue? Most of the time fatigue is linked to stress or sleep deprivation, in a few cases it’s linked to some medical condition. In athletes, fatigue is often temporary and a result of training load. Once adapted to it we feel less fatigued. However, fatigue may also be related to poor nutrition (e.g. few energy, poor food choices, dehydration). Especially in active people fatigue can turn into a chronic condition and needs further investigation. Sometimes a change in eating habits is enough to increase energy intake and improve performance.

Symptoms linked to fatigue include

  • increased heart rate
  • sleep disturbances
  • depression
  • reduced appetite
  • lack of motivation (in training)
  • decreased performance
  • increased rate of perceived exerction



Carbohydrates have an important role to fight fatigue. They are the most important energy source for our body. Stored as glycogen in our muscles they give us the energy for physical activity. That’s why we should eat enough carbohydrates, especially if we engage in regular physical activity. Intense training and competition series require a lot of carbohydrates: thus inadequate intake leads to empty glycogen stores and ultimately chronic fatigue.



Many athletes forget to match their fluid losses during competition and don’t drink enough. Not only do they risk dehydration, they also risk increased fatigue and decreased performance. More so, dehydration decreases our skills and decision making. Maybe you’ve heard that some athletes experience cramps during exercise. Even though it is often stated that cramps occur due to electrolyte (magnesium) loss, dehydration might be another reason for cramps.

An easy way to control your hydration status is to check the color of your urine. It should always be pale…once you notice a dark colored urine, you are already dehydrated and need to drink more to match your fluid loss.

Similarly, you can check your weight daily to monitor your weight fluctuations. Normally, your body weight should be pretty stable. If you notice many fluctuations it might be due to poor hydration practices.

Tip: Try to consume 300-500 ml with each meal, drink every 15-20 min during workouts and take a water bottle with you to sip during the day.


Energy intake

People often forget to eat during the day. Work and meetings limit our time to have a snack or a meal at work. Athletes are training a lot and, hence, need to match a big energy expenditure. The truth is that quite a few have problems to actually match their energy needs. You might be part of those athletes that experience suppressed appetite post-exercise and don’t eat to start immediate recovery. Easy ways to consume some calories after a workout could be

  • chocolate milk (300 ml), cereal bar, fruit
  • cereals with low fat (or fat free) yoghurt, fruit


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