What Causes Muscle Fatigue

What Causes Muscle Fatigue?

The term “muscle fatigue” is used to describe the inability of your muscles to perform their normal functions due to the damage or loss of nutrients. This type of injury is called sarcopenia, which means “old age”. Sarcopenia refers to a condition where you are losing muscle mass because your body cannot repair it properly. You lose muscle because your body doesn’t have enough energy to do so. The main cause of this type of injury is not from overtraining, but rather from nutritional deficiencies. When you don’t get enough calories, vitamins and minerals into your system, then your body starts using up these nutrients faster than they can replenish themselves. This leads to a drop in strength and power as well as other symptoms such as tiredness, weakness and pain.

There are many factors that contribute to muscle fatigue. Some of them include:

Exercise intensity – too much exertion can lead to exhaustion and lack of energy. Too little exertion can result in muscle cramps, soreness and fatigue. A good rule of thumb is if you feel like you could walk around for 10 minutes without getting tired, then you’re doing too much exercise!

Exercise duration – muscles require a lot of energy to perform their functions. If you exercise them too long, they will run out of energy reserves to continue contracting.

Poor diet – if your body does not get the nutrients it requires (especially proteins, carbohydrates and fats), it has to start taking it from your muscles.

Poor hydration – your muscles are made up of around 70% water, so it’s vital that you keep hydrated. If you don’t, your body will start taking water from your muscles which will cause them to fatigue faster.

Lack of sleep – if you don’t get enough sleep, your body cannot repair the damage to your muscles that you did during exercise the day before.

If you’re experiencing muscle fatigue, there are a few ways to help alleviate the soreness and pain:

Rest – rest is a perfectly valid solution! By taking a rest day, or even a week off, your muscles will have time to recover and heal themselves.

Ice baths – these can help reduce the swelling in your muscles and relieve the pain and soreness.

Massage – having someone (or you!?) massage your muscles will help to relieve the tension and break up knots.

Epsom salt baths – soaking in an Epsom salt bath can help to relieve soreness and decrease inflammation. Add 4 cups of Epsom salt to your bath water, soak for around 20 minutes, and then use a coarse cloth or exfoliating brush to scrub your skins and relieve tension.

Progressive stretching – this will help to increase your flexibility and can improve your blood flow.

Stay hydrated – drinking lots of fluids will help to prevent dehydration and keep your muscles working at their best.

Icing – apply an ice pack or ice cubes wrapped in a cloth to the sore area, this will help to reduce inflammation and swelling.

Massage – self-explanatory!

Stretching – self-explanatory as well!

SLEEP! It’s vital that you get enough sleep, often 8 hours is best, but if you’re getting less than that, try to make up for it on the weekends. Also keep in mind that a full night’s sleep isn’t the same as just lying in bed awake for 8 hours straight. It’s best to sleep in a completely dark room and if you can, use white noise like a fan or static noise from a TV to block out any sounds that might disrupt your sleep.

This will help to keep your body in it’s deepest sleep cycle and help you to feel more rested. You can also take a power nap for around 20 minutes during the day to give yourself a boost!

DRINK! Lots of fluids! To prevent dehydration and help your muscles work at their best, drink an extra glass of water or milk each day.

PROPER DIET! This is a big one! Your body needs the proper balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in order to maintain muscle mass and keep you energized. Don’t deprive yourself of foods you like, instead pay attention to serving sizes and the number of servings you take in each day.

This will help keep you in your target range of calories, proteins, carbohydrates and fats that will keep you energized and performing at your peak levels! If you’re really serious about building muscle mass, a good multivitamin and mineral tablet will help fill in any dietary gaps.

Stay away from alcohol and cigarettes. I wish I didn’t have to include this one, but try to avoid beer while you’re training. It’s full of empty calories that add up very quickly and can really prevent you from gaining the muscle you want due to the water retention. Plus no one wants to see a bodybuilder with a beer belly!

A good rule of thumb is that if your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, then you shouldn’t be eating it. This includes diet soda, fast food, candy, etc. While you might be able to build muscle with this kind of diet, your overall health will probably suffer and in the long run this isn’t the best way to get fit. Eating healthy foods like green vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fruits not only gives you more energy, it helps you to look and feel better!

Yes, there is a difference between the two. Carbs are an important source of fuel for your body. While protein is also a source of fuel, carbs have more energy per serving and will help to replenish your energy stores the fastest. This is important when you are engaging in strenuous activity.

It’s best to eat a small amount of complex carbohydrates before you work out and a small amount of simple carbohydrates and/or proteins afterwards. This will help to prevent muscle damage and improve your performance.

Sources & references used in this article:

Ischemia causes muscle fatigue by G Murthy, AR Hargens, S Lehman… – Journal of Orthopaedic …, 2001 – Wiley Online Library

Muscle fatigue and the mechanisms of task failure by SK Hunter, J Duchateau, RM Enoka – Exercise and sport sciences …, 2004 – journals.lww.com

Muscle fatigue: the cellular aspects by RH Fitts – The American journal of sports medicine, 1996 – journals.sagepub.com

Muscle fatigue and muscle injury by SA Dugan, WR Frontera – Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of …, 2000 – Elsevier

Muscle fatigue: what, why and how it influences muscle function by RM Enoka, J Duchateau – The Journal of physiology, 2008 – Wiley Online Library

Role of phosphate and calcium stores in muscle fatigue by DG Allen, H Westerblad – The Journal of physiology, 2001 – Wiley Online Library

Effects of physical activity and inactivity on muscle fatigue by GC Bogdanis – Frontiers in physiology, 2012 – frontiersin.org

Skeletal muscle fatigue: cellular mechanisms by DG Allen, GD Lamb, H Westerblad – Physiological reviews, 2008 – journals.physiology.org

The neurobiology of muscle fatigue: 15 years later by BK Barry, RM Enoka – Integrative and comparative biology, 2007 – academic.oup.com