Most people will experience tiredness or fatigue at some
stage in their lives. Causes may be stress-related or simply due to a lack of sleep. Underlying medical conditions also need to be ruled out. Fatigue in athletes is often only of carbohydrate
temporary, caused by an increase in the amount or intensity of Carbohydrate is an important energy source for athletic training . Tiredness usually disappears as the body adapts to performance. Carbohydrates are stored as muscle glycogen, a fuel the new workload. Fatigue also occurs during exercise and store that must be constantly replaced. Many athletes think they eat may be related to various nutritional factors, such as fuel ‘a lot’ of carbohydrate but in reality are eating below their needs. For example, eating a high carbohydrate meal, such as pasta the night dehydration. However, tiredness can be a chronic condition before competition does not necessarily mean that an athlete is that ne eds further investigation. Adequate nutrition is often consuming sufficient carbohydrate to fuel their needs. An athlete’s overlooked as a contributing factor to fatigue. In many cases a carbohydrate intake needs to reflect their daily training load. An intake of 3-5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight is change in eating habits can increase energy levels and enough for athletes undertaking light training, 5-7grams per kilogram for athletes with a moderate exercise program (i.e. 350- 490g in a 70kg person) and as much as 7-12 grams per kilogram Symptoms associated with fatigue*
(i.e. 490 - 840 g in a 70kg person) per day in an endurance athlete Chronic low intake of carbohydrate combined with regular training can result in gradual depletion of glycogen stores and lead to a feeling of prolonged fatigue. Alternatively, an increase in training load or exercise intensity can place extra strain on glycogen stores, while high intensity exercise can result in a loss of appetite. Depleted muscle glycogen can lead to muscle heaviness and a lack • Low resistance to infection (colds / flu) of energy to train, particularly at high intensities. The athlete may even ‘hit the wall’ and be unable to complete their training session. Most people store enough glycogen for 90 to 120 minutes of continuous exercise; however eating too little carbohydrate can significantly reduce this time. An athlete low in glycogen needs a See your doctor to check for any underlying medical conditions reduction in training intensity, or several days rest, as well as an increase in carbohydrate to replace glycogen stores. oor food choices
Very low carbohydrate diets can ultimately lead to chronic tiredness, Active people lead busy lifestyles and often leave little time for low muscle glycogen and loss of muscle mass. Some athletes claim ng and food preparation. Insufficient wholegrains, lean to feel less fatigued when first on these diets. This may be because: meats and dairy, and too few fruit and vegetables, along with a) their previous eating habits were worse than the new diet; or b) a heav y reliance on processed snack foods, can lead to they obtain a psychological boost from the diet. As carbohydrate is ongoing fatigue, decreased immunity and general ill health. also needed to fuel the brain, low carbohydrate diets can result in Fad diets and nutrition supplements are temporary and do not poor concentration, depression and mood swings. (See the fact s long-term nutritional problems. An athlete might use caffeine-containing foods to suppress fatigue: e.g. coffee, a and cola drinks. This in itself can set up a cycle of chronic tiredness. Caffeine can interfere with sleep patterns, Timing of carbohydrate
making it difficult for the athlete to get to sleep, leading to Timing of carbohydrate is very important for muscle recovery, morning tiredness and more caffeine to start the day. A sports especially when training twice a day. After moderate to high dietitian can help athletes design a nutritious eating plan that intensity exercise, muscle doesn’t start replenishing glycogen at a vide the right balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat high rate until carbohydrate is eaten, so effective recovery only and sufficient vitamins and minerals to maximise exercise starts after eating a carbohydrate based snack or meal. One to 1.2 perform ance at training and competition and promote recovery grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight (ie 70 - 84g in a 70 kg person) within the first hour after completing exercise is needed to kick-start optimal fuel recovery (see Table 1). This is most important when there is only 4 to 8 hours between exercise sessions. If there is longer time between training sessions, then total carbohydrate intake over the whole day is more important. November 2009
This is a sports nutrition publication of Sports Dietitians Australia. Phone (03) 9926 1336 ● Fax (03) 9926 1338 ● Email ● Website Low energy consumption
Many active people have hectic schedules and simply don’t eat enough during the day. Athletes are faced with the additional Iron deficienc
challenge of eating to meet the energy needs of training. Those with a large body mass, high training loads or who are growing or trying Athletes are prone to iron deficiency due to blood loss in sweat, urine and to increase muscle mass may struggle to eat sufficient food. Hunger faeces. Females als o have increased losses due to menstruation, while is not always an ideal guide as exercise can suppress appetite. those involved in contact sports can have regular injuries that result in Growth spurts in the adolescent years can also lead to ongoing bleeding. Drugs such as anti-inflammatories can cause gastro-intestinal tiredness, particularly in active adolescents. Having energy rich bleeding, which also increases iron loss. Some athletes have a low iron foods and drinks available during and after exercise is important to intake, in particular females and vegetarians. Iron needs are 1.3 to 1.7 times higher for athletes than non-athletes and 1.8 times higher for vegetarians than meat eaters. Iron deficiency anaemia is less common than low iron stores. Full blown anaemia results in symptoms such as Examples of nutritious recovery foods (50g carbohydrate extreme fatigue and shortness of breath, to the point where the athlete simply cannot exercise. Decreased iron stores can result in a more general tiredness with an increase in recovery time, decrease in 250ml – 300ml smoothie or liquid meal supplement immunity, cold-like symptoms and depression. A blood test is used to determine iron status. As readings such as haemoglobin and ferritin can be affected by heavy training, it is often difficult to assess from a single Meat / chicken and salad roll with 1 piece of fruit blood test whether iron stores are low. Monitoring of changes to iron 250g of baked beans on 2 pieces of toast levels with consideration of symptoms and risk factors will give a better 300ml flavoured milk, cereal bar and a piece of fruit picture of whether insufficient iron is the cause of fatigue. A sports dietitian can alter an athlete’s food intake to optimise iron intake. (See Conversely, some athletes restrict their kilojoule (or calorie) intake to maintain a low body weight for their sport (eg gymnasts, dancers, rowers). Many female athletes do so to control their weight and body Vitamin and mineral supplements – the cure for
shape. Low kilojoule diets can eventually lead to a constant feeling fatigue?
of fatigue due to the body having to survive on too few kilojoules, vitamins and minerals. (See the fact sheet on There is a widely held belief that our food supply is deficient in most True nutrient deficiency diseases are not common, nutrients due to poor soil and processing techniques. Many supplement but the athlete can suffer sub-clinical symptoms like lowered companies claim this is the reason why we should take supplements. immunity, decreased strength due to loss of lean body mass, However, nutritional analysis of Australian foods shows this is not the bone maintenance, and poor recovery between training case. Fatigue and ill health is more commonly caused by an imbalance of sessions. Athletes on lower energy eating plans may need to choose carbohydrate, protein and fat. Taking a supplement will do little to reverse t are nutritious (high in vitamins and minerals) and high in this problem beyond giving a psychological boost. Of course, if a vitamin or mineral deficiency is present, taking a supplement may be necessary to rectify this. A broad spectrum multivitamin and mineral may also act to protect those who are travelling and cannot eat their normal meals, or have to limit their food intake to reduce their weight. Elite athletes with a heavy competition schedule and disrupted meals may also benefit from a Dehydration
broad spectrum multivitamin and mineral supplement. Many athl etes do not drink enough fluid to replace their sweat losses and as a result are chronically dehydrated. Dehydration impacts on exercise performance and may reduce decision making ability and Summary- reduce your risk of fatigue
. Cramping during exercise may also be a result of  Eat for health. Include plenty of wholegrains, fresh fruit and vegetables, dehydration. Possible signs of ongoing dehydration are general lean protein sources, dairy products and healthy fats. which is worse in hot weather, dry skin, headaches, nausea  Avoid fad diets and those that eliminate carbohydrates or whole food and an inability to concentrate. One way to monitor fluid status is to measure body weight on a daily basis and take note of urine volume  Be prepared for eating on the run and after exercise. Sandwiches, rolls, r. (See the fact sheet on Strongly coloured smoothies, flavoured milks, yoghurt, fruit and cereal / sports bars are urine, a small output over the day, and large weight fluctuations from to the next can indicate poor attention to hydration. Athletes  If you are vegetarian, include meat substitutes like nuts, seeds and are often encouraged to drink at training, but forget about consuming fluid throu ghout the rest of the day. Including a drink with every meal  Don’t be obsessed with eating ‘good’ foods, avoiding anything and snack will assist with daily fluid needs. Remember that fluid containing fat, or limiting your total fat intake to 20grams or less per day. requirements will be higher during hot weather, if there is an increase  Ensure you are well hydrated every day. Work out your own sweat rate in training intensity or duration, or after long aircraft flights. Individuals and come up with an individualised drinking plan. with high sweat rates should be particularly careful about meeting  Constant travel can wear you out. Plan your ventures and take your favourite foods such as cereal, sports drink, liquid meal supplement, dried fruit and nuts, cereal or muesli bars and sports bars. November 2009
This is a sports nutrition publication of Sports Dietitians Australia. Phone (03) 9926 1336 ● Fax (03) 9926 1338 ● Email ● Website


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