What is muscle fatigue? How does it happen? How can we prevent it and how can we heal it properly? These are just some of the questions asked by those who are starting this year with intense workout plans. Here is all you need to know about muscle fatigue.
What is muscle fatigue?
Before you start exercising or performing any physical tasks is when your muscles feel strong and resilient most. However, as you start to repeat certain movements, your muscles will slowly start to feel tired and weaker. This feeling you have in your muscles after an intense workout can be defined as muscle fatigue.
Muscle fatigue is essentially a symptom that causes a decrease in your muscles’ ability to perform well. Most of the time this symptom is associated with exhaustion and it usually comes as a result of intense physical activity or exercise. Muscle fatigue makes you feel weaker due to the fact that it makes the force behind your muscles’ movements decrease. Even though exercising is the biggest and most common cause of muscle fatigue, there are other health conditions that can cause muscle fatigue too.
Causes of muscle fatigue
As we’ve mentioned above, there are many possible causes of muscle fatigue other than intense workouts and exercising. Some of the most common causes of this symptom are aging, Addison’s disease, anaerobic infections, cerebral palsy, botulism, chemotherapy, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), influenza (the flu), lack of exercise, lactic acid production, as well as some other even more serious health conditions such as HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis C. Other than that, dehydration, depression, anxiety, certain medications, and mineral deficiency can also lead to muscle fatigue. Muscular dystrophy, myasthenia gravis, myositis (muscle inflammation), poor muscle tone due to a medical condition, pregnancy, sleep deprivation, and stroke can cause this symptom.
Muscle fatigue symptoms
Any part of the body can suffer from muscle fatigue. Usually, there are some initial signs of this condition and the most common one is muscle weakness. Some other symptoms that may give away that you are suffering from muscle fatigue are muscle soreness, shortness of breath, localized pain, muscle twitching, trembling, a weak grip, and muscle cramps. If you notice that you’re performing easy everyday tasks with great difficulty and your symptoms worsen, you need to seek immediate medical help and treatment. The symptoms described in the previous sentence may indicate that you’re suffering from a more serious health condition.
Treating muscle fatigue
How you treat muscle fatigue depends on the underlying cause of it as well as the symptoms you are experiencing. If you detect some of the above-listed symptoms and they’re unrelated to exercise, make sure you contact the doctor as soon as possible. Even though you can pretty much notice the symptoms on your own, your doctor knows how to properly evaluate the condition and assign appropriate treatment according to your medical history.
In most cases, muscle fatigue will go away with rest and recovery. Making sure you stay healthy and hydrated is also very important. Not only is this important for treating muscle fatigue, but it is also essential if you want to prevent muscle fatigue from happening again in near future. For that reason, it is important to lead a healthy and active life. Your body needs movement. It also needs nutrients and enough hydration so that conditions such as muscle fatigue don’t happen every time your exercise.
One of the best ways to prevent muscle fatigue from even occurring is to stretch before exercising. Warming up is an important step and you can’t skip it if you want your exercise to be effective. If your muscle fatigue is persistent, you can try hot and cold therapy. It will help your body reduce inflammation and discomfort.
Even though most of the time muscle fatigue can be taken care of with home remedies, some cases of this condition may need proper medical attention. Depending on what your diagnosis is, your doctor can prescribe anti-inflammatory or antidepressant medications. However, if your pain is more severe, the doctor can even recommend a specific physical therapy that will increase your mobility. For that reason, it’s important to turn to your doctor if this problem occurs.
Make time for stretching
As we’ve already mentioned before, stretching is very important if you want to prevent muscle fatigue. Even if you just take 10 minutes to properly stretch before your workout, you can do much for your muscles and prevent muscle fatigue from happening. Here are some of the stretching exercises you can do before your workouts to loosen up your muscles.
Quadriceps are often referred to as quads; cover the largest part of the front and sides of your thighs. If you’re planning on doing running exercises, you need to stretch these muscles properly. This is especially important if you plan on running up or down hills. In order to properly stretch them you need to:
- Stand and pull your leg behind you using the corresponding hand
- Pull your shin towards your thigh
- Make sure your knee is pointing downward while you’re doing this exercise
- Hold this position for at least 30 seconds and then do the other side
You should feel this stretch in the front part of your thighs and all the way from your hips to your knees. To make sure you keep balance, you can use a chair to lean on it.
Hamstrings are the part of the back of your thigh. They stretch from your hips to your knees. In order to complete this exercise, you need to:
- Sit on the ground and straighten out your left leg
- With your right foot touch the inner thigh of your left leg
- Lean forward, bend your back towards your left foot and try to reach your toes
- Hold that position for 30 seconds
- Repeat the same thing on the other leg
- Make sure you are not pulling back your toe
Calf muscles are located on the back of your lower legs and they are especially important. You need to stretch them out properly before going on a run or doing any type of exercise to prevent injuries.
This is what you have to do:
- Stand and place your right foot behind your left
- Gently bend your left leg forward while keeping your right leg straight
- Don’t bend your right knee and keep your foot on the ground (make sure it is pointing straight ahead)
- Also, make sure your back is straight
- Hold this position for 30 seconds
- Repeat the same thing with your other leg
Iliotibial band, or shortly ITB, is located down your thighs between your hip and shin. This area can be injured easily so make sure you stretch it before exercising.
Here is what you need to do:
- Stand near the wall or any other surface you can lean on for balance
- Place your left ankle behind your right one
- Balance with your right arm and use the left one to stretch it over your head
- Lean forward and try to reach your right side
- Hold for 30 seconds
- Repeat the same with the other leg
This muscle is in your gluteal area and it helps stabilize your pelvis and hips. We use this muscle with every step we take.
Stretch this muscle by doing the following exercise:
- Lie on your back and bend your knees in a way that makes your feet stay on the floor
- Pull your right knee towards your chest
- Grab your knee with your left hand and try to pull it in the direction of your left shoulder
- Hold that position for about 10-20 seconds
- Repeat the same with the other leg
You will mostly feel this stretch in your hip area and the buttocks.
This muscle is on the front of your spine. It connects your lower back and upper thigh.
Here is how you can stretch this muscle:
- Place your right foot forward so that you stand in a lunge position
- Make sure your chest and shoulders are in an upright position
- Push your pelvis back and tighten your buttocks
- Lean your body slightly forward (you should feel the stretch at this point)
- Hold that position for 30 seconds
- Switch sides
You will feel this stretch on your back leg and hip area.
The groin area is the part of your body between your thigh and stomach. It is in the general hip area.
To stretch your groin you need to:
- Spread your feet apart and stand straight
- Lean to the right without moving your leg
- Bend your right knee and feel the stretch
- Hold that position for about 10 to 20 seconds
- Switch sides
You will feel the stretch mostly in your inner thigh area.
Foods that can prevent muscle fatigue
The food you consume can be the most natural remedy for muscle fatigue. By properly giving your body all the nutrients it needs you can prevent an injury from happening or even make it heal faster if it does occur.
Firstly, chia seeds are very healthy and can provide your body with many nutrients. They can provide your body with a much-needed amount of hydration, protein, carbs, and healthy fats. Chia seeds also contain 18% of the recommended daily amount of calcium your body needs to function properly. This one is especially important because calcium boosts your muscle strength and helps prevent injuries such as muscle fatigue.
Bananas are rich in potassium which is another muscular-based mineral that improves and supports muscle contractions. Besides preventing muscle cramps, it can also prevent many other muscle injuries. You can add bananas to your pre-workout shakes or simply eat them as snacks throughout the day.
Lactic acid and the build-up of hydrogen are usually what you end up with after intensive workout sessions. This build-up is not healthy for your body because it causes muscle fatigue and muscle pain in general. To regulate these high amounts of lactic acid and hydrogen you can implement healthy creatine powder in your healthy diet. You can add it to your smoothie bowls or pre-workout shakes.
You can also add some ginger to your pre-workout shakes. Ginger contains high amounts of gingerols that have anti-inflammatory properties. This can help relieve tension from your sore muscles.
Avocados are great for your health in general. They contain high amounts of healthy fats. These healthy fats are great for your brain and heart health. Apart from that, they also have amazing anti-inflammatory properties. You can eat avocados as snacks before or after your workouts and thus improve and speed your recovery process.
Implementing lean meat in your everyday meals is very important. This can enhance your amino acid and protein levels. Amino acids like taurine can protect your cells from cytokines which are known for causing major muscle damage as well as inflammation. They tend to cause muscle soreness early in the workout and nobody wants to deal with that. Try to eat lean meat with a complex carbohydrate at least an hour before your workout.
Dark fruits such as cherries and blueberries are great for your health. They are rich in antioxidants which can help your body fight off any possible radical damage that can occur during intense workout sessions. They can protect your muscles and prevent many injuries including muscle fatigue.
Lastly, oats can fill your body with much-needed fibre and protein. They can also stabilize your blood sugar levels. You can make a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast on those days you plan on doing cardio. This way, your body will be fuelled with carbohydrates and protein and ready to endure a very intense workout routine.
In conclusion, it’s important for you to treat your body right with healthy food and proper stretching exercises if you want to prevent serious injuries and heal them fast if they do occur.