If recovering from exercise is so difficult it feels like it’s ruining your days and sapping your motivation, you may be suffering from loss of exercise tolerance. Exercise is supposed to make you feel better and give you more energy, not make you feel worse.
The occasional off day is nothing to worry about, but if you find you’re consistently having a hard time handling your workouts, it’s important to find out why.
Symptoms of poor exercise recovery
- Can’t complete normal workouts
- Difficulty recovering after exercise
- Feel worse the next day after exercise
- Need a nap after exercise
- Unexplained depression
- Loss of general motivation or enthusiasm
- Unexplained change in weight
- Aggression or irritability for minor reasons
- Weakened immune function
- Loss of menstrual cycle
- Symptoms of leaky gut
Seven things that can cause poor exercise recovery
1. You’re overtraining: It’s possible you’re simply taking too much on during your workout. Anyone can make this mistake. Try stopping completely for two weeks and then re-starting slowly; if your symptoms change, overtraining could be your answer.
2. Your body wants a different kind of workout: Ways to exercise include extended aerobics, high intensity interval training, and weight training. Try a different form of exercise for a few weeks and see how you feel.
3. Insufficient protein intake: The U.S. RDA for protein is .08g per kg of body weight per day (1 lb = 2.2 kg). Macronutrient requirements vary depending on age, health, and diet, but for some this may be too little to recover. Many active people feel better eating protein at rate closer to 1.4 to 1.8g/kg daily. Do the math and experiment with your protein intake and your form of protein.
4. Inappropriate carbohydrate intake: How many carbohydrates one should eat is a controversial topic—especially if you have autoimmune disease, but at the end of the day we’re all unique. If you frequently feel run down you may be eating too many carbs…or too few. Too many carbs can cause blood sugar to skyrocket and then plummet. Your energy levels crash. Too few can short you on fuel so that energy lags. This is especially true if you have adrenal fatigue and are struggling to adapt to a low-carb diet. Experiment adjusting your carb intake with healthy produce-based carbs, such as sweet potatoes. Remember, one diet does not fit all!
4. Not enough sleep: Sleep is key to exercise recovery. Are you getting the recommended seven to nine hours a night? If you’re having unexplained sleep problems, ask my office for advice as many health issues can cause poor sleep: adrenal health, brain health, etc. There are some easy fixes.
5. Micronutrient deficiencies: Staying well nourished can be difficult if you’re busy. If your body is low in vital nutrients such as Vitamins D and B12, iron, and other minerals, it can affect your ability to recover from exercise. Ask my office about convenient tests to make sure you’re meeting your micronutrient needs.
6. Low adrenal function: Your adrenal glands are the walnut-sized glands atop each kidney that manage your body’s ability to deal with stress. Americans are stressed out and as a result many people suffer from compromised adrenal function. This is a common cause of constant exhaustion and an inability to recover from exercise. If you’ve lost your get-up-an-go for this reason, trying to “work through it” absolutely will not work. Adrenal function is one of the first things to consider.
7. Chronic inflammation: If you have an autoimmune disease that is not being managed or that is constantly flaring, or if you suffer from chronic inflammation, this will hamper your ability to recover. Examples of autoimmune disease include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes, or psoriasis. Symptoms of chronic inflammation can include joint pain, digestive difficulties, inflamed skin, or brain fog. If your body is already struggling to function in the face of chronic inflammation, exercise will put it over the edge and recovery will be difficult.
These are some common factors that can hamper exercise recovery, although there are many more, such as compromised thyroid function or a defect in your MTHFR gene, which plays a role in detoxification and metabolism. Untreated MTHFR can affect energy levels. For an in-depth explanation of MTHFR, methylation, and how to treat it, consider this course I am developing.
Any time you notice a change in your energy level or ability to recover from exercise, there is a reason. Don’t push it, and don’t ignore it. Occasionally I find that backing off of exercise—as hard as that might be for some people—is the crux of recovery. Ask my office for support in helping you find underlying causes of poor exercise recovery so you can feel and function better.