We live in a society where being over-committed and over-involved is normal. So it's no wonder that so many of my athletes come to me complaining of fatigue. Whether they are students, professionals, or parents, fatigue is a common link. What might not be common, however, is the cause of that fatigue. Here are 4 facts about fatigue that might just help you figure out the cause of yours...
1. A dehydrated body = a tired body
Because our bodies are made up of mainly water, not having enough on board is pretty detrimental. Fluid assures that the nutrients we eat are able to be transported to muscles and organs that need them. Fluid is also crucial for your body to perform basic metabolic processes. A dehydrated individual often suffers from headaches, lack of focus, and - of course - fatigue. Drink fluids until your urine is lemonade-colored throughout the day. This will assure you are drinking enough to meet your individual fluid needs.
2. A hungry body = a tired body
Many athletes tell me that they don't get hungry during the day; they often go 6-8 hours between meals. Keep in mind, however, that whether you sense hunger signals is affected by things such as stress, dehydration, and distraction. So just because you don't feel hungry doesn't mean waiting 8 hours between meals is okay. In addition, our bodies adjust to what we throw at them. This means if you consistently skip meals, your body will stop signaling hunger even if you in fact need more nutrients. Aim to eat at least every 3-4 hours. If you're not hungry, choose something light like a piece of fruit or yogurt. This will tell your body that it should expect food regularly from now on.
3. A deficient body = a tired body
Many athletes - particularly females involved in endurance events - are susceptible to iron-deficiency anemia, or low blood iron level. The body uses iron to form hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin transports oxygen throughout your body; myoglobin combines with oxygen inside the muscles to store it. Lack of oxygen in your muscles = more lactic acid build-up = earlier fatigue during exercise. Athletes lose iron during exercise inside the GI tract, through sweat and urine losses, and from chronic injury to red blood cells from repetitive hard foot strikes. Those who are vegetarian or simply don't eat a lot of animal foods - particularly red meat - won't easily take in iron through their diet. The best-absorbed sources of iron are found in animal meats and animal products, including fish. Iron is found in plant sources such as beans and dark green vegetables and in fortified foods, such as cereals or bread, though this iron is not as well absorbed. If you think you might be deficient in iron, make an effort to eat an iron-containing food at every meal. At that same meal, combine that food with a food high in Vitamin C, which will enhance the absorption of the iron in the food. Many fruits, vegetables and juices are great sources of Vitamin C. Don't ever self-supplement with iron without first asking your doctor to test your blood for iron-deficiency anemia.
4. A tired body = a tired body
Many of us underestimate the most important thing we can do all day: sleep. Lack of sleep has been associated with increased risk of obesity, as well as increased cravings for fat and sugar. Besides that, when you don't sleep enough, you feel....tired. As an athlete, sleep is imperative to give your body time to recoveryand prepare for the next day. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.