Why Does Exercise Make Me Feel Worse?

Regular physical activity generally leads to the release of endorphin hormones that leave the exerciser feeling invigorated after a good workout. Still, there are many people who find that they are often fatigued and generally do not feel well after exercising. This can trump motivation and is challenging to overcome. Next time a workout leaves you feeling drained, consider the following remedies to common exercise-related issues.

Excess exercise can fatigue the body -- the opposite effect of what you want from physical activity. (Image: lzf/iStock/Getty Images)

Oxygen's Role in Post-Exercise Fatigue

We rely on oxygen to keep us alive, but ironically, our challenges in managing it can lead to a lifeless lull. When you begin exercise, your body demands more oxygen than you can take in. As you continue activity, your lung capacity increases and you reach equilibrium between how much oxygen your body needs and how much you can effectively process, yielding deeper breaths. By the same token, following workouts, you might notice that you continue to breathe heavily long after activity is finished. This happens because even as you come to rest, your body is still hard at work repairing cells and fighting for replenishment. If you find that you are consistently tired and breathless following workouts, simply scale back the intensity or duration of your workouts to ensure that you process oxygen more efficiently and decrease the post-exercise deficit.

Reducing Intensity

When considering reducing exercise intensity, also take into account the importance of cardiovascular wellness. If your heart rate is not elevated during exercise, you are likely not providing enough challenge to demand results. It is best to remain active and simply be aware of how hard you are working. One helpful tool for tracking this is the Borg scale, which measures ratings of perceived exertion and was developed to keep exercisers mindful and accountable of activity level. This scale ranges from one to 20, with all numbers under six being considered to easy, 12 to16 representing optimal heart rate at a moderate to hard effort, and 20 being a complete maximal effort. The scale is totally subjective to the exerciser. To put this into perspective, consider sprinting a maximal effort. If sprinting leaves you feeling sick or excessively fatigued, consider reducing speed or distance such that you feel you are near level 15. You will likely burn nearly as many calories, experience a similar heart rate, and have more energy after exercising.

Nutrition for Recovery

Snacking smart after exercise is another missed step for many fitness enthusiasts. Carbohydrates provide energy to your muscles like gasoline fuels a car. After rigorous exercise, your muscles need replenishment of glycogen, the type of carbs that are stored in muscle. To refuel your muscles, simple carbs are needed within two hours of exercise. Simple carbs are those that do not consist of whole grains or vegetables. Some examples of smart post-exercise snacks are chocolate milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fruits. These foods quickly spike blood sugar levels to ward off the drained feeling most exercisers suffer from and to keep you satisfied until your next full meal.

Risks and Symptoms of Overtraining

After changing your intensity level and refueling methods, if you still feel sickly after workouts, you may be risking overtraining. Overtraining is a fairly common cause of post-exercise fatigue and can be caused by excess frequency of activity as much as excess intensity. Symptoms include increased blood pressure, decreased immune function, frequent injury and lack of desire to train. If you feel that you might suffer from overtraining syndrome, reduce the frequency of exercise and consult a health professional.

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