Most people in good health have all the power they need at their disposal until the very end of the day when they start to wind down. If they need to run errands, it’s no problem. If they need to cook a meal or wash the car, it’s not a problem.
And while they might experience a slight dip in energy right after lunch, they’ll usually get over it pretty quickly and get back to their high energy selves.
For those who experience muscle fatigue, however, finding the energy to do even the simplest of chores can sometimes be a challenge. But what is it that causes this vexing condition and what, if anything, can you do about it? That’s what we’re here to find out.
What is Muscle Fatigue?
Muscle fatigue is not the same as being sleepy. Sleepiness is as much a mental phenomenon as it is a physical one. People feel sluggish, their eyelids get heavy, and they begin to mentally drift off.
On the other hand, when someone experiences muscle fatigue, they feel like they simply don’t have any power to call upon. They lack energy and motivation and feel like they’re being held in their seats by some unseen force.
Someone experiencing muscle fatigue may be wide awake and wanting to participate in whatever the activity at hand.
But they simply can’t muster the power to do so. There are a number of potential reasons for this and we’ll get to them all in a moment. But the important thing to remember at this juncture is that being sleepy and experiencing muscle fatigue isn’t the same thing.
Signs and Symptoms of Muscle Fatigue
Muscle fatigue is a particularly troubling condition because most people assume they’re just tired and that it will pass. In some cases, they’re right. But if that feeling of fatigue lingers for days and doesn’t respond to sleep, it could be something else. Here are some of the other symptoms of muscle fatigue that you’ll want to be aware of:
- Leg Twitches – Often, when muscles are fatigued, they’ll begin to twitch involuntarily. Twitches are the result of signals sent from the brain that tells the muscle to contract. Exactly why this happens isn’t well understood. But there’s a good deal of evidence to tie muscle fatigue to this phenomenon.
- Reduced endurance – You might become aware that you no longer have the endurance to complete projects you start. Maybe you get halfway through cleaning the kitchen and you have to stop.
Or partway through the big family BBQ, you have to turn over grill duties to someone else because you’ve run out of gas and need to sit.
- A weaker than normal grip – Does your normally robust handshake suddenly seem a bit limp? Are you unable to keep a firm grip on the steering wheel? Did your phone unexpectedly fall out of your hand while you were standing on the subway or walking down the street?
These are all signs of muscle fatigue and shouldn’t be ignored.
As we mentioned, fatigue will sometimes take care of itself with adequate sleep. Or if it was the result of a cold or flu, it’ll be gone once the illness passes. However, should it linger for any period of time it would be wise to talk to your doctor as it may be caused by something more serious. We’ll get into some of those possible causes now.
What Are the Possible Causes of Muscle Fatigue?
The possible causes of muscle fatigue are many and include everything from behavioral issues to bad habits and more serious illnesses. Let’s look at those potential causes:
- Excessive amounts of acid in the muscles – This medical condition, known as lactic acidosis, happens to people whose kidneys or liver are unable to process all the acid the person is consuming. Excess lactic acid tends to come to rest in the muscles and can impede their normal operation.
- Mineral deficiency – If a person isn’t eating a balanced diet, they may become deficient in important minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium. People who aren’t getting the right amount of key minerals will often experience muscle fatigue or muscle cramps.
- Dehydration – This is another common but often overlooked cause of muscle fatigue. This usually happens to people who work out a lot but don’t drink enough water to compensate. Muscle fatigue from dehydration is often accompanied by confusion, shortness of breath, and more.
- Jumping right into a workout – This is actually one of the most common causes of muscle fatigue. The muscles experience a type of shock that can cause lingering damage and result in long-term muscle fatigue.
- Workout overload – It’s important that you allow your muscles time to properly recover between workouts. Even professional athletes who work out every day don’t work the same muscle groups every day for this very reason
Other potential causes of muscle fatigue include:
- Hepatitis C
- Muscular dystrophy
- Sleep deprivation
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- High blood pressure
“It’s unusual for fatigue not to be one of the symptoms of depression.” – Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D.
Common Muscle Fatigue Treatments
Because it has many potential causes, there’s no one single treatment for muscle fatigue. In some cases, it will pass once you recover from the flu. In other cases, you just need to string together a few good nights of sleep in a row. But some cases will require more involved treatment. These other treatments may include:
- Warming up before working out – You may alleviate muscle fatigue just by getting in the habit of warming up before high-intensity workouts. It’s a small behavioral change that could yield big health dividends.
- Eat more protein – If you’re into resistance training, your muscles are going to need plenty of protein to recover and rebuild after all that time in the weight room. Lifters who don’t eat enough protein often find their muscles in open revolt.
- Get a massage – Sometimes a massage can work wonders. It can loosen up sore muscles and release toxins trapped in the muscle tissue. There are different types of massage so be sure to discuss your particular situation thoroughly with your masseuse.
- Spread out your workouts – If your muscle fatigue is the result of not leaving enough recovery time between workouts, simply add more rest time in between. If you were working out a particular muscle group every day, make it at least every 2 days.
- Use supplements – If the cause of your muscle fatigue is a vitamin or mineral deficiency, you may be able to tackle it effectively by simply taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement every day.
What is the Best Muscle Fatigue Treatment?
The best muscle fatigue treatment for you will depend entirely on the cause of your muscle fatigue. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question since the cause of your fatigue could be dehydration or it could be high blood pressure or a dozen or more other things.
How Muscle Fatigue Can Affect Your Quality of Life
Muscle fatigue is far more than a mere nuisance. It can directly impact virtually every aspect of your daily life. For instance, this type of fatigue can undermine your ability to exercise. That, in turn, can undermine your overall health and leave you more susceptible to illness and injury.
Muscle fatigue also has a negative impact on a person’s social life. When everyone else is geared up to go out, the fatigued individual often feels they have no choice but to stay behind. Or they leave early due to a lack of energy.
In some cases, they may miss important events in their child’s development because they are unable to muster the energy to participate.
Muscle fatigue can also have a negative effect on a person’s professional life. They may appear sluggish and disengaged at work. This can cause management to conclude that they’ve lost interest in their work. Or they may not perform well if sent to a trade show or conference, where the hours are often long and the workload, demanding.
Tips to Prevent Muscle Fatigue
Take the following tips to heart in order to fend off muscle fatigue.
- Eat a balanced diet – Since muscle fatigue is often caused by vitamin and mineral deficiencies, it can be just as often avoided by eating a well-balanced diet.
- Drink enough water – The human body is 70% water. Not drinking enough water is going to impact every aspect of your being. Drink at least 6 to 8 cups of water every day.
- Pace your workouts – Don’t ask too much of your muscles. Give them ample time to recover between workouts to avoid muscle fatigue.
- Eat shortly after working out – Eat a full meal within an hour of working out. This is when muscles go into repair and rebuild mode. They need ample resources to do the job right.
- Get enough sleep – If 6 hours a night is leaving you fatigued up the amount to 7 or 8 hours. No good can come from not getting an adequate amount of sleep.