Extreme Fatigue After Exercise? Here’s What Your Body’s Trying to Tell You | Livestrong.com (2023)

Extreme Fatigue After Exercise? Here’s What Your Body’s Trying to Tell You | Livestrong.com (1)

Extreme fatigue after exercise is a sign that it may be too demanding.

Image Credit: Photosomnia/E+/GettyImages

Don't sweat it: Mild fatigue after exercise — on top of being sweaty, a bit sore and tuckered out — is A-OK, especially if you're new to exercise. There's a limit, though. If you feel extreme fatigue after a workout, it could be a sign of a health problem — or that you definitely overdid it.


So, where's the line? "It is normal to feel a bit winded, slightly tired or even mildly sore after, depending on the nature of the workout, but these symptoms shouldn't feel overwhelming or unmanageable," Tim Bish, CPT, lead coach at Row House Chelsea in New York City, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

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In general, "normal" fatigue should last a few hours or overnight. But a good night's sleep should allow your body and brain to bounce back, Bish says. Drinking water, eating, stretching and/or taking a hot shower or bath should also help, he says. Some tightness in the muscles for one to three days, known as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), is also normal, according to the International Sports Science Association (ISSA).


On the other hand, extreme fatigue tends to linger. "Excessive fatigue will often not respond to these tactics and should be monitored carefully," Bish says. If you feel like you're not recovering well, or you're more tired than you should be post-workout, here's what might be going on — plus, how to prevent extreme fatigue after exercise in the future.

Signs of Extreme Fatigue After a Workout

  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Recurrent or persistent injuries, such as stress fractures, muscle sprains, stress and chronic joint pain
  • Decline in performance
  • Unusual pain, especially if it’s sharp or in areas that you didn’t train
  • Difficulty performing activities of daily living, including walking up stairs or standing up from a chair
  • Inability to maintain alertness for important tasks, such as driving
(Video) What Too Much Exercise Does To Your Body And Brain

1. You're Pushing Too Hard

Pushing beyond your capabilities during your workout (use this guide to tell if you're working out too hard or not hard enough) can leave you feeling completely gassed and add days to your recovery time.

In extreme cases, it can also cause a concerning amount of damage to your muscles, resulting in a rare but dangerous condition called rhabdomyolysis, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

This can happen when intense exercise causes muscle tissue breakdown beyond what the body can handle. However, the condition isn't all that common among most regular exercisers, but does occur in more advanced athletes like marathoners, bodybuilders and CrossFitters.


According to MedlinePlus, a substance called myoglobin is released into your bloodstream when muscles break down. The kidneys then filter it from the blood. If there's too much, though, it can overwhelm and damage kidney cells.

If you feel weak and nauseous after your workout or have dark-colored urine, you might have rhabdomyolysis. Other symptoms include joint pain, muscle weakness and fatigue.




Rhabdomyolysis is diagnosed with urine and/or blood tests that look for certain chemicals. Treatment includes being put on fluids to flush the liver and, if it's really extreme or left undiagnosed for too long, you may also need to be treated for kidney failure. So it's important to seek immediate medical attention if you think you may have it.

Fix It

(Video) Why Am I Always Tired? Avoid These 6 Energy Vampires | Exhausted

Increase workout intensity and duration slowly over time and stick to low-impact workouts when you're sore, Erin Nitschke, CPT, EdD, ACE-certified health coach and therapeutic exercise specialist, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

"There's no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to workout programming [or recovery]," she says. "The biggest key to success is starting slowly and choosing activities that are enjoyable and fulfilling."


As a general rule, moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week is best, Kush Patel, MD, a sports medicine doctor at Sports Medicine of Central Pennsylvania-UPMC, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

Over time, you want to work up to reaching the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommended exercise guidelines of two days of total-body strength training per week, plus 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week.


Consider Getting a Massage

Booking a session or using a massage gun may help improve your recovery between workout sessions. A May 2020 research review published in ​BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine ​found that sports massage may help improve flexibility and ease DOMS. It's worth a try — if nothing else, it'll feel pretty darn good.

2. You're Training Too Often

According to a March 2012 study in ​Sports Health​, overtraining syndrome occurs over time from too much training. Overreaching is basically a short-term version of overtraining. Both issues come from too much exercise and not enough rest. However, overtraining happens over the course of a month or more, while overreaching may occur after a single, intense workout.


Per the March/April 2015 issue of ​ACSM's Health and Fitness Journal​, symptoms of overreaching usually resolve quickly once you stop exercising and get more rest. However, the symptoms of overtraining can last two months or more. If you have either problem, you'll notice you're constantly fatigued and sore. You might also get sick more often due to a suppressed immune system.


(Video) Why You're Always Tired - The REAL Reasons - Dr. Berg

Your mental health is affected by overtraining and overreaching, too. Your sleep can be disrupted, you may experience symptoms of depression, or you can experience the absence of menstruation (amenorrhea).

Fix It

Nitschke recommends fitting in at least one full rest day between vigorous workouts. A general rule of thumb is to rest a muscle group for at least 24 to 48 hours after training it.

Prioritizing sleep can help, too. Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule, aiming for seven to nine hours of sleep per night, Nitschke says. (If you find it challenging to sleep after a workout, we can help.)

3. You're Not Hydrating Enough

Working out makes you sweat, which can feel good if you're properly hydrated. However, if you're not prepared for your workout and you lose too much fluid, you can become dehydrated.

Thirst isn't the only symptom of dehydration, according to MedlinePlus. You might notice you're actually sweating and urinating less, as your body attempts to preserve fluids. You could also get tired, feel dizzy, have a headache or experience a decrease in performance. In serious cases, you can be confused and even faint. Your heartbeat can become rapid or irregular, and it's possible to go into shock, per MedlinePlus.

Heat complicates dehydration. Since your body uses sweat to cool off, exercising in a hot environment can make you lose fluids more rapidly. If you're going to work out somewhere exceptionally warm, make sure to hydrate more than you usually would.

Fix It

Hydrate before, during and after a workout, even if you don't necessarily feel thirsty. Aim for about 20 ounces a couple of hours before your workout, plus 8 ounces 30 minutes before you begin.


Drink 7 to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during your sweat session, then sip on another 8 ounces within the 30 minutes post cool-down. And make sure to stay hydrated throughout the rest of the week by following these water consumption tips.

Be careful not to over-hydrate, though, as this can result in hyponatremia, per the Mayo Clinic. Drinking too much water too quickly can lead to a decrease in sodium and brain swelling. This condition is rare but can result in serious health consequences.

4. You're Not Fueling Properly

Inadequate nutrients or eating too few calories can cause your energy levels to take a nosedive. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar below 70 mg/dl, can also happen as a result of intense exercise, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

"This is when blood glucose levels drop too low to support the energy demands of a person's body. The condition can affect people with and without diabetes," Dr. Patel says. "When you exercise, your muscles need more sugar to supply energy."

Your body uses up sugar that's stored in the muscles (called glycogen) and in your bloodstream to fuel all the cells that need it, per a March 2018 study in ​Nutrients​. Because of this, "moderate to intense exercise may cause your blood sugar to drop during exercise and for the next 24 hours following exercise," Dr. Patel says.

(Video) Andrew Huberman: "How To Get Rid of Fatigue Using Science!" – You won't believe until you try!

There are a wide range of symptoms of hypoglycemia, which may occur during or after your workout. Per the ADA, physical symptoms include shakiness, rapid heartbeat, nausea, headache or general weakness. There are also mental symptoms like confusion, anxiety or nightmares. In extreme cases, you can have seizures. If you notice these signs, talk to your doctor.

Fix It

To prevent low blood sugar during or after exercise, eat something with carbohydrates within three hours of your workout, Dr. Patel says. You probably don't need a full meal, but a quick snack with 20 to 30 grams of carbohydrates, such as one medium apple, should help. You can also have a sports drink that contains carbs.


In general, eating enough calories will give you the energy you need to get through workouts and the fuel your muscles need to recover. Nitschke recommends eating an overall well-balanced diet that includes lean proteins, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and enough calories. (Here are six signs you're not eating enough.)

Related Reading

Sore Muscles? 8 Tips to Ease the Pain

When to Seek Help for Extreme Fatigue After Exercise

If you think you might be overdoing it, that's a red flag. Listen to your body, and if you're uncertain if you're overdoing it, talk to a trainer for personalized advice about how to tailor your workout intensity, length and frequency. Or if you notice you're feeling exhausted after workouts and the next day fairly regularly, keep a symptom log to share with your doctor.

Bish suggests seeking professional help immediately if you have:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Recurring pain or discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tingling
  • Sustained pain
  • Fatigue that's overwhelming or unmanageable

"Your doctor should always be a collaborator in your fitness regimen. Working out should ultimately make us feel stronger, more pliable and more energized," Bish says.

"Trust your instincts. If something isn't feeling right, don't wait to see how it goes. Speak with your doctor so they can help you identify any conditions that may be impairing your ability to exercise and can help you create a plan to work around that safely."



(Video) The surprising reason our muscles get tired - Christian Moro


What causes extreme fatigue after exercise? ›

It's common to get tired after a long or tough workout. In general, this occurs because your muscles run out of energy. Your central nervous system also loses its ability to keep moving your muscles. This causes muscle fatigue, making you feel tired.

What are three types of fatigue that can affect your body? ›

There are three types of fatigue: transient, cumulative, and circadian: Transient fatigue is acute fatigue brought on by extreme sleep restriction or extended hours awake within 1 or 2 days.

Can exercise cause extreme fatigue? ›

During exercise, muscles produce metabolites, which are sensed by metaboreceptors that transmit information via fatigue pathways to the brain, according to the researchers. But in patients with SEID, these fatigue pathways have become highly sensitive to metabolites and can trigger excessive feelings of fatigue.

How do you stop extreme fatigue? ›

Self-help tips to fight tiredness
  1. Eat often to beat tiredness. ...
  2. Get moving. ...
  3. Lose weight to gain energy. ...
  4. Sleep well. ...
  5. Reduce stress to boost energy. ...
  6. Talking therapy beats fatigue. ...
  7. Cut out caffeine. ...
  8. Drink less alcohol.

What helps with fatigue after exercise? ›

How to Avoid Fatigue from Working Out
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. ...
  • Time your food intake to your exercise. ...
  • Drink more water. ...
  • Improve your aerobic capacity. ...
  • Use correct form. ...
  • Rest and recover.
Aug 11, 2022

What are signs of over exercising? ›

Here are some symptoms of too much exercise:
  • Being unable to perform at the same level.
  • Needing longer periods of rest.
  • Feeling tired.
  • Being depressed.
  • Having mood swings or irritability.
  • Having trouble sleeping.
  • Feeling sore muscles or heavy limbs.
  • Getting overuse injuries.
Aug 15, 2022

What organ causes fatigue? ›

The thyroid is a small gland at the base of your neck. It controls your metabolism, the speed at which your body converts fuel into energy. When the gland is underactive and the metabolism functions too slowly, you may feel sluggish and put on weight.

What diseases are associated with fatigue? ›

  • Adrenal insufficiency.
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Anemia.
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Cancer.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Chronic infection or inflammation.
  • Chronic kidney disease.

What illness is associated with fatigue? ›

Chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME/CFS, is a complicated disorder. It causes extreme fatigue that lasts for at least six months. Symptoms worsen with physical or mental activity but don't fully improve with rest.

What does extreme fatigue feel like? ›

Fatigue is feeling severely overtired. Fatigue makes it hard to get up in the morning, go to work, do your usual activities and make it through your day. You might have an overwhelming urge to sleep, and you may not feel refreshed after you rest or sleep.

What happens if you have extreme fatigue? ›

Medical causes – unrelenting exhaustion may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease or diabetes. Lifestyle-related causes – alcohol or drugs or lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue. Workplace-related causes – workplace stress can lead to feelings of fatigue.

What vitamins help with fatigue? ›

The 5 Best Vitamins for Energy & Tiredness
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) ...
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) ...
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) ...
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) ...
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

When should I be worried about extreme fatigue? ›

If the fatigue is associated with chest pain, shortness of breath, irregular heart rate, or sense of imminent passing out, these are urgent conditions that warrant immediate medical attention. These could be symptoms of a serious heart condition or major vascular insufficiency.

What supplements are good for fatigue? ›

What Supplements and Vitamins Can I Take to Help My Tiredness?
  • Ashwagandha.
  • Essential fatty acids like omega 3's (found in fish oil!)
  • Iron.
  • Vitamin B12 (especially as B12 deficiency can cause tiredness)
  • Creatine.
  • Beetroot Powder.
  • Tyrosine.
  • DHEA.

How do I regain energy after fatigue? ›

9 tips to boost your energy — naturally
  1. Control stress.
  2. Lighten your load.
  3. Exercise.
  4. Avoid smoking.
  5. Restrict your sleep.
  6. Eat for energy.
  7. Use caffeine to your advantage.
  8. Limit alcohol.

How long does it take to recover from exercise fatigue? ›

The time you suffer from muscle fatigue will depend on how far you've pushed yourself. With that said, though, you should be fully recovered within three to five days. If muscle fatigue lasts longer than that, then chances are you've pushed yourself further than you should and consider that for any future workouts.

When should you not exercise? ›

5 Signs You Shouldn't Try to Push Through a Workout
  • You're Sick Below the Neck. ...
  • You're Running on Less Than 5 Hours of Sleep. ...
  • You're Still Sore from Monday's Workout on Thursday. ...
  • You're Lightheaded or Dizzy. ...
  • You Experience Chest Pain or Pressure.
Apr 5, 2018

How much exercise is too much for seniors? ›

How Much Is Too Much? A study revealed startling evidence that vigorous exercise of more than 7.5 hours per week increased the risk of heart damage, coronary artery calcification, or rhythm disorders.

What are the three signs of overexertion? ›

Here are four signs to look out for that may indicate you've overexerted yourself and need to take a break.
  • Feeling Dizzy. Your fitness regimen should never be so strenuous that it leaves you feeling dizzy and lightheaded. ...
  • Feeling Nauseated. ...
  • Experiencing Pain. ...
  • Feeling Excess Fatigue.
Oct 18, 2016

How do you treat post exertional malaise? ›

However, incorporating the following seven tips may help manage, limit, or prevent PEM flare-ups:
  1. Keep track of symptoms. ...
  2. Practice activity management or pacing. ...
  3. Avoid the activity/crash cycle. ...
  4. Find ways to make tasks easier. ...
  5. Consider wearing a heart rate monitor. ...
  6. Be patient. ...
  7. Rest in a quiet, dark room.

What supplements help with muscle fatigue? ›

Here are seven to consider.
  • Protein supplement. Protein is perhaps the most useful supplement for muscle recovery. ...
  • Branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplement. ...
  • Fatty acid supplement. ...
  • Creatine supplement. ...
  • Citrulline malate supplement. ...
  • Magnesium supplement. ...
  • Tart cherry juice extract.
Jun 11, 2021

What does muscle fatigue feel like? ›

Muscle fatigue is a symptom that makes it harder to move as normal. Some people experience a dull aching in the muscles. They may also feel constantly tired and lack the energy to perform everyday tasks. Exercise is a common cause of muscle fatigue.

What are symptoms of muscle fatigue? ›

Symptoms. When you experience fatigue, the force behind the muscles' movements decrease, causing you to feel weaker, often this weakness is the initial sign. Other symptoms associated with muscle fatigue include: soreness; localized pain; shortness of breath; muscle twitching; trembling; a weak grip; muscle cramps.


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