Not performing at your peak? This could be why.
Your head is in the game. You are amped and ready for your high intensity workout. You’re about 10 minutes in, and your body wants to quit on you. What’s going on? You feel tired, weak and unable to perform at the level you’re used to. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Rather recognise the causes, so you know how to avoid it next time.
1. You failed to fuel your body
It’s best to eat for energy. You should ideally eat something balanced and healthy, a minimum of 90 minutes before your workout. Great pre- workout meals should contain a source of complex carbohydrates and protein. Complex carbohydrates deliver a steady stream of energy to the body, which keeps you feeling stronger for longer. Your pre-workout meal should contain around 20-40g of complex carbohydrates from healthy sources like carrots, sweet potatoes, beans, whole grains and fruit like antioxidant-rich dark berries and potassium-packed bananas. Eat protein before any physical activity because it can help reduce muscle damage, stimulate muscle growth and speed recovery. A small portion of monounsaturated fat (found in foods like nuts, avocados and olive oil) can also be consumed before a workout because healthy fats provide energy and play a crucial role in boosting immunity, maintaining cardiovascular health, and hormone restoration.
Good pre-workout meal ideas: A quarter cup of blueberries mixed with half a cup of Greek yoghurt or a hard- boiled egg with an apple. Or chicken and brown rice, tuna salad, or goat’s cheese and sweet potato.
Don’t forget your recover shake to help your body recover from your workout, so you can perform optimally at your next session.”
A solid workout can certainly give you an energy boost, but exercising too much can have the opposite effect on the body. Life stress and excessive training without adequate periodisation and progressive overload can negatively impact your performance. Pushing your body too hard will not only lead to poor workout performance and injury but also to an increase in the body’s production of cortisol. Chronically elevated cortisol levels can, in turn, cause sleep disturbances, digestive issues, depression, memory impairment and weight gain. So, listen to your body and include rest days into your workout schedule to ensure a stronger performance every time you hit that gym.
3. You have an iron deficiency
You’re bound to feel weak and sluggish if your blood isn’t transporting enough oxygen throughout your body, and iron is an essential mineral in this process. It should therefore come as no surprise that your workout lacks ‘oomph’ if your body is deficient in iron. If you suffer from consistently low energy levels check your iron levels. Iron-deficiency anaemia can affect your exercise performance and lead to feelings of weakness during a workout. This is because low iron levels force your system to work harder to get the energy it needs, which can leave you feeling tired, weak, irritable and unfocused. Women who endure heavy periods are especially at risk for low iron levels. Include plenty of iron-rich foods like lean red meat, liver, oysters, beans, spinach and broccoli in your diet to boost iron levels and help you perform at your best, both in and out of the gym.
4. You need magnesium
Low magnesium levels can cause symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome. This nutrient can become depleted through poor diets that are rich in processed foods, sugar and caffeine. Excessive alcohol intake, using oral contraceptives and taking certain medications can also lower magnesium levels in the body. Women should consume 310-320mg of magnesium daily. This can be achieved by increasing your intake of brown rice, lentils, oatmeal, Brazil nuts, bananas, spinach and tuna. Plain yoghurt, broccoli, corn, beans and enriched cereals are also rich in this nutrient.
5. You’re not hydrated
A weak or sluggish workout can also be caused by dehydration, and even mild dehydration can dramatically affect your performance. In fact, exercise performance can be impaired when a person is dehydrated by as little as 2% of their body weight. The reasons why insufficient hydration can negatively affect your workout include: a reduction in blood volume, decreased blood flow to the skin, sweat impairment, increased body heat and an increase in the rate of muscle glycogen use. Ensure that you drink around 2-3 litres of water throughout the day and sip water regularly during a lack lustre exercise session to help boost energy levels.
Original article by Julia Lamberti, for Fitness Magazine.
Photograph of model drinking water: Jody Calitz