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Question
Posted by: james | 2009-08-03

mental fatigue from exercise

Hi there

I work out quite often 45 mins to an hour 4-5 times a week mostly cardio and stuff like lunges, squats, pushups etc no weights. My body feels very energetic after exercising but my brain just wants to go to sleep no matter what time i exercise. I get a good 8 to 8 1/2 hours of sleep every night, I take a multivitamin, protein shake after exercising and I eat very healthy. I make sure i get a healthy ratio of carbs, proteins etc and always eat some good carbs after working out to replenish my glycogen supplies. I also make sure i get enough calories each day. My problem is after exercising my concentration, motivation, focus, attention decline and i become very unproductive. Any ideas on why this happens and how i can prevent it? By the way I' m medically healthy I' ve been for bloods, sleep study, physical, all normal.

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Our expert says:
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Hi James

Difficult one, because it doesn't seem, at first glance, that you're doing anything at all wrong.

My first impulse is that your blood sugar levels are falling after training, which is a normal response. You're taking in some carbs though, so it seems less likely. I know that a dietician would ask "which carbs" because some will help more than others. So that might be important, to look at what kind of foods you're eating for that carb kick.

The next thing a dietician would ask is "how many calories", because that would be the logical explanation for tiredness. So that's something you've said you do, but maybe needs a closer look - it wouldn't take too much of an inaccurate estimation to cause problems. The same goes for timing of meals. When do you eat throughout the day, and when does the lack of mental capacity happen? Perhaps something as simple as delaying the meal for another 30 minutes would help - there is a physiological reason for this, because insulin levels would not rise as soon, and your muscles wouldn't be using the carbs in combination with insulin, so it might just help to prevent a fall.

The last option is that it's not energy related at all, but blood pressure. That actually seems reasonable, given that diet seems to be OK (though I'd still look at it, as mentioned). one would expect blood pressure to fall after training - so you may have had it tested, but those once off tests are kind of like taking a single photo of someone and then deciding that they always wear a blue shirt. Things change...

So it might be worth checking the BP before you train, then soon after, and maybe an hour after that, because possibly, it is falling as result of exericse (a normal thing to happen). If this is the case, then diet is important - more salt, and possibly medication, for a short time.

Good luck

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