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Feeling sleepy after working out? Here’s why, from a nutritionist.

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Sleeping on your yoga mat post work-out?

It’s normal for our bodies to feel tired after exercising, or completely shredded after a particularly tough and long workout. But we typically emerge from the workout feeling pretty good, energized, ready to take on the world—the result of all the endorphins and whole host of psychological well-being benefits exercise brings. [1] Even Plata agrees, “Exercise would cure a guilty conscience.”

While there is irrefutable evidence about the benefits of exercise for us physically, working out also helps with our brain’s cognitive functions. Research has found an increased expression of neurotrophic factors in the brain post work-out. [2]

But what if we feel like diving straight into bed after working out? Somehow, a general sense of sleepiness descends, in replacement of energizing, feel-good endorphins. Is that normal?

We talk to Huma, nutritionist and integrative health coach at Nutritional Balance Clinic, to dig a little deeper.

“When we exercise, we are also quickly burning energy and calories, depending on the intensity of our workout,” Huma explains. “That means we’ll also need to replenish our energy to recover and reap all the benefits from our workout — with nutrients, water and rest.”

So, if you are feeling sleepy and lethargic even after working out, it could be a sign that you are not treating your body well enough:

1. You’re not eating enough nutrients to replenish your energy

We don’t eat food just to fill our tummies; we also eat to nourish our bodies. If you are eating way too much processed foods that are high in sodium and little nutritional benefit, that hardly contributes to muscle and tissue repair which may be causing the post-workout fatigue.

Eating too little before working out can also be an issue. Food is the fuel that helps the body breakdown fats and sugar into energy during your workout.

If your exercise routine was strenuous, it can deplete your energy reserves — which is why you may feel extremely fatigued after. Making sure your body is properly nourished on a regular basis can help you feel good before and after working out.

Huma recommends: Before working out, eat a light meal of fast-digesting carbs that will give you a good burst of energy 2 to 3 hours before you exercise. Like oats, bananas, freshly squeezed juices, granola and Greek yoghurt. After working out, make sure you load up on proteins and carbohydrates to support muscle repair and rebuilding and restore depleted energy stores.

2. You’re not drinking enough water

Drinking water before, during and after your workout is essential to replenish the large amounts of fluids your body is losing as you sweat. It’s easy to become dehydrated if you don’t drink up. When you are in a state of dehydration, it’s normal to feel fatigued. Not having enough water replenished in your body also impedes muscle recovery.

“Drink 3 to 4 cups of water before working out. During, drink 1 cup every 15 minutes of exercise,” Huma suggests. “During longer workouts, you not only lose water, but also sodium and potassium, through your sweat.”

3. You’re not sleeping enough

Sleep and rest are crucial for muscle and tissue repair. Not getting enough sleep the night before your intensive workout session can make you feel especially fatigued and lethargic after.

“Getting enough sleep replenishes your energy reserves,” Huma says. “Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep to allow your muscles to rest and rebuild.”

What you eat matters — especially if you’re going for an intensive work-out or you’re exercising for more than an hour. So the next time you eat junk food because you’re working out? Think again!


[1] Physical activity dose-response effects on outcomes of depression and anxiety.
Dunn AL, Trivedi MH, O’Neal HA
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Jun; 33(6 Suppl):S587-97; discussion 609-10.

[2] Exercise and brain neurotrophins.
Neeper SA, Gómez-Pinilla F, Choi J, Cotman C
Nature. 1995 Jan 12; 373(6510):109.

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