Published October 17, 2012 10:50
Fatigue is the feeling of tiredness or lack of energy. Fatigue can be normal and an important response to physical exercise. Fatigue can also be abnormal and related to poor eating habits, emotional stress, lack of sleep or an underlying medical condition.
The most common causes of fatigue in female athletes are:
• Carbohydrates - Very low carbohydrate diets can lead to chronic tiredness, and low muscle glycogen. Low carbohydrate intake can also result in poor concentration and mood swings. If the timing of carbohydrate intake is not suitable then recovery is compromised.
• Low energy consumption - If athletes do not meet the energy needs of training and growth then this leads to fatigue.
• Dehydration - Many athletes do not drink enough fluid to replace their sweat loss, which results in chronic dehydration. Dehydration impacts performance including decision making and skill level. A 1% level of dehydration can decrease athletic performance and 3% could put an athlete in the high risk health zone. Signs of chronic dehydration are general lethargy, headaches and dry skin.
• Iron deficiency - Female athletes are prone to iron deficiency due to blood loss in menstruation and exercise. Low iron status results in extreme fatigue, poor immunity and shortness of breath.
• Travel - Frequent changes in time zones, climates and food can lead to exhaustion, decreased immunity and mood changes.
Dietary suggestions for helping eliminate fatigue include:
• Eat like an athlete
• Ensure you are hydrated
• Limit caffeine intake
• Don't skip meals
• Eat iron rich foods
• Don't skip recovery foods
• Avoid fad diets
• Be prepared for international travel
• If psychological factors are influencing your food intake then seek guidance
Thanks to Susie Parker Simmons, MS, RD, MED
Sports Dietician and Physiologist
WTA Sports Nutrition Advisor
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