It’s no secret that working out first thing in the morning can be an excellent way to get your day started on the right foot. However, many people find themselves feeling inexplicably drained and tired after an early morning workout. If you’ve ever dragged yourself through the day after an intense AM fitness session, you’re not alone. This experience is more common than you may realize.
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Is This Normal?
Feeling fatigued after a vigorous workout is very normal, even expected. During exercise, your muscles use up their stored energy (glycogen) for fuel. The resulting glycogen depletion causes temporary fatigue. Furthermore, your body needs time to recover after expending energy and pushing itself physically.
It’s absolutely natural to feel tired afterward. However, prolonged, excessive fatigue and sleepiness may indicate an underlying issue. Let’s explore some reasons you may feel especially tired after a morning workout and ways to help boost your energy.
Common Causes of Post-Workout Fatigue
Here are some of the most common explanations for feeling tired rather than energized after your early morning workout:
1. Not Eating Beforehand
One of the biggest mistakes people make is working out on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. If you don’t eat something before your workout, your body doesn’t have enough fuel to power through the exercise.
Going into a workout without any food can lead to low blood sugar levels, dehydration, and overall fatigue afterwards. Make sure to have a light pre-workout snack that includes both carbs and protein, such as:
- A banana and a handful of almonds
- Oatmeal with milk and berries
- Yogurt with granola
- Half a peanut butter sandwich
Having a small meal 30-60 minutes before your workout will provide your body with the energy it needs to get through the exercise without draining your reserves.
Many people wake up dehydrated after going 6-8 hours without water during sleep. If you don’t properly rehydrate before working out, it can worsen the effects of dehydration.
Dehydration causes your heart to work harder to pump blood through your body. It can also lead to dizziness, nausea, headaches, and overall fatigue after your workout.
Drink 16-24 oz of water as soon as you wake up in the morning. Continue to sip water on your way to the gym and during your workout as well. Proper hydration will help prevent that post-exercise tiredness.
3. Not Warming Up
Failing to warm up before diving into intense exercise can leave you feeling depleted rather than energized afterwards.
Warming up gradually increases your heart rate, respiratory rate, circulation, and core body temperature. This prepares your cardiovascular system for the workout ahead and prevents injuries.
Make sure to include at least 5-10 minutes of dynamic warm up exercises, such as:
- Jogging in place
- High knees
- Jumping jacks
- Arm circles
Followed by some light, full-body stretching before your main workout. This will get your blood flowing and provide an energizing lead-in to your morning training session.
It’s easy to overdo it with your workouts when you’re motivated to exercise first thing in the morning. But pushing yourself too hard too frequently can backfire and leave you exhausted.
Signs you may be overtraining include:
- Decreased performance during workouts
- Muscle soreness that persists for days
- Increased injury risk
- Irritability and mood swings
- Loss of motivation for workouts
Make sure to space out intense training sessions with easier recovery days. Listen to warning signs from your body and avoid overexerting yourself. Overtraining will inevitably lead to extreme fatigue.
5. Improper Form and Technique
Using improper form during your exercises can significantly increase how hard your muscles have to work. This leads to extra strain on your body that can sap your energy levels after your workout.
Be mindful of your form during every rep of every exercise. Move through the proper range of motion in a controlled way. Engage your core muscles to help maintain stability. Using proper form will help prevent injuries and excessive muscle fatigue.
If you’re new to strength training, consider booking a session with a personal trainer. They can ensure you learn perfect form from the start so your workouts don’t wear you out.
6. Unbalanced Routine
Failing to balance different components of exercise can also leave you feeling wiped out after your morning training.
An unbalanced routine might involve:
- Only doing cardio with no resistance training
- Focusing only on weights without flexibility exercises
- Excluding recovery days and exercises
- Skipping warmups and cooldowns
Make sure your program incorporates:
- Cardiovascular exercise
- Resistance/strength training
- Flexibility and mobility work
- Sufficient rest and recovery
A balanced fitness plan will provide optimal energy without fatigue.
Other Factors That Can Cause Post-Workout Fatigue
Aside from exercise-related issues, there are some other factors that could be contributing to feeling drained after your AM workouts:
7. Inadequate Sleep
Not getting enough quality sleep is one of the most common causes of constant fatigue. If you skimp on your Zzz’s, your body won’t have enough time to rest, repair muscles, and recharge energy.
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Establish good sleep habits like limiting screen time before bed, creating an optimal sleep environment, and going to bed at a consistent time. Quality slumber will help combat workout fatigue.
8. Nutritional Deficiencies
If your diet lacks key vitamins and minerals, it can definitely lead to feelings of fatigue, especially when paired with exercise.
Ensure your diet includes nutrient-dense foods that provide essentials like:
- Iron: Lean meats, spinach, beans
- Magnesium: Nuts, seeds, leafy greens
- Zinc: Oysters, beef, eggs
- Vitamin D: Fatty fish, eggs, milk
- B Vitamins: Chicken, fish, nuts, avocado
You can also have your doctor test your vitamin and mineral levels to check for any deficiencies. Taking supplements can help correct nutritional gaps causing fatigue.
Some medications can list fatigue, weakness, or drowsiness as potential side effects. These include:
- Blood pressure medications
- Muscle relaxers
- Pain relievers
Check the label on any prescription or over-the-counter medications you take regularly. Discuss switching to alternative options with your doctor if your meds could be contributing to workout tiredness.
10. Undiagnosed Medical Conditions
In some cases, chronic fatigue after exercise can stem from an underlying health condition. Possibilities include:
- Thyroid disorders
- Adrenal fatigue
- Heart problems
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
See your physician if fatigue persists for over 2 weeks and lifestyle measures don’t help. Get tested to rule out any medical issues causing symptoms. Treating the root problem should resolve workout-related exhaustion.
How morning post-workout fatigue affects you
Feeling tired after an early morning workout can influence the rest of your day in various ways:
Physical tiredness often translates to mental grogginess. You may struggle to concentrate at work, remember details, or think clearly. Mental fatigue can zap your motivation and make tasks seem more challenging.
Decreased Work Performance
Excessive tiredness can hinder your work productivity. You may lack the mental sharpness needed for complex tasks, problem-solving, quick decision-making, and avoiding mistakes. Feeling drained can make it harder to push through your daily workload efficiently.
Less Energy for Other Activities
After an intense morning workout, you may feel too exhausted to be active the rest of the day. Hobbies, social events, and additional exercise may get put on the backburner because of low energy. You may just want to lounge on the couch after work.
Physical fatigue can manifest as irritability, impatience, and general grumpiness. This can negatively impact your interactions and relationships with others. No one enjoys feeling hangry and cranky all day.
Compromised Immune System
Excess fatigue strains your body and weakens your immune defenses. This can make you more prone to falling ill. Your body needs adequate rest to protect against viruses and infection.
Mental fuzziness from feeling tired can lead to poor decision-making regarding food choices, productivity, safety, finances, etc. Fatigue inhibits clear thinking needed for smart choices.
Tips to Prevent Post-Workout Fatigue
If morning workouts leave you feeling wiped out, there are solutions. Here are some tips to help you bounce back with energy:
Eat a Pre-Workout Snack
Fuel up with a carb-rich snack about 1-2 hours before your AM workout. Good options include oatmeal, whole grain toast, fruit, yogurt, or energy bars. This provides your body the glycogen it needs to power through exercise.
Drink plenty of fluids in the morning and throughout your workout to stay hydrated. Dehydration intensifies fatigue. Sip water frequently, and consider an electrolyte beverage like coconut water or a sports drink.
Slowly Build Up Intensity
Don’t jump straight into intense training first thing in the morning. Allow your body time to adjust by gradually increasing workout length, weight, speed, etc. Build a base level of fitness before pushing your limits.
Schedule Rest Days
Make sure to take 1-2 rest days per week to allow your body to recover. Mix up hard and easy workouts. Listen to signs of fatigue and avoid overtraining. Proper rest and recovery will boost your energy.
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to feel refreshed for morning workouts. Keep a consistent sleep schedule, limit electronics before bed, create a restful environment in your bedroom, and adopt helpful sleep habits.
Change Your Workout Time
Some people simply function better by working out later in the day. If possible, experiment by shifting your workout to mid-morning or early evening and see if that prevents excessive tiredness.
A cup of coffee or pre-workout drink with caffeine approximately 30-60 minutes before exercising can provide an energy boost. However, don’t rely on caffeine daily as it can impact sleep.
See a Doctor
If simple lifestyle tweaks don’t help your fatigue, get your blood levels tested for anemia and other deficiencies like vitamin D. See a medical professional to pinpoint and treat any underlying issues.
It’s perfectly normal to feel tired after working out first thing in the morning. However, excessive fatigue that drags down your whole day may be fixable. Strategies like eating a pre-workout snack, staying hydrated, avoiding overtraining, prioritizing sleep, and gradually ramping up intensity can help combat workout-related tiredness. Pay attention to your body’s signals. With some trial and error, you can find an AM workout routine that energizes you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should fatigue last after a morning workout?
It’s normal to feel some tiredness immediately after an intense morning workout. However, this shouldn’t last all day. Fatigue lasting several hours may indicate issues like lack of fuel, dehydration, or overtraining. Optimal recovery time is usually 1-2 hours.
Should I avoid caffeine after a morning workout?
Caffeine close to bedtime can interfere with sleep. But an early morning coffee after a workout, such as before 8 am, is unlikely to disrupt sleep at night. The body’s caffeine metabolism usually clears it within 8-10 hours. Moderation is key.
Is a cold shower after a morning workout energizing?
Some people find cold showers invigorating by increasing alertness and blood circulation. However, cold water also inhibits blood flow to muscles which may hinder recovery. Lukewarm showers are less shocking to the body. Listen to what feels best.
Should I exercise on an empty stomach in the morning?
For most people, working out fasted first thing isn’t ideal and can lead to fatigue. Eat a carb-rich snack about an hour before morning workouts to fuel your body and prevent energy crashes afterward. However, do what feels best for your body.
How can I make sure I’m not overtraining in the mornings?
Signs like persistent tiredness, sore muscles, lack of motivation, reduced performance, etc may indicate overtraining. Prevent it by scheduling rest days, varying workouts, avoiding excessive intensity every day, listening to your body, and allowing proper recovery between sessions.