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2-4x/wk, I exercise from about 5:30--7pm (1 hr of weights + 4mi treadmill at 7:30-8:00 pace). I'd say I work out from a 5 to 8 on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being highest intensity. I then shower, dine...and afterwards typically feel rather tired and low-energy until bedtime, such that I am fairly ineffective for much beyond just kind of taking it easy. Sometimes this occurs a day or so after a workout. I'd much prefer to have more energy, but also wish to have reasonable fitness.

The thing I've found that is most consistently correlated with retaining energy post-workout is my fitness level, unsurprisingly. If I haven't been working out in months and try this, it is like a truck hit me. If I am in good shape, it's not as severe. I do try to do what I can in terms of eating, drinking, and sleeping properly. My diet is largely vegetarian, fairly health conscious, and I drink sufficient water. I could probably sleep better, and am working on that (that might be a big component).

My questions are: Do I simply have to accept that I'll have this sort of energy drop, or is there a way to mitigate it significantly? If so, how? How much should one's age matter?

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Since you are largely vegetarian, where do you get your protein from, and how much? –  michael Sep 16 '11 at 1:20
    
@michael From soymilk, tofu, beans, nuts, whole wheat bread, veggie burgers, and I also eat some dairy (eggs, cheese, cottage cheese) and then perhaps 3-5x/month fish or every few months chicken. Sometimes I use a soy based protein powder but haven't lately. I haven't quantified my daily protein intake, and wonder if perhaps it is too low. –  Chelonian Sep 16 '11 at 2:46
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"The thing I've found that is most consistently correlated with retaining energy post-workout is my fitness level" - I think this hits the nail on the head. What you are describing sounds normal and is similar to what I experience. –  LCountee Nov 16 '11 at 2:05
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3 Answers

I had the same issue about 2 years ago, some of it is as you stated - fitness level. I would recommend adding vita-water mix in while working out - I found drinking vitawater (I use the powder form) added significantly to the reduction of post workout fatigue. Another suggestion would be to ramp up when you've been away from a steady exercise routine instead of jumping in the deep end and pushing a one hour workout.

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You could try exercising more frequently but at lower intensity. For example, try to work out 4-5 times a week alternating weight lifting and cardio instead of doing both on the same day. You said 2-4 times a week... if you're only doing 2 days I'd go up to 4 days and alternate the type of workout; if you're doing 4 days of this kind of workout I'd just back off the intensity.

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+1. Good suggestion. –  Steve Wortham Dec 16 '11 at 3:53
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It sounds like you've reached the tipping point, and are possibly overtraining at times. Long training sessions will cause a rise in cortisol levels, putting your body into a catabolic state. This will make you feel tired and can even stunt muscle growth. Cortisol levels rise when the body is put under stress. Of course inconsistency plays a big part as well. Any inconsistency in your training will wreak havoc on your energy levels.

A few suggestions:

  1. Drink a post-workout recovery drink immediately after your workout. There are a lot to choose from but I typically buy Accelerade because the price is reasonable and it tastes pretty good too. Although, technically Endurox should be more effective because it has a better protein/carb ratio. Anyway, the idea with these drinks is that they'll halt the rise in cortisol levels and help promote protein synthesis.
  2. As Lauren already suggested, you could try splitting up your routine. Perhaps 2 or 3 days per week of weight training, alternating with a couple days of cardio. Each training session would be a little shorter in effect, and just might allow you to recover more easily from day to day.
  3. Try analyzing your diet for a few days, and determine how much protein, carbs, and fat you're taking in each day. With a routine like yours you might want to shoot for something around 30% protein / 40% carbs / 30% fat.

If you find the right mix of diet, exercise, rest (and post-workout nutrition) you should actually start seeing improvements in your work capacity as well as your energy levels.


As asked in the comments, "how do I know that I've overtrained"?

There are some indicators of this, such as a rise in your resting heart rate. But perhaps the most reliable thing would be to pay close attention to how you feel on the day of any given workout. If, for example, you still feel sore and fatigued from the previous workout, and you decide to workout anyway then make a note of your work capacity for the day. If you're not able to lift as much weight, or simply run out of steam faster then there's a good chance that's due to overtraining.

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@ Steve Worthham, just a question regarding your post - how do you determine when you reach this 'tipping point'? As in, how can I determine the difference between 'good' fatigue and 'bad' (i.e overtraining) fatigue? Thanks! –  Bee Jul 9 '12 at 11:40
    
@Bee - See my updated answer. –  Steve Wortham Jul 9 '12 at 14:13
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