What factors affect energy levels for exercise?
July 22, 2007 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Sometimes when I exercise I feel full of energy. Other days, I feel weak and a little nauseous. This happens even when I get a good amount of sleep every night (7-8 hrs), and even when I've eated a good breakfast (say, oatmeal or cereal) an hour before exercising. What factors affect energy, especially during exercise? What does it take to get that bubbling, bursting, "I can conquer the world" energy every day?
posted by shivohum to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
For some odd reason, I often feel the weak/nauseous thing on mornings when I haven't had a bowel movement before exercising.

Now that could be just me, or it could be an actual factor. Either way, I'm interested to see the other answers to this...
posted by Chorus at 7:38 AM on July 22, 2007

When I used to work out regularly I foound two things taht caused me to get nauseous on excercise days. Too much coffee (is that possible?) and/or too little water. I am not a fitness expert or doctor, but you could be dehydrated.
posted by senador at 8:02 AM on July 22, 2007

Oatmeal and cereal does nothing for me when I'm exercising. I feel very weak later unless I add some protein. That might just be me (I think there is actually a lot of variation from person to person on what the exactly right diet is) but it's definitely a rule I stick to. Even a chunk of swiss cheese or something along those lines makes a big difference.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 8:05 AM on July 22, 2007

I'm with senador: the first, and easiest, thing to do would be to drink more water. Dehydration definitely makes once feel week and quite possibly nauseous.
posted by ssg at 8:34 AM on July 22, 2007

What kind of exercise are you doing and how intense is it? This bad feeling, does it last the whole time you are working out? Do you pull back because of it or push through? Are you looking for the energy while you are working out or just in general?

Overall, I don't think you are going to find the "really good day" energy every day, regardless of what you do. I work out pretty intensely 4 to 6 days a week (depending on where in the season we are), and no matter what I do, some days feel bad. Some days feel bad at the beginning and get better if I just bite down. But I find that when things are intense I need more than 7 to 8 hours sleep.
posted by dame at 9:39 AM on July 22, 2007

Response by poster: Great tips on the dehydration. I drank more water today and immediately felt more energetic.

What kind of exercise are you doing and how intense is it?

Just simple jogging/running -- just for a few miles, usually. I'm an exercise novice.

This bad feeling, does it last the whole time you are working out?

Well, it usually starts about 10 or 15 minutes into it and then I just start to feel dog-tired.

Do you pull back because of it or push through?

Pull back.

Are you looking for the energy while you are working out or just in general?

Definitely both, but was particularly curious about the exercise situation.
posted by shivohum at 10:10 AM on July 22, 2007

I'm an exercise novice.

Getting a trainer, even for just a few sessions can help a lot with figuring stuff and any questions you might have.

Well, it usually starts about 10 or 15 minutes into it and then I just start to feel dog-tired.

You might, you know, just be getting tired because you're exercising.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:22 AM on July 22, 2007

Beware also overtraining. If you're going to really get into this, you might also consider a heart rate monitor
posted by IndigoJones at 11:37 AM on July 22, 2007

I'm with YTMSucks -- I always have some protein (leftover dinner, cheese, broiled fish, turkey "bacon," hamsteak, can of sardines?), with my grain at breakfast, and it gives me a really even, level kind of energy instead of the rapid sugar burst and crash.

Also, I do one hour of dog-walking before breakfast and the second hour after, rather than eating first thing, and weirdly enough, I'm far less sluggish if I get up and get right out there instead of loitering about the house for an hour or two first.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:59 AM on July 22, 2007

Make sure to be hydrated AND make sure to ingest some simple carbohydrate in the two hour window after exercising. A Fig Newton is purt near perfect.
posted by konolia at 12:37 PM on July 22, 2007

Make sure you're getting enough iron in your diet on a regular basis, as well. I had a similar feeling show up when I was borderline anemic and hadn't had an iron-rich meal the day before.
posted by you're a kitty! at 12:57 PM on July 22, 2007

I find that sugary cereal or oatmeal can upset my stomach if it is first thing in the morning.

But as YourTimeMachineSucks said, you should have some protein. Simple carbs will just turn to blood sugar too fast and wont give you lasting, boundless energy; especially if you burn them all off on the treadmill. Protein is the way to go. It turns into energy more slowly, so you have a continual source your entire workout.

Also, you need carbs right after cardio. And cardio is best done with very few carbs in your system. So, have a protein shake before training and then have your delicious carb breakfast after. If this is not possible fruit is portable, rich in carbs, and oh so very delicious.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:58 PM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would second what IndigoJones said. I'm not saying that you are overtraining, but that you should eliminate that as a possibility. For years I was jogging at near anaerobic levels. When I bought a heart-rate monitor, I was amazed at how s l o w I could go and stay in an aerobic zone. I could literally jog for hours. That said, some anaerobic conditioning, such as sprints or burpees, could boost your stamina. For more about this check out Ross Enamait's work. (You could also post your question on the forums there.)
posted by keith0718 at 1:36 PM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nthing the protein suggestion. Oatmeal fills me up, but doesn't give me a lot of energy. Adding in some protein works wonders as long as it's not heavy.
posted by melissam at 2:40 PM on July 22, 2007

The heart rate monitor suggestions above are good: as soon as I read that you are running, I suspected part of the problem may be running to hard. Until they actually put on a heart rate monitor, almost everyone runs too hard for extended exercise. Get a heart rate monitor, learn about heart rate zones, and exercise smarter. I can speak from personal experience that running a little bit too hard for a few days will make you feel very tired when exercising.

Are you varying your exercise day to day at all? It may help to put cycles into your exercise schedule, which is what endurance athletes do to be able to train more without getting as tired. Instead of running e.g. 1 hour per day, you would run 45 minutes one day, 1 hour the next, 1.25 hours the next, and take a rest day on the fourth day. Building up your exercise time slowly helps prevent fatigue and taking rest days gives your body a chance to recover. If you don't want to take a day of complete rest, you can always do a very short, slow run on that day. There is also a lot of value in varying the type of exercise you do. Don't just run every day; try biking, fast hiking, swimming, rowing, or whatever else you might enjoy.

If you want to increase your fitness level, you can also use monthly cycles, e.g. you would train 6 hours the first week, 8 hours the next, 10 hours the next, and 4 hours for the fourth week (your "rest" week). The next month, you might increase to 7, 9, 11, and 5 hours per week.
posted by ssg at 4:30 PM on July 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

Given your answers, I would probably be sure I am not dehydrated and then just give it a little more time and practice pushing through the trough. Like I said, I work out pretty intensely (organized swim practice, all interval training, 1.5-2 hours at a time) and pretty much no one on our team is eating anything beforehand or drinking anything other than gatorade, and we are all fine. Sometimes you are tired and have a bad practice because sometimes you are off. Sometimes I start off feeling bad and keep going and wind up having a great time. It just happens. Good luck in any case.
posted by dame at 5:06 PM on July 22, 2007

I always feel like crap about every third workout. I've been an ahtlete my whole life and imho this is why god (finally) gave us ipods.
posted by fshgrl at 5:06 PM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

shivohum you could be a bit dehydrated but also likely you are hitting one of many perfectly natural plateaus.

After a few workouts when the initial excitement of "Hey I'm exercising" and the novelty wears off you start crossing a threshold. You usually don't even realize it. Your body now understands this ritual is placing demands on it. Your brain was stimulated by the newness of the workout. Now as your body begins to adapt and with your brain no longer as destracted you are merely aware of the waking of new muscles. Now your body is occasionally going to tell you to conserve energy.

The trick is when to listen to it. Nobody can tell you that but you.

You want to know a dirty little secret? This will not go away. It may come less frequently and with lesser severity but it will never go away. Or. It shouldn't. Not if your challenging your self. You don't need to take this too far if this for your health. In fact it's fine to back off a little. Just don't quit. Lessen the intensity for a run or two. Find ways to keep it fun. iPods. Timing yourself. Creating little games. All that.

When I train with fighters if they don't have butterflys before a work out they are not training hard enough. Even they don't seriously feel like bailing before hand I know they are slacking. Some of these guys are close to elite. Life time athletes. But still they would rather eat donuts than get up early and condition. This is what you want. It means your body is getting pushed past it's limits. Monitoring them for over conditioning is the hardest thing their trainers do.

You're not competing or anything so this should be about fun, health, and creating habits. So don't make it miserable. But know the energy roller coaster is par for the course most of the time.
posted by tkchrist at 9:30 PM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

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