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What Is Muscle Fatigue, Why Does It Happen, and How to Delay It

Written by Tom Leonard Huff

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Fitness Health

If you’re losing power and find yourself getting weaker, you might be suffering from what’s known as “muscle fatigue.” It happens to even the best athletes, but there are ways you can delay muscle fatigue. But, you don’t have to just let it happen. Find out what you can do.

What Is Muscle Fatigue?

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The term “muscle fatigue” is defined by a lowered ability to produce force with your muscles. You lose “power,” and you notice yourself becoming weaker. This exercise-induced fatigue can vary from person to person as can the experience itself. Some might only feel weakness, while others may get muscle cramps, muscle twitches, excessive soreness, or even a weakened grip.

If you notice any of these symptoms and they persist for more than a day or two, you may be dealing with muscle fatigue. (Don’t worry: it happens to nearly every athlete, and there are steps you can take to mitigate the problem.)

Why Does Muscle Fatigue Happen?

If you want to delay muscle fatigue, knowing what causes it will come in handy.

You lose muscle naturally as you age. Because of this, many people engage in resistance training to help preserve the muscle mass they have and put on new muscle tissue. But, if you don’t take the time needed to rest and recover or give your body the nutrients it needs for repair and growth, you may well find yourself facing muscle fatigue.

Long periods of overtraining without proper periods of de-loading (that is, purposely training with less weight and volume for a certain time) can wreak havoc on your body. Improper training can also negatively stress your muscles, leave you feeling drained, or even increase your risk of injury.

Instead of just pushing yourself constantly, if you want real progress, working out smarter is essential. Giving your body what it needs and watching for signs of muscle fatigue can help you nip it in the bud and continue to make great progress with your fitness goals.

How to Delay Muscle Fatigue

Since you put in a lot of work in the gym and with your workouts, the last thing you want to do is thwart your progress by dealing with muscle fatigue. So, how can you delay muscle fatigue? There are some tried and true strategies:


1. Rest — it may seem obvious, but rest is the best way to delay muscle fatigue. When you train, you break down the muscle fibers, and it’s no surprise that you need to allow your muscles time to recover to make progress.

– It’s generally wise to take at least one full day of rest a week. This allows your muscles and your central nervous system to rest and reboot.
– Don’t train the same muscles back-to-back. Give one muscle group a rest while you work a different area, so when you hit those muscles again, you’ll be fully recovered and ready to maximize your efforts.
– Don’t go heavy 24/7. Either mix up your workouts on the regular by changing things up each week, or rotate between heavy weeks and easier weeks by including de-training (less weight, higher volume).

2. Stay hydrated — yes, keeping your water intake high can go a long way toward helping you delay muscle fatigue.

– Staying hydrated helps keep your circulation humming along. Better circulation means more nutrients to your muscles during workouts.
– Circulating blood also delivers the electrolytes needed for strong muscular contractions.
– Your blood is also the delivery system for glucose (energy), and staying hydrated helps your body receive the sustenance it needs.
– Staying hydrated allows your body to keep joints lubricated for smooth and pain-free movement.

3. Stretch, warm up, and cool down — could it really be that easy? Not only is a proper warmup and cooldown essential, but stretching warm muscles will help keep you limber and your muscles pliable as you move through your workout.

– It can be helpful to stretch because, as with circulation, blood flow to your muscles is important as blood brings oxygen to all the systems in your body.
– Sufficient oxygen will help prevent fatigue and even reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DMSO).

4. Get the nutrients your body needs — there are specific nutrients you can include in your diet plan that will directly impact your muscles. Getting the right nutrients, such as HMB, creatine, betaine, and vitamin D, may help you delay muscle fatigue.

– HMB—the supplement hydroxymethylbutyrate (HMB) tells your body to trigger muscle building, and that means new tissue, damage repair, and less muscle loss due to age. HMB may also help you improve your endurance and strength, which can translate to better, more powerful workouts.
– Creatine—this tried-and-true supplement can help you delay muscle fatigue by helping with both performance and recovery. Supplementing with creatine may also help you get more intense workouts while reducing your chances of injury and muscle cramping.
– Betaine—along with creatine, betaine helps keep your cells properly hydrated. Yes, drinking water is important, but keeping the osmotic pressure in your cells at healthy levels appears to be easier when you add this humectant (or water-absorbing) substance.
– Vitamin D—keep up with your vitamin D intake as you can not only improve your health across the board with adequate intake, but you may also help preserve (and build!) your muscle mass, intensify the efficacy of other nutrients, and improve your muscular functions.

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Always address muscle fatigue as soon as you realize it’s happening. The sooner you can catch it, the better, and the faster you can begin to recover. If you can’t delay muscle fatigue and it happens anyway and doesn’t seem to go away, it may be time to check with your doctor. If you overwork already tired muscles, you could set yourself up for injury, or you may be missing a more serious condition.

Yes, natural muscle tissue loss that occurs with age, along with too much resistance work without sufficient nutrients, can lead to muscle fatigue. But, for most, delaying and recovering from muscle fatigue is as simple as following the above strategies.

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