Mature athletes and fitness enthusiasts expect to have good days and bad days. Some mornings you’ll wake up and complete a killer workout and feel absolutely on top of the world. Others, you’ll feel heavy, sluggish, or even weak before you even get halfway through a session. When you’ve got goals and long-term habits, skipping a workout is out of the question. But some days you can find yourself leaving the gym/road/bike feeling defeated rather than victorious.
Sometimes a bad night’s sleep, poor nutrition, or illness can throw you off track during a workout. But if you are healthy, well-rested and fed, and still hitting major fatigue during an endurance workout, there may be a few simple tweaks that can increase your energy and reduce fatigue after a workout (and during).
Whether you’re a runner, lifter, cyclist, or triathlete, here are 3 evidence-based nutritional strategies and supplements that can take the edge off your fatigue or even banish it altogether.
#1 Perfect Your Pre-Workout Meal
About 2-3 hours before you train is the right time to consume a solid, nutrient-dense meal. This timing is important as it gives your body enough time to digest your meal and stabilize blood glucose levels. If you eat a meal too close to your workout, you may not be able to burn fat as effectively due to high levels of insulin in your blood (the body’s natural response to regulate blood sugar and cellular energy after eating).
What should I include in my pre-workout meal?
The exact components of your pre-workout meal should vary depending on the length of your training, what type of exercise you’re doing, your current diet, etc. It is important to experiment and be intuitive to your body’s needs. Everyone is unique and may need to adjust slightly to find what makes them feel their best.
Your meal should be a calculated blend of protein and carbohydrates.
You want very low amounts of fat to avoid fat-associated energy dips (this happens a couple of hours after digesting a high-fat meal. Not great timing for your workout!). To determine what amount is right for you, use the simple equations below:
- Protein - Your weight in lbs ÷ 2.2 × .15 grams/.25 grams= low range/high range for protein
- Carbohydrates - Your weight in lbs ÷ 2.2 × .25 grams/1 gram= low range/high range for carbohydrates
Generally, if you are going to be doing a heavier/longer workout, you’ll want to consume your higher range for protein/carbs. If you’re doing a lighter/shorter workout you can eat towards your lower range. You may need to experiment a little to find what feels best and helps you feel optimal during and after your workout.
Best sources of pre-workout protein
Consuming protein that is high in tyrosine with a balance of other essential amino acids will help to strengthen your workout and battle fatigue after a workout. To avoid high fat, choose lean meats or low-fat plant sources.
Here are the top sources of lean, high-tyrosine protein:
- Chicken breast
- Egg whites
- Cottage cheese
Best sources of pre-workout carbs
The best pre-workout carbs are low-fiber, digest slowly, and are high in amylose (resistant starch).
It may seem odd to recommend a low-fiber carb, but too much fiber before a workout can cause digestive upset and discomfort. Amylose is a “resistant starch” that digests more slowly (resists digestion) which helps to keep your blood sugars steady. This is essentially the opposite of amylopectin (a fast-digesting starch) which causes a big sugar spike and resulting energy “crash” before and/or during your workout.
Mastering carbohydrates can take some practice, as they are relatively complex. The makeup of each carb type is different and can influence your energy differently. For example, a red sweet potato has 32% amylose (slow-digesting starch) whereas a white potato only has 20%.
Here are the top sources of slow-digesting, low-fiber carbohydrates:
- Whole grains, especially uncooked oats, rye, barley, and wheat
- Puffed wheat cereal
- Corn tortillas
- Red sweet potatoes
- Cooked yams
- White beans
Don’t forget to hydrate
Your workout fatigue may simply be due to dehydration if you’re not drinking enough water. Most people remember to drink during a workout, but the prime time to hydrate is actually 2-3 hours BEFORE you exercise. Make sure you’re drinking between 15-20 ounces of water around the same time as your pre-workout meal.
#2 Choose The Right Pre-Workout Supplement
20-30 minutes before you begin a workout, you want to give your body a boost of protein and quick-energizing ingredients. These should improve your focus, increase blood flow, increase nutrient utilization, provide sustaining energy through your workout, and set you up for optimum recovery.
A recommended protocol for endurance training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and long weight lifting sessions include a pre-workout supplement comprised of:
- 7-8 grams of hydrolyzed protein with a full spectrum of amino acids
- 60-100 mg caffeine or another energy source
- 10-15 grams of simple and complex carbohydrates
Consuming hydrolyzed protein ensures quick digestion and proper utilization of amino acids during a workout. If you take an intact protein (digests slowly) your body will be digesting it during your workout instead of using it to maximize your performance.
Remember, there is a difference between complete and incomplete proteins.
A complete protein contains all 9 essential amino acids (these are the ones your body cannot produce on its own and must receive from your diet). An incomplete protein contains only non-essential amino acids or only a partial spectrum of essential amino acids.
Many protein supplements contain only protein and carbs, but no caffeine. If you want caffeine for a little extra edge, Frog Fuel Ultra Energized combines hydrolyzed collagen protein, a full spectrum of amino acids including beta-alanine and citrulline malate, carbohydrates, electrolytes, and 80 milligrams of caffeine to provide sustained energy and optimum recovery for endurance athletes.
Choose a supplement with these performance-increasing amino acids
There are certain amino acids that play a larger role in performance and energy than others do. You want to consume a pre-workout that contains an optimizing blend of amino-acids that are specific to buyers who are seasoned competitors.
- Beta-alanine - may increase your “time to exhaustion” (TTE) by 13% or more by decreasing the negative impact of lactic acid on your muscles. Also shown to increase performance in high-intensity exercise.
- Citrulline malate- may support both high-intensity and endurance exercise by decreasing muscle soreness during and after a workout by 40% or more.
#3 A Mid-Workout Supplement To Postpone Workout Fatigue
For individuals engaging in moderately intense exercise that is 90 minutes or less, a pre-workout supplement is all you should need. For endurance athletes who are logging more than 90-minute training sessions (i.e. powerlifters, runners, triathletes, cyclists, etc) or who are doing HIIT training, you may benefit immensely from a mid-workout supplement to boost your protein and carbs.
Once you’ve pushed your body past the first 90 minutes of a workout, it’s likely the nutrients from the pre-workout have begun to wear off. Fatigue and discouragement can set in at this stage without an extra boost to push you through.
Studies have found that co-ingesting carbohydrates and protein during an endurance workout can help to reduce muscle soreness, enhance mood/energy, restore muscle function, and even improve performance in future exercise.
What blend of protein/carbs is right for your mid-workout?
Aim for 5-15 grams of hydrolyzed protein per hour that you are exercising, plus 35-45 grams of quick-digesting carbohydrates. Avoid fats. Your mid-workout blend should also include water and electrolytes.
Energy for seasoned endurance athletes
Use the strategies and supplements in this article to help reduce your fatigue after a workout, and increase your stamina and energy during your training. Our products are all designed to provide maximum support during your workouts.
We are here to support you on your mission, whatever that may be. We see you staying committed to your long-term goals and pushing through discomfort in order to stay true to your commitments. We’re fully dedicated to sharing evidence-based information that will help you rise above the ordinary and outperform your limits.