Maximising energy and fighting fatigue in athletes

fighting fatigue in athletes

Maximising energy and fighting fatigue in athletes

It is quite normal for most people to experience tiredness and fatigue at some stage. General tiredness and feelings of ‘acute’ fatigue are also common for athletes when there is an increase in the amount or intensity of training. This usually disappears as the body adapts to the new workload provided this is supported with adequate nutrition.

If training loads are not supported with adequate nutrition, an athlete may experience low energy availability (LEA). This occurs when an individual does not match their energy intake to the demands of training and their lifestyle requirements, leaving inadequate energy to support health and normal bodily functions. Chronic or prolonged low energy availability can lead to Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) which results in impaired physiological and performance consequences. 


Understand key symptoms

As a coach or parent you might notice some of these physiological and performance symptoms in your athletes:

  • Drop in performance or lack of expected improvement in performance
  • Increased perception of effort during exercise and general daily activities
  • Altered mood and attitude to training
  • Muscle soreness and poor recovery between sessions
  • Loss of appetite and/or sudden weight loss
  • Reduced strength due to weight loss
  • Low resistance to infection (colds/flu)
  • Sleep disturbances

Tips for coaches and/or parents

Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional strategies that can assist in minimising fatigue in your athletes:

Showcase the role of carbs!

  • Carbohydrate foods are important sources of energy for athletic performance pre, during and post daily training sessions as well as across a week
  • Carbohydrate is crucial to support immune function and to nourish the brain, supporting concentration, mood and skill acquisition
  • After moderate to high intensity exercise, consuming a carbohydrate based drink/snack or meal is the most effective way to initiate the start of muscle fuel store recover, followed by further intake of carbohydrate rich foods across the day
  • If there is a longer time between training sessions, your athlete may not need to be as aggressive with their carbohydrate intake across the day, provided they consume enough for their daily requirements

Optimise iron rich foods

  • Athletes and active individuals can be prone to iron deficiency due to iron loss in sweat, urine and faeces. Females also have increased losses due to menstruation
  • Poor dietary choices, total dietary intake or food avoidances may result in low iron intake
  • Iron needs are higher for athletes and those who follow a plant-based diet
  • Low iron stores may cause general tiredness with an increase in recovery time, poor immunity, cold-like symptoms, poor appetite, and changes in mental health

Help hydrate

  • As a coach you can help support adequate hydration status by creating regular training breaks or identifying opportunities across a training route for your athletes to drink
  • Your athletes may not drink enough fluid during or after to replace their sweat losses and therefore can experience ongoing dehydration
  • Including a drink with every meal and snack will assist with daily fluid needs

Be proactive in engaging with an Accredited Sports Dietitian, and involve a great support team around your athlete. Book an appointment with our Sports Dietitian, Georgie Tran here.

Seek appropriate support from a health professional e.g. Psychologist and Exercise Physiologist, and GP where appropriate.

Creating a Positive Performance Culture

Creating a Positive Performance Culture

Language and commentary around nutrition, body composition and movement can influence the actions of athletes, impacting on their health and performance. It is important that we create a safer and supportive environment for an athlete, squad or team.

How can you be an awesome role model?

A good start is to encourage and promote the role of nutrition in performance. 

Some suggestions include:

  • Recognising the role of food and eating in enjoyment and pleasure, in addition to its role in performance
  • If body composition is being discussed, ensure goals are related to performance benefits, as opposed to looking “more fit” or for aesthetic reasons
  • Don’t engage in making comments about any athlete’s weight, shape, body composition or dietary intake (no matter how subtle it seems)
  • Always maintain focus on improving additional performance success factors that are unrelated to weight/size

Tips for coaches and/or parents

Be aware and never assume your athlete is okay in this space – listen, talk and open this conversation up with your athletes and entire support team! Create a culture that is safer, supportive and promotes positive relationships with individual bodies and performance nutrition.

Thoughts and actions to remove:

  • Recommending specific diets, cutting out foods/food groups, skipping meals, calorie tracking or promoting rigid food rules
  • Judgemental language around foods/drinks or activity e.g. sluggish, heavy, bad, naughty, wrong/right, guilty pleasure etc.
  • The urge to comment on an athlete’s or other support/team member’s food choices or body

If you think an athlete around you might have a negative relationship with food or their body, seek support from an Accredited Sports Dietitian and ask them ‘how can I best support you?’. Build a supportive team around them. This can include health professionals such as a Psychologist and Exercise Physiologist.

Book an appointment with our wonderful Sports Dietitian, Georgie Tran here.

Joyful Movement

Joyful Movement

The concept of ‘joyful movement’ is to approach physical activity in a positive way, where we can enjoy the different ways we can move our bodies. There are many benefits to regular physical activity, including lowering stress and insulin levels, digestive support and building motivation.

Sometimes, it can be challenging to engage in regular movement, especially if you’ve struggled with your relationship with exercise and movement. Trying to focus on participating in movement that we enjoy can help us to build a positive relationship with movement and our body, and increase our chances of moving our body regularly.

Shifting the focus

When we focus on finding movement that we enjoy, we are more likely to look forward to moving our bodies.

Tips and suggestions

Start by exploring different types of movement and what feels best for you. You might already have an idea of what type of movement you enjoy, but for some it might take some time trying a variety of different activities to find what feels best.

Some suggestions you can explore:

  • Dancing to your favourite music
  • Walking with your dog
  • Playing with your children or grandchildren
  • Gardening
  • Yoga or Pilates
  • Team sports

Be patient with yourself and try a few different things until you find something that is safe, accessible and right for you. Start off slow and ease into it one step at a time. It can be helpful to seek support from an Exercise Physiologist.

These are only a handful of suggestions. All types of movement are valid.

It’s also important to note that sometimes movement won’t be joyful, and that’s ok too. For example, participating in rehabilitative movement to recover from an injury or to support mobility. Focus on what works best for you and your body, and seek appropriate support from a health professional specific to your needs e.g. Exercise Physiologist and Physiotherapist.