- Many exercisers struggle to workout at the end of a challenging work day, when they feel tired and low-energy.
- While there's a temptation to resort to preworkouts and large amounts of caffeine, this is usually a bad idea.
- In many cases, this is due to an inconsistent diet more than anything else, and can be solved by improving your diet a bit.
There’s a very common dilemma that faces a lot of people who go to workout after a long, busy day - they feel exhausted, fatigued, low energy, and maybe a little bit dizzy. Usually, of course, this is because they haven’t eaten very much all day.
While many people don’t necessarily have a disordered relationship to their dietary patterns, they do have a very intermittent eating pattern caused by a busy work schedule. When you’re working intensely for 8-12 hours a day, you need to focus on your work in order to be productive and finish your workload - but this often means that you’re not going to be able to pay much attention to your diet.
The end result here is often a very mixed, back and forth sort of diet. You eat very little most of the day, and then wolf down a bit here and there when you can. You cover up the gaps in your energy levels with caffeine. You snack on whatever’s at hand, even if this is unhealthy candy or office food. While this could almost approach intermittent fasting if done intentionally, it’s more often nothing like it.
Then, at the end of the day, when you go to workout, you find that your energy levels are low, you feel lethargic, and you just would rather relax and sleep than get in a serious workout.
As a reminder, finding a set of fitness habits that works for you is a very individual process - it’s why there’s no one-size-fits-all, perfect diet or exercise routine out there that works for everybody. Building new habits is a process which is very personal and takes time and lots of effort.
One of the first and most important things you can do to stave off this problem is be sure to get in some fast-digesting carbs about an hour or two before you intend to work out. Carbs are your body’s primary energy source for high intensity activity, so they can be responsible for a big part of that tiredness feeling. You're running on empty because your blood sugar is a bit low.
This is the same reason that I recommend that people on lower-carb diets try to organize their day to consume as much of their carbs as possible before their workouts - because this way, you can get the most out of that bump of energy you’ll get after your carb consumption.
Another thing you can do is get a bit of caffeine (if you tolerate it well, and if it won’t throw off your sleep). I don’t recommend a huge bomb of caffeine like you’d get with a preworkout (which I cover in its own post, here), since this can cause other problems and rapidly build up a tolerance, reducing the benefit you’d get out of it. Provided you’re not a huge caffeine person to begin with, a cup of tea or coffee should do you just fine.
Many athletes are known to take small naps throughout the day to help facilitate their intense, frequent workouts. If you’re someone who’s capable of napping and have the time to do so, a quick nap may help you get that energy you need.
Another thing you can do, though of course harder overall, is just focus on fixing the rest of your habits throughout the day - eating more consistently, prepping food, or taking other steps to make your schedule more consistent. The more consistency, the better.
Some morning people prefer to work out before work, when their energy levels are higher - though if you’re not a morning person, I wouldn’t try to force it. The drowsiness of trying to force a change in your sleeping habits may be more than it’s worth.
Some people aren't just lower on energy at the end of the day - they're also fatigued from a long day of making choices and need some time to relax. This can be a problem if your gym is closer to your work (and thus, you need to work out before going home), but if it's closer to your home you may be able to head home and relax first, or you may want to find some other place to relax a bit before working out.
I once worked a very physically and mentally exhausting delivery job where I had to deliver fitness equipment all day, sometimes 12 hours or more. I worked on many days from 7am to about 7pm. But if I skipped my workouts, I would be missing out on a lot of development - since most of the delivery work involved only legs, grip, and back strength. Unfortunately, I also had to work out at a nearby gym, which was just down the street from work, because I had no good options in my home neighborhood.
In order to make it to my workouts, I would hole up in the nearby Chipotle for 30-60 minutes eating a burrito and reading a book, and then work out once I'd had some time to relax. This made a huge difference, and is the only reason I was able to workout on weekdays. I also organized things so that my harder workouts would be on the weekends, when I would be less exhausted, so that I could keep my weekday workouts easier.
Making a comprehensive plan for success means sitting down and preparing strategies for as many scenarios as possible. Failing to plan is planning to fail - so the best thing you can do is have a plan in place to make your diet and training as consistent as possible.
About Adam Fisher
Adam is an experienced fitness coach and blogger who's been blogging for 5+ years, coaching for 6+ years, and lifting for 12+ years. He's written for numerous major health publications, including Personal Trainer Development Center, T-Nation, Bodybuilding.com, Fitocracy, and Juggernaut Training Systems.
During that time he has coached hundreds of individuals of all levels of fitness, including competitive powerlifters and older exercisers regaining the strength to walk up a flight of stairs. His own training revolves around powerlifting and bodybuilding.
Adam writes about fitness, health, science, philosophy, personal finance, self-improvement, productivity, the good life, and everything else that interests him. When he's not writing or lifting, he's usually hanging out with his cat or feeding his video game addiction.
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- Everything You Need To Know About Intermittent Fasting
- Habit For Self-Improvement
- Ignore Those Absurd Diets If You Want Real Results
- Sleep Is The Fountain Of Youth
- You Can Do Your Best Work In Your Underwear
- Lemons Into Lemonade: Using Stress To Jumpstart New Habits
- Motivation Isn't A Willpower Stat
- How The Hell Am I In Shape?
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