What It Means When You Crash Right After Finishing A Workout

A workout is one of the healthiest ways to release endorphins. After finishing a particularly grueling exercise session, you might walk away with some muscle soreness and some energy that's been spent, but you still feel good because of all those happy hormones floating around in your body.

But if you ever experience a post-workout crash — fatigue that makes it hard to function for the rest of the day — it might be time to take a look at your sugar intake, according to the experts. As explained by registered dietitian, Victoria Seaver (via Eating Well), "The American Heart Association recommends women limit their added sugars to six teaspoons (or 24 grams) per day, and men limit their intake to nine teaspoons (or 36 grams). Most Americans, however, are eating three times that amount daily." 

How sugar intake makes you feel after a workout has to do with what your diet consists of in general. But it's also related to the rapid spike and drop in sugar levels before, during, and post-exercise. "If you spike your blood sugar with a very sugary item right before an intense effort, you can end up feeling very fatigued and pretty miserable afterward," explained  Sara Folta, Ph.D. and assistant professor at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, to The Healthy. So if you've been reaching for a donut before your 45-minute long exercise at the gym, you probably know now that it's a food you should never eat before a workout

What should you be eating to avoid a post-workout crash?

While added sugars are bad in general for your health, for those who work out, diet becomes even more important. Eating balanced and nutritious meals not only affects your energy levels after finishing an exercise session but it also helps your muscles recover properly. 

It is important to keep track of portion sizes and times, according to Mayo Clinic. Whole-grain carbohydrates in the form of bread, pita bread, and cereals, bananas (eaten as they are or in smoothies), low-fat milk or yogurt, eggs, and toast, etc. can make up a good breakfast if you're planning to get a workout in about one hour after. If you have a particularly large meal, wait at least three hours before you attempt any form of exercise. If it's been some time since your last meal and you feel like you need energy, small snacks like a low-fat granola bar, peanut butter sandwich, or fruit can also give you the right kind of fuel. 

Post-workout too, the goal is to eat the right foods meant to help with recovery and to replace lost glycogen in your body. Glycogen is the fuel that's stored in your muscles and liver and it depletes during strenuous exercise, per Performance Lab. Eat a balanced meal that contains enough protein, carbohydrates, and fat to aid your body in its recovery process. While food is one big part of avoiding a post-workout crash, there are other factors to consider too. 

Lack of sleep and dehydration can also lead to fatigue after exercise

As explained by exercise physiologist and trainer Kaitlyn Baird (via Well+Good), "Your current state — how rested you are, when the last workout was, how much energy you have available, when you last ate and how your unique body responds to that meal, hydration, temperature, stress level, previous exercise tolerance, mindset — all factors into how your body will respond to the next exercise demand."

You can't sustain an active lifestyle without sleep. The average adult needs at least seven hours of sleep a night, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sleep is also closely tied to our metabolism, per registered dietitian nutritionist, Samantha Cassetty (via Pure Wow). "Your heart, your brain, your blood flow, your organs — they all rely on your metabolic functioning to keep you alive. And one prime lifestyle factor that is deeply tied to your metabolic functioning is your sleep," she explained. 

As for hydration, sports drinks provide that plus an electrolyte boost to fuel your workout. But keep in mind that some forms of sports drinks, hypertonics in particular, are known to be dehydrating because of their high carbohydrate concentration. Water or isotonic and hypotonic sports drinks are better options. There is such a thing as over-exercising as well. Your body needs time between each workout to rest and recuperate. Pay attention to your body and its signals. Reach out to qualified professionals if the post-workout crash persists.