Fighting Fatigue in the Afternoon; Small Changes in Your Exercise Routine Can Keep You From Suffering Midday Blahs

August 26, 2013, 7:13 p.m. ET

Fighting Fatigue in the Afternoon

Small Changes in Your Exercise Routine Can Keep You From Suffering Midday Blahs


Regular exercise is supposed to boost a person’s energy levels. So why do so many fitness fans complain of feeling fatigued during the afternoon? Making things worse, this workout-induced weariness can make it difficult to stick to a workout regimen. Researchers and fitness trainers say whether you exercise in the morning, afternoon or evening, small changes in your routine can keep you from suffering midday blahs.Midday is the ideal time to exercise, some fitness experts say. A workout then can give you an energy boost lasting three to four hours, says James McKenna, a professor of physical activity and health at Leeds Metropolitan University in England. A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2011 monitored 171 employees at a large Swedish public dental-health group who were assigned to an exercise program during work hours. They reported increased productivity and fewer missed workdays.

If you prefer working out in the evenings, it’s best to avoid exercising two to three hours before bedtime to avoid sleep disruption, the National Institutes of Health says. On the other hand, if you are a morning exerciser and not getting seven to nine hours of sleep, Lona Sandon, a Dallas fitness instructor and assistant clinical nutrition professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, suggests getting to bed earlier or exercising in the evening.

To avoid midday fatigue and preserve energy throughout the day, most trainers recommend doing more moderate workouts, meaning those in which you hit 70% to 80% of your target heart rate. “Listen to what your body is telling you,” says Ms. Sandon. “If you have a high-stress work environment then vigorous workouts may not make you feel better. You might be better off with restorative yoga so your brain can slow down.”

An ideal schedule would be two to three high-intensity workouts during the week, mixed in with lighter workouts like yoga, walking or weight training, say fitness experts.

And mix up your workouts throughout the week—either with cardio, core and flexibility each time, or a rotation of workouts emphasizing endurance, strength and stretching. It not only keeps you energized, it also helps you burn calories throughout the week, says Annie Malaythong, a certified personal trainer in Atlanta who teaches fitness workshops around the U.S. for National Academy of Sports Medicine in Chandler, Ariz.

Nutrition is just as important as moving to keep from feeling fatigued, Ms. Malaythong says. She suggests eating something every three hours, including a snack such as a small piece of fruit an hour before a workout and a meal of protein and carbohydrates within the hour after.

The wrong food can leave you feeling depleted. “That breakfast pastry or a fast food lunch can sap your energy,” says Samantha Heller, an exercise physiologist and a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University.

And remember to sip water during workouts and throughout the day, says Ms. Heller. “When you’re not hydrated, you will feel fatigued,” she says. “You may not know why, but you will feel it.”

So why do so many people suffer from the midday blahs?

According to Charles Czeisler, director of Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, the internal biological clock in the brain’s hypothalamus guides daily rhythms of your body temperature, melatonin, blood pressure, sleep and wakefulness.

As the drive for sleep builds up during the day, it produces midday sleepiness for many people, Dr. Czeisler says. It also causes a surge in alertness that peaks in the late evening, he says. Exposure to artificial light in the evening can extend that second wind into the night, making it difficult to fall asleep and deepening the midday trough in alertness, he says.

Sitting for a long stretch of time can make people feel more tired, says Natalie Muth, a San Diego primary-care pediatrician and health-care solutions director at the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit that provides fitness certification and training. Moving your body, even for just a few minutes, can get the blood pumping in your body. “The heart begins to beat faster, delivering more blood and oxygen to working cells,” says Dr. Muth. This increases the release of hormones like endorphins, which not only help people feel good, but also reverses fatigue.

Ms. Malaythong says staying energized involves trial and error, perhaps tweaking the intensity of a weekly workout routine, trying to eat more nutritiously, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep. And she emphasizes the importance of moving throughout the day. She tells clients to climb stairs, do upper-body stretches, go for brisk 10-minute walks, or write the ABC’s with their big toe at their desks. “I encourage as much activity as they can handle,” she says.

Morning, Noon or Night

Depending on when you exercise, you can fend off midday fatigue with some adjustments to your workout and other habits, fitness experts say.

Morning Workout

• If you aren’t getting enough sleep, exercise later in the day or go to bed earlier.

• Don’t be an evening couch potato. Take a walk or do yoga.

Afternoon Workout

• Start your day with a 10-minute stretch, which can boost energy.

• Don’t skip breakfast.

• Eat a snack before you exercise.

• Move in the evening: stretch, take a walk or do push-ups.

Evening Workout

• Start your day with a 10-minute stretch.

• Don’t skip breakfast.

• Eat a snack before you exercise.

• Don’t exercise within two to three hours of bedtime.

No Matter When You Exercise

• Get enough sleep, preferably seven to eight hours.

• Drink plenty of water. How much depends on your body and your workout.

• Eat a balanced meal of complex carbs and proteins within an hour after exercising.

• Eat a healthy snack such as almonds or an apple with peanut butter every three hours.

• Move every two hours. Take a walk at lunch, climb the stairs or stretch. A 10-minute walk can boost energy for up to two hours, according to research by California State University Long Beach.

• Vary workouts and intensity. Add resistance training and balance and core work if you typically focus on cardio exercise, for example.

Sources: Samantha Heller, an exercise physiologist and dietitian at New York University; Annie Malaythong, certified personal trainer who teaches fitness workshops for National Academy of Sports Medicine; Lona Sandon, fitness instructor and assistant clinical nutrition professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Therese Pasqualoni, a behavioral therapist and owner of Strike It Healthy Weight and Health Management Systems.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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