Muscle Fatigue: The Consequences If Not Treated Correctly

Muscle fatigue can have negative effects on you on various levels, especially if you don't treat it over an extended period of time. What are the possible consequences?
Muscle Fatigue: The Consequences If Not Treated Correctly

Last update: 30 September, 2020

Physical exercise is one of the healthiest activities around. However, as with everything, too much isn’t good. One of the consequences of excessive physical exercise is muscle fatigue. This must be treated, because the consequences of fatigued muscles can affect you in different ways.

Below, we’ll discuss the signs your body will give you when it’s time to stop. Remember that training too much can be as bad for you as not training at all, so it’s important to know how to tell what your limits are.

Tiredness, the most obvious sign

The first of the consequences of muscle fatigue is the most obvious one. If your muscles are fatigued, you’ll notice a general tiredness that will interfere with your normal daily activities.

This will limit you when it comes to your motivation, to start doing almost anything. Therefore, activities such as going to work, physical recreation, driving or anything that requires physical effort will be harder to do than normal. Also, you may feel the urge to go to bed earlier, since your body is trying to recover on its own.

Lastly, it’s fitting to remember that muscles don’t just work on their own, or individually. Whole muscle chains have to become active to allow you to carry out almost any movement.

For these reasons, you won’t just notice the tiredness when you want to do something that requires a certain muscle. It’s probable that you’ll also have problems in carrying out a wide range of movements, that you might think have nothing to do with the original muscle.

Pain, an important alert

In the second place, we have pain. Pain can start with an accumulation of lactic acid, a waste substance that your body generates as you’re doing exercise.

A woman suffering from muscle fatigue after running

If you don’t treat the fatigue, this substance will keep accumulating. And if you don’t eliminate it, your body’s response is to produce pain. In this case, any muscle that’s fatigued will generally ache for a short time.

Muscle cramps as a consequence of muscle fatigue

Another effect of untreated muscle fatigue that you may start to see is involuntary contractions of the muscles, or muscle cramps. A muscle that’s cramping isn’t able to function normally, and ongoing fatigue can cause cramps.

Heart or breathing problems

When your muscles are fatigued, your body has to work overtime to recover. This means that your blood pressure will vary and your heart rate will substantially increase.

You may also note an irregular breathing pattern. To treat these changes and return to your body’s normal state, you will need to have time to recover.

How can you avoid the consequences of muscle fatigue?

Now that you know what can happen if you don’t deal with the problem, what can you do to combat the consequences of muscle fatigue? Here are some recommendations from a study from the Alicante University:

  • Prevent symptoms before they occur. It’s normal to feel tired when you do physical exercise. However, you shouldn’t be taking it to the point of muscle fatigue where your muscles aren’t responding anymore. Therefore, you should make sure you adapt your exercise session to your personal physical condition. It’s also necessary to get sufficient rest between sessions. The same goes for muscle building exercise.
  • Rest. Your body needs time to recover. If you get to the point of muscle fatigue but want to keep playing sport in the afternoon for instance, this can be detrimental. The same goes for if you get to the next day and still haven’t recovered. It’s also better if you can get a good eight hours of sleep to help your body recover.
  • Good diet. Another vital step is to have a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, proteins and fats. You also need to stay hydrated. Not drinking enough water can cause muscular imbalances and other related physical problems. Drinking sufficient liquids will not only help to prevent fatigue, but will also ensure your body has what it needs to recover.
A balanced diet is important for athletes

Consequences of muscle fatigue: prevention and cure

With all of the above in mind, we can see that’s important to stay alert both during and after exercise. It wouldn’t be any good continually taking yourself to the point of muscle fatigue, and then afterwards thinking that as long as you get your eight hours you’ll be fine. A general recommendation is a break from exercise of 48 hours to completely recover.

Remember that this article isn’t just talking about general tiredness or muscle soreness after exercise. Rather, it’s about if you get to the point where your muscles don’t respond correctly anymore, or aren’t able to contract when you need them to.

Accordingly, make sure you look after yourself while you exercise. If you still manage to overdo it, you should treat the sore muscles during the next few hours after exercise. If you let the consequences build up over time, it can lead to muscle tears, cardiac problems or even issues at a psychological level. Train with care!

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  • A. Urdampilleta, I. Armentia, S. Gómez-Zorita, et al. La fatiga muscular en los deportistas: métodos físicos, nutricionales y farmacológicos para combatirla. Archivos de Medicina del Deporte. 32(1)-165: 36-43; 2015.
  • G. Kronbauer y F. Castro. Estructuras elásticas y fatiga muscular. Revista Brasileira de Ciências do Esporte. Vol.35, n.2, pp.503-520; 2013.
  • J. Wan, Z. Qin, P. Wang, et al. Muscle fatigue: general understanding and treatment. Experimental & Molecular Medicine 49, e384; 2017.