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Fatigue in Athletics – Causes, Symptoms, & Recovery

Blog written by Kylie Marler


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Athletic fatigue is the inability of the body to continue athletic performance despite the desire to continue the activity. This issue is not endemic to any particular sport or type of athlete; no matter how skilled or physically developed an athlete is, they will get tired after long periods of physical exertion. This post examines the common signs and symptoms of fatigue in athletes and explains how best to employ rest and recovery to prevent the risk of further injury. This post also discusses what may be considered among the most common causes of fatigue in athletes.

Causes of Fatigue in Athletics

SportMedBC, a professional not-for-profit society of sport medical and paramedical practitioners in British Columbia, writes in an online article, “The most common non-medical causes of tiredness in the athlete are inappropriate training plan, poor sleep, lifestyle stressors, inadequate macronutrient intake and suboptimal hydration.” In addition to these causes, HCA Healthcare UK, the largest private healthcare provider in the world, lists “chronic overtraining, long periods without planned recovery or rest, the wrong type of diet, lack of hydration and increased stress” as common causes of fatigue in athletes.

Symptoms of Athletic Fatigue

North Sydney Sports Medicine Centre, a specialist multidisciplinary sports and exercise medicine practice located on the lower North Shore of Sydney, Australia, writes in an online source that symptoms of athletic fatigue can include “tiredness, altered sleep – either excessive or not sleeping well, poor performance, poor recovery, moodiness – depressed and/or irritable, increased injury, and altered resting or exercising heart rate.”

Sports Dietitians Australia, a professional organization of dietitians specializing in the field of sports nutrition, also addresses symptoms of athletic fatigue. They list “Increased resting heart rate, reduced performance and poor recovery, increased perception of effort, sudden weight loss, loss of appetite, increased risk of illness, loss of enjoyment in training, sleep and/or mood disturbances”.

Athlete Fatigue Recovery

North Sydney Sports Medicine also listed a few options to try for fatigue recovery in athletics, “Appropriate nutrition, hydration, recovery and sleep are important measures that lessen the incidence of fatigue, whether it is caused on the sports field or elsewhere.” According to SportMedBC, “Monotony in training should be avoided and one day per week should be a rest day.” Lastly, SportsMD, a source that provides sports injury and performance information and Telehealth Appointments with top sports medicine doctors and specialists, writes in an online article, “The combination of adequate food plus adequate sleep sharply reduces fatigue”, and steps to help recover from fatigue include, “eat a substantial breakfast and lunch”, “limit caffeinated beverages”, and  “make sleep a priority”.


Hopefully this post has shed some light about athletic fatigue, a common problem that all athletes must deal with, and how to manage it to ensure proper performance. Recovery is important when addressing athletic fatigue, and rest is absolutely essential. Additionally, athletes should schedule in periods of rest during workouts and practices. Keeping fatigue low and performance high is most likely when athletes implement good rest and sleep habits, good diet, hydration, and a good training plan. SportMedBC said it best – “When training and recovery are in balance for the athlete, optimal performance is the result.”

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Fighting Fatigue – Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA). (n.d.). Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA); Retrieved December 13, 2021, from

Sport Fatigue And Performance – North Sydney Sports Medicine Centre. (n.d.). North Sydney Sports Medicine Centre. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from

Sports fatigue | HCA UK. (n.d.). Leading Private Healthcare Provider | HCA UK. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from

SportsMD. (2021, June 17). Athletes and Fatigue. Why am I so Tired? Medical Second Opinions & Telehealth with Top Sports Doctors.

The Tired Athlete: An issue of Underrecovery | SportMedBC. (n.d.). SportMedBC | Sport Medicine, Sport Science, Sport Training. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from

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