If your muscles feel weak after an exercise session, you may actually be experiencing muscle fatigue as a result of overtraining and inadequate nutrition, or you may be feeling the symptoms of a more serious problem. Preventing leg weakness after exercise can be as easy as scaling back your workout and ramping up your diet, but if the weakness persists, you may need a medical evaluation.
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A sensation of weakness in your calves or thighs after working out can be a symptom of inadequate nutrition. When you exercise, you do minor damage to your muscle tissues, which your metabolism seeks to mend with proteins and carbohydrates. If you do not eat the foods that supply the patching materials your metabolism requires, the result may be stressed muscles that feel weak. Eating a post-workout snack high in protein and carbs, such as a slice of whole-grain bread with peanut butter, can help repair muscle damage and prevent post-workout leg weakness.
According to the Merck Manual's online medical library, "although many people complain of weakness when they feel tired or run down, true weakness means that full effort does not generate normal muscle contractions." True muscle weakness can be caused by injury or disease involving the nervous system, muscles, or the neuromuscular connections. When large muscles such as those in the thighs and hips are involved, the weakness can be the result of underusage or disease, such as mitochondrial myopathies -- neuromuscular conditions that are caused by damage to the muscle cells.
Another potential reason for leg weakness after exercise is the presence of restless leg syndrome (RLS), a condition that affects a wide range of adults and even children. While it may go unnoticed during periods of activity, RLS becomes problematic when you are at rest, so you might think it is an after-effect of exercising. Characterised by a strong urge to move your legs, RLS may produce feelings of discomfort that can feel similar to muscle weakness. One possible cause of RLS is a B-complex vitamin deficiency.
To prevent leg muscle weakness from muscle strain during strength training, always begin a session with gentle stretching that limbers up thighs, calves and other muscles. A warm-up set of repetitions using lighter weights and slower movements should follow. The main sets of the workout should utilise weights that provide resistance but not strain. After completion, a post-workout stretch and a day between workouts to rest will prevent muscle fatigue.
According to fitness experts like Dr. Edward Laskowski of the Mayo Clinic, "when you're using the proper weight or amount of resistance, you can build and tone muscle just as efficiently with a single set of 12 repetitions as you can with more sets of the same exercise." It follows that you can just as effectively achieve your fitness goals without overtaxing your leg muscles.
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