4 Reasons You Have No Energy To Workout And What You Can Do About It.
You're fucked. The tank is empty and you're running on fumes. Simply put, you have no energy to workout. But you NEED to train. After all, your goal of building a leaner, healthier body won't materialise sat on your butt watching Netflix Box Sets. So you drag your limp, almost lifeless carcass to the gym. Trudging from machine to machine with all the excitement and fervour of a limp, wet lettuce.
So how can you address the issue? Work is stressful. And keeping all your plates spinning at once, feels like an impossible task. Efforts to train 3-4 times a week seem like a work of fiction, Neil Gaiman would be proud of.
But there's light at the end of the energy-less tunnel.
Often, the reason you have no energy to workout is not because you're lacking a special supplement, it's something far more basic. But that's a good thing, because basic things are easy to resolve. So, in this article, you'll discover the 4 main reasons you have no energy, and more importantly what you can do to rectify the situation.
Here's what you'll learn;
- Why your desire to train hard is leaving you with no energy, and creating barriers to success.
- How over-looking the basics of nutrition results in lack-lustre, ineffective workouts.
- Why no energy to workout can point to a more fundamental concern that needs attention.
- What supplements can be beneficial if you still have no energy, despite addressing the basics.
And if you want to listen to the audio version, click the play button below:
1. Look At Your Workout Routine
"Smashing yourself into the ground eventually takes its toll"
First port of call is your training programme. Often, this is the main source of a lack of energy to train.
Believe most of what you see on social media, and you'll be fooled into thinking, running yourself into the ground for 2 hours a day is the ONLY way to train.
"No Pain, No Gain."
"Train Dirty. Eat Clean."
Phrases that promote the idea of pushing your body to the limit, every time you set foot in the Iron Paradise. But is the #smashfest approach standing in the way of achieving your best body ever? The answer is, quite probably.
If your workouts are exceeding 60 minutes on a regular basis, they're probably too long. Yes, the IFBB Pro you follow on Insta has a programme filled with epic 2 hour workouts. And the eBook you bought for £99 has you following their exact routine. But, Mr or Mrs IFBB may also be benefitting from some "enhancements", if you know what I mean.
You have no need for workouts of that length. And let me tell you why.
If you train hard for an hour. Put your all into executing exercises effectively, then you should be pretty fucked after an hour. In fact, you should be scrambling for the exit, not another 6 exercises. And if you're getting to an hour and NOT feeling like you've trained enough, you need to revisit what you're doing. Plain and simple.
You shouldn't feel lazy if your workouts aren't long, gruelling affairs. If you do, this is a mental block you need to overcome. Because you are your own obstacle to the body you want.
Think about it.
How effective are your sets when you're 120 minutes into a workout? Not very.
So it's not surprising you have no energy to workout when you're that balls (or ovaries) deep into training.
The second part of the training equation is your workout split. Yet again, the trap you may fall into is more, more, more. Training 3 times a week doesn't feel enough. Even 4-5 times a week feels like you're not putting the work in.
And in your mind, if you train more often, you accumulate more training volume, build more muscle, and burn more calories. So, on face value, it sounds like the optimal approach, right?
But here's the thing. Training splits with more than 4 workouts per week are typically for more advanced individuals. And even then, they need to be well-balanced to manage fatigue and training load. Simply doing more, without much thought into what that consists of, is a recipe for disaster.
With a combination of over-training and under-recovery, you'll be left with no energy to workout... EVER.
Next up is your training volume.
Your training programme may consist of too many workouts, lasting too long, and at an intensity, consistently too high. Your temptation is to test your limits with each and every workout.
And that's not uncommon.
In fact, it's part of how we're hard-wired in the modern world. You're taught that hard work pays off, right? So this is the mindset with which you approach training. Nailing your balls (or ovaries) to the wall, with every rep, set, and workout.
But the right way train for maximum results, is almost the polar opposite to this. Sure, you need to work hard. But you need to do it in a planned and methodical way.
You see, the guy who you think is a jacked-up meathead, might not have regressed to the 42 & 2 genetic make-up. He might have a brain.
A well-structured training programme, focused on building muscle is commonly periodised, ie training volume increases over time. For example, a 12 week training programme created for a client on my coaching programme, The Lean Life Method, might incorporate 2-3 increases in intensity. This allows for gradual progression and adaptation to occur. The worst thing possible would be to crank intensity up to the max and leave it there for all eternity. It's simply a recipe 'no energy disaster'.
Believe me, the Spinal Tap approach to training intensity is going to be about as successful as the sales of the Intravenous Di Milo record.
How To Set Up Your Training So You Avoid Having No Energy To Workout
Here's 3 tips to make sure your training programme isn't designed to leave you with no energy to workout.
- Keep workouts between 45-60 minutes (75 minutes at the absolute max).
- Plan workouts around 4 main exercises. Add 1-2 additional movements if required.
- A 3-4 day a week training programme will get great results. Only utilise programmes with more when you have the appropriate experience and skill-level.
- Periodise workout intensity over a 12 week period and plan appropriate de-load periods.
Ultimately, your goal is to maximise the effectiveness of each workout. Too much volume and intensity may compromise your ability to make progress and build the body you want.
2. Is Your Nutrition To Blame For You Having No Energy?
"If your diet is fucked, you will be too"
After reviewing your training programme, the foundations of your nutrition are next on the list, in order to address why you have no energy to workout. The temptation will always be to believe you are unique. A delicate snowflake who's issue is something complex. But more often than not, your issue is a result of overlooking the fundamentals. And while they may not be 'sexy', they're called the fundamentals for a reason.
No Energy? Start With Calories
If you have no energy when you train, it could be a direct result of reduced calorie intake. After all, calories are units of energy. So, if you're not having enough, logic would say you'll be low on energy.
So you have to strike a balance.
Like A Jedi trying to find balance in The Force, you're trying to find the balance between a calorie deficit that helps you lose body fat, and a deficit so large you have all the energy of an unmotivated sloth.
That might require a little trial and error. And it might even mean your fat loss progress is a slower than planned. But hey, wouldn't you rather that than to go through each and every day with a face and personality resembling a smacked ass?
What About Carbs?
In your efforts to lose weight, you cut carbs.
Maybe you didn't go full Keto, but you certainly cut them significantly. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. But drastic changes in your diet can take some getting used to. Going from a diet high in carbohydrate can affect some more than others. Couple that with an energy deficit and having no energy for the gym, isn't surprising.
But remember, carbs aren't the Sith Lords of fat loss. Insulin isn't the Emperor Palpatine of the dieting world. And you don't need to ram your carb intake through the floor to get results. In fact, once you have your calories and protein in check, you have a huge degree of flexibility with your carb and fat intake. You'll want to get a minimum amount of fat for health and hormone function (c.20-25% of total calories), but after that, you have free rein.
Why Not Try Carb Cycling?
You could also consider a carb cycling approach.
Allocating more carbs and / or calories to your training days might take you from having no energy to workout, to feeling like your favourite superhero. Lifting, pulling, and pushing your way through workouts with godlike aplomb.
So, experiment. If you train first thing in the morning, fuel up for those heavy training sessions the day before. And pssst, you can have carbs late at night, they won't make you fat.
If you're training later in the afternoon or evening, have those carbs in the lead up to your workout.
Your ideal approach is likely to be very individual, so try different amounts and timings to find the sweet-spot that solves your no energy woes.
Poor Pre-Workout Nutrition Could Be The Source Of No Energy
Leading on from adjusting calorie and carb intake, focusing on your pre-workout nutrition can help ensure you properly fuelled to hit the gym.
While meal timing doesn't matter a great deal for fat loss, it can help with maximising energy levels. And if your energy levels are where they need to be, then in theory, you can push harder in your workouts, ultimately leading to more volume and more calories burned. So, basically, more awesomeness!
What, and how much, carbohydrate to have is largely dependant on your habitual diet. For example, if your normal pattern of eating means you have very little to eat in the 1-4 hours before you train, then you could benefit from an adjustment to this.
Conceivably, you could have a larger meal containing carbs 2-4 hours prior to training and get the benefits from that meal during your workout.
Likewise, if eating something a little closer to training is your preference, that's ok too. Simply adjust what you eat to contain more fast digesting carbs, such as fruit. In this scenario, aiming for 25-50g of carbs might be a good place to start. Again, try different approaches and find what gives you the most energy by the time you hit the gym.
And, if you're interested, here's what my pre-workout nutrition typically looks like (notice no bright-blue pre-workout supplement);
- 250ml 1% Fat Milk
- 1 x Banana
- 1 x Scoop Whey Protein
- 200mg Caffeine Tablet (sometimes)
Optimise your nutrition to prevent reaching the point where you have no energy to workout. Adjust calories, carbohydrates, and pre-workout nutrition to find what works best for you.
3. Are You Suffering With Chronic Fatigue, Rather Than No Energy?
"Do you have no energy in general, not just when you train?"
If you've got this far and STILL you feel like you haven't found the reason as to why you have no energy in the gym, then it's time to delve a little deeper. Because your issue might be something more chronic, rather than specifically defined to your workouts.
And the causes of constant fatigue and no energy are often as a result of one (or more) of these 3 things.
Lack Of Sleep
Getting enough quality sleep can be tough in the modern world. Working longer hours is the norm, rather than the exception. And your life is lived through electronic devices that provide constant stimulation to your brain. Therefore, unwinding and switching off becomes a challenge. But this inability to unplug from the world can impact the amount of sleep you're getting.
And while you might not think it's important, sleep plays an important role in weight loss, building muscle, and achieving your fitness goals.
In fact, it's so important that it's the 3rd facet of nutrition I focus on with my clients, behind calories and macros.
Think about it this way, sleep deprivation massively impacts energy levels and consequently your ability to train effectively and at the intensity you want. In addition to that, when you're in a sleep deprived state, your hunger-regulating hormones alter unfavourably and you're more likely to experience an increased desire for calorie-dense foods. And crucially, it can result in less fat loss, and greater loss of fat-free mass, ie muscle. So, no sleep might mean you say goodbye to the gains.
Quality sleep is important for managing hunger and ensuring your energy levels are optimised. Aim for 7-9 hours of unbroken sleep per night.
A lack of hydration can certainly make your workouts feel tougher than normal. An increase in the Rate Of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is common with increased levels of dehydration. It's also been shown to impact resistance training performance.
In practical terms, it's relatively straightforward to address your hydration. Here's a few guidelines you might find useful, so you don't have to think about it too much.
- Carry a bottle at all times and take sips throughout the day.
- Choose palatable drinks;
- If you don’t like water, drink something else! But bear in mind, other drinks may have calories you need to account for.
- Don’t forget about foods;
- Fruit, veg/salad, and soups are all foods with a high water content.
Aim to keep your pee clear, rather than the colour of toxic waste. That's as good a start point as any.
Vitamins And Minerals
Let's take a moment to talk about micronutrients. Often forgotten, but still important. Both Vitamin D and Iron deficiencies can be characterised by symptoms of fatigue. And, countries where exposure to sunlight is minimal, Vitamin D deficiencies can be prevalent.
But what does this all mean? Does a deficiency in a couple of vitamins and minerals really result in you having no energy to workout? Well, the science would suggest it's something you DO need to focus on.
Optimal levels of vitamin D can support improvements in strength and performance in the gym, as well as improving fat loss. For the sake of a few pennies, it's a supplement well-worth considering. And let's face it, it's got more science behind it than those BCAAs and the shitty neon pre-workout you're so attached to.
And when it comes to Iron levels, you'll want to optimise these if you want to reduce fatigue and lift more iron in the Iron Paradise.
So, you could say, Iron Strengthens Iron (see what I did there?).
Ideal levels for men are 8.7mg/d, and for women they're 14.8mg/d. You can get your iron from a variety of different sources, such as red meat and spinach. However, not wishing to get overly technical, absorption rates from plant sources (non-haem) aren't as great as they are from animal sources (haem). So, if you're a vegetarian or vegan, you need to consider greater quantities.
Aspects of nutrition you might consider boring, like sleep, hydration, and micronutrients play an important role in health and maximising your energy levels. They are simple and relatively easy to address. Don't overlook them in the search for the "fancy" solution.
4. Still Got No Energy? Try This...
"If you jumped straight to this section, there's no helping you"
If you scrolled through the entire article in search for this section on supplements, I'm disappointed. Trust me, the reason you have no energy when you workout is likely to be in the sections you missed, rather than here.
But, let's assume you have worked your way methodically through the incredibly informative words I've written for you. Now, you're looking for an added edge in the gym. Something to squeeze every ounce of energy out of your body when you hit the gym.
Ok my friend, I hear you. So here's what I've got for you. Two supplements with proven benefits that'll help you overcome your no energy dilemma.
First up, caffeine. Yep a couple of espressos might be all you need to perk you up and make it through your workouts. Personally, I like to take my caffeine in pill form so I can control the amount I'm having on a daily basis. Often, the caffeine content of coffee is very variable, so you're never quite sure what you're getting. But feel free to go down the coffee route, just make sure you have a decent brew. That instant shit, doesn't count.
Here's some of the proven benefits associated with caffeine supplementation;
- Increases alertness & improves decision making, especially when sleep-deprived - Kamimori et al. (2015)
- Increases force/strength – Placket (2001)
- Improves muscular endurance - Carr et al. (2001)
- Improves endurance performance - Desbrow et al. (2010)
- Reduces RPE - Backhouse et al. (2011)
As it has an acute effect, it's best taken around 60 minutes before your workout. Although, bear in mind it has a half life of 4-6 hours, so could hugely impact your sleep if taken late at night. And, as you've discovered already, sleep is way more important.
In terms of dosage, you'll want to be somewhere in the 2-6mg/kg range. But 6mg/kg is A LOT of caffeine. And it's probably not a good idea to exceed that in a day, let alone in one pre-workout dose. You'll be wired and buzzing off your tits for days.
You'll find Beta Alanine in many pre-workout supplements. It's the ingredient that gives you the tingling feeling on your skin, like you've got a thousand ants crawling up and down your body.
The main benefit of Beta Alanine is it allows you to perform better in the latter stages of fatiguing exercises. So, when you're deeper into your workout and feeling like you have no energy, you might be able to squeeze out a few more reps. But, it's not going to overcome massive low energy issues, if you haven't optimised your training and nutrition, using the steps mention so far.
If you want to supplement with Beta Alanine, here's the broad guidelines to follow. It's also worth noting, most pre-workouts won't have an effective dose. And it also doesn't have an acute effect, ie you can take it throughout the day and still get the same results.
- Loading: 4 - 10 weeks of 80mg/kg bodyweight
- 40mg/kg maintenance dose thereafter
- Single doses of 10-20mg/kg e.g. 1.5g
If you have no energy to workout it is unlikely to be because you're not taking the right supplements. However, with the fundamentals in place, consider supplements a means to achieve an edge in your training.
The Bottom Line On Why You Have No Energy To Workout
The reason you have no energy to workout is likely to be a result of training too frequently, for too long, and at too high of an intensity. Mix that with reduced calories and carbohydrate and you've created the perfect storm for perpetually bad workouts.
Your desire to train hard and make results as fast as possible could be what's holding you back. Your body can only do so much. And pushing it to the very limit, all the time, eventually takes its toll. And with that approach, it's no wonder you have no energy to train.
So take a step back, review what you're doing and how hard you're pushing yourself. It may feel counter-intuitive, but training less, may help you make more progress.
Your Next Step To Mastering Nutrition And Shaping A Leaner, Healthier, Stronger Body
Here’s what to do next to get on the fast track to a leaner, healthier, stronger body. Simply click the link below and I’ll send you my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you’ll find a free 4 week beginner’s training programme (complete with exercise videos and a workout tracker), a guide on calculating your calories, plus so much more.
So if you want it, grab it here.
But for now, all I’ll say is… Keep living the Lean Life and I’ll see you soon.