Healthy Minimalist

5 Reasons Why You Don't Have the Energy to Work Out

Naturopathic MedicineAnnie CannonComment

When I ask my patients what they do for exercise, many tell me that they would like to exercise but they just don’t have the energy. They understand the benefits, including improved mood, body composition, sleep,, but just can’t make it happen. Exercise is one of the most important things one can do for every aspect of one's health. This is why I’ve put together my "Top 5 Reasons Why You Don’t Have the Energy to Work Out".

1. Dehydration

You’ve all heard that water makes up 60-70% of total body weight. Water is the base on which cellular reactions occur, so it’s clear to see that dehydration could impair energy production. Signs of dehydration include: fatigue, headache, light-headedness, dark urine, dry mouth, and rapid heart beat.

Men need about 11.5 (2,875 ml) cups of fluid daily and women need about 7 cups (1,750 ml), from water, other liquids, and food. 

2. Not enough calories, or a vitamin and/or mineral deficiency

Food is energy! I think it is important for everyone, at some point, to calculate their daily required calorie needs and to determine if they are meeting that. 

The Harris-Benedict equation is a good estimate of basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of energy expended in a day at rest:

Men: BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) + 5

Women: BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) - 161

Then, multiply by your current level of activity:

Little to no exercise     Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.2

Light exercise (1–3 days per week)     Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.375

Moderate exercise (3–5 days per week)     Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.55

Heavy exercise (6–7 days per week)     Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.725

Very heavy exercise (twice per day, extra heavy workouts)     Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.9

This gives you your total daily calorie needs. The next step would be to track the calories in your foods, either manually, or by inputting them into a program like


You may also have a vitamin and/or mineral deficiency. Common culprits pertaining to energy are the B vitamins and iron. Making sure to eat an abundance and variety of nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains will help avoid these deficiencies.

3. Not enough protein

Protein is not only needed to repair and maintain cells and tissues like our muscles, but to create enzymes involved in all biochemical reactions in the body! Deficiency can result in fatigue, lethargy and muscle wasting- putting the exercise you do do, to waste. In general, we require about 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight per day, and more with greater activity levels and in times of stress, such as after surgery.

4. Adrenal insufficiency

Though excess cortisol is popular for it’s bad health effects, deficient cortisol is not good for us either. Signs of low adrenal function include: fatigue, low blood pressure, dizziness on standing, anxiety and feelings of inability to cope wth stress. The adrenal glands may not produce enough cortisol if you are not getting enough adrenal-supportive nutrients like vitamin C, B vitamins, and magnesium, or if you have been under long-term stress, and the adrenal glands have become burned-out.

Cortisol saliva testing is available from your naturopathic doctor to assess the fluctuations in cortisol throughout the day and to determine where you need support.

5. Functional hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones which control the speed of our metabolism. Overt hypothyroidism causes symptoms including fatigue, weight gain, depression, constipation, cold temperature, and muscle and joint pain. Functional hypothyroidism is when we have normal blood work but still exhibit hypothyroid symptoms. This can be due to a deficiency in the nutrients necessary for the production of thyroid hormones or for the conversion of the inactive form of thyroid hormone (T4) to the active form (T3). These nutrients include iodine, tyrosine, and selenium. A lack or excess of cortisol (suboptimal adrenal function) will also prevent the thyroid from working properly.


Addressing these aspects of your health are some of the first steps to getting back to the gym or your favourite physical activities. Your health care practitioner can help you with the appropriate diagnostic evaluations. :)



Mahan, K. & Raymond, JL. (2017). Krause's Food and the Nutrition Care Process. St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier/Saunders.