In a time cluttered with pre-workout supplements, protein bars, and energy drinks, it can be hard to decipher what is really best to eat or drink before and after a workout. While some of these items may boast increased energy and “bursts” of power, the truth is: they’re not helping you get healthier. Without a proper diet and hydration routine, the hard work you’ve put into your workout won’t transfer to leaner and stronger muscles. The first step to getting a better workout is visiting your doctor. Make sure your body is healthy and ready for exercise and then discuss what workouts will work well for you. We’ve taken some tips from the Fitness Testing Guide that can help your next pre and post workout session.
Get Plenty of Sleep
This is one of those tips that is never going to go away. Sleep gives our mind time to shut down and prep for the next day, along with giving our muscles time to repair. Forcing yourself to workout in the early AM with just a few hours of sleep is never the best idea. If you need a morning workout, make sure to get to sleep early enough that you are not exhausted when your alarm goes off. Adam Rosante of the People’s Bootcamp in New York city told Men’s Fitness, “Sleep is really the bedrock of wellness. Recovery, regeneration, and repair–this is when all the magic happens.” Let your body do what it needs to, you’ll find that your workouts are much more successful when you have the energy to complete them.
Power bars, granola bars, and workout gummies may be easy pre-workout snacks, but real food is what will give you the best bang for your buck. How about some greek yogurt and trail mix? The yogurt is easy on your stomach and has good proteins for your workout, and the healthy sugars coming from dried fruit in the trail mix can give you a good energy boost. If you’re interested in giving yourself an energy boost before your workout, studies have shown that drinking a cup of black coffee 10-20 minutes before a workout can help increase your energy. The caffeine will give you a performance enhancing boost but not be too hard on your system. Once you’re finished your workout, you’ll want to refuel with protein to help aid those repairing muscles. A tasty veggie omelet with avocado would do wonders for your post-workout meal. Eggs are a great source of protein and the avocado is loaded with good fats and fiber to help vitamins from the vegetables. These are not the only pre and post snack options you have, but we think they’re good base examples for what your muscles need.
Warm up and Cool Down
Regardless of the activity, our muscles need time to prepare and recover. A short warm up and stretch can help prevent a devastating injury during your workout. 5-10 minutes of light aerobic activity will prepare your heart for your upcoming workout, followed by some light stretching to make sure your muscles are ready. Make sure to stretch the right muscles for the exercises you’re doing. Once you’ve completed your workout, never stop or sit down with a high heart rate. Return to a light jog or walk until your heart rate lowers, then some more light stretching to help with soreness that can occur later on.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Depending on the weather, it’s important to dress appropriately. If you show up for a chilly group evening jog with no hat or gloves, you’ll find yourself pretty miserable. Your extremities become colder much quicker than the rest of your body, and it’s important to cover those areas during exercise. The heat you create exercising may not be enough to warm fingers and ears, which can become numb and cause pain during your workout. On the other side, make sure to let your body sweat and release heat when things are super hot outside. Heat exhaustion can occur when you become dehydrated in high temperatures, and it can cause weakness, headaches, muscle cramps, and even loss of consciousness. Always make sure to listen to your body’s signals, and stop your workout if you begin to feel any of these symptoms.
Avoid Heavy Meals
Right before a good workout is not the time to complete a burrito challenge. It’s recommended to steer clear of heavy meals before or after you workout. These substances can only hinder athletic performance. A heavy meal will not sit well in your stomach, causing you to feel sluggish and possibly cause nausea or vomiting which can stop a workout in its tracks. Stick to the above mentioned pre and post workout snacks, you’ll have more energy to get a better workout and feel better in the long run.
Another one of those classic health tips. Regularly, it is recommended to drink about half a gallon of water a day (or around eight 8oz cups). If you add in intense exercise, it is recommended to add at least 1 ½ extra cups to your fluid intake. Just by breathing our bodies lose water, and it is essential to your health and well-being that you replenish your water consistently. Dehydration can cause many symptoms including dizziness and lethargy, all which hinder exercise! Make sure to hydrate before, during, and after a work-out.
Trust Your Gut
No matter how hard we try, sometimes it’s important that we know when to call it quits. Sore muscles are one thing, but forcing your body to push past a torn or strained muscle can worsen your injury and cause long-term damages. If you feel that you’re close to or experiencing an injury, put down the equipment and rest! Your muscles can only do so much at one time. Give your body the time it needs to heal, and you’ll be back on the exercise track in no time.