If you’re taking the time to go the gym, you deserve to get the absolute most out of your workout. There are lots of little things you can do before, during and after your workout to make sure your body is functioning efficiently and you’re training to your maximum.
BEFORE YOUR WORKOUT
First and foremost, eat something. It might seem tempting to go without food before a workout, especially early in the morning. While you might think this will help you lose more weight, it will actually affect your performance during your training session. Eating gives you energy to push through a tough workout.
Ideally, try eating 3 hours to 30 minutes before your workout. This will not only ensure that you’re not still digesting your food when you hit the gym floor, but you also haven’t used up all the calories from the meal. If you don’t eat before a workout, your body might dip into your muscles for fuel, which essentially cancels out all the hard work you’re doing.
Carbohydrates are a great option for pre-workout fuel. When we eat carbohydrates, our body breaks them down into glucose. Your muscles will store the glucose from your carbs, and when you’re working out your body will take from that glucose reserve to help you work at maximum capacity. Some great examples of a pre-workout meal could be oatmeal, fruit or a rice cake.
In addition to carbs, it’s good to consume a bit of protein before a workout, especially if you’re weight training. Lifting weights creates small tears in our muscle fibers. It sounds scary, but your body repairs these micro-tears and builds your muscles to be bigger and stronger than before. However, your body needs nourishment to properly repair – that’s where protein comes in. Try eating protein that’s easily digestible before a workout, like a hard-boiled egg.
You want to avoid eating foods that aren’t easily digested before a workout. This applies to anything with a high fiber content. Since high-fiber foods take longer to digest, they can cause bloating, nausea, gas and stomach cramps during your workout.
Lastly, hydrate! It’s good to be hydrated before a workout, as dehydration can slow down your energy levels and lead to muscle cramps and spasms.
DURING YOUR WORKOUT
A great way to get a little more out of your usual workout routine is supersets. A superset is when you perform two or more exercises hitting different muscle groups in one set without rest between them. For instance, instead of resting after a set of squats for two minutes, jump right into something else, like chest presses.
It’s also common to superset opposing muscles, like chest and back or biceps and triceps. For example, you could superset bicep curls with triceps dips. Opposing muscle groups like biceps and triceps work together to perform a workout – when you’re doing bicep curls, your triceps are still working, there’s just a bigger focus on the biceps. By performing a superset and going straight from bicep curls to triceps dips, you’re getting double the burn for those overlapping muscle groups, which will help those muscles grow faster.
Supersets are a great way to get stronger, faster, but they’re also a great way to make sure your workout is as efficient as possible. You’d be amazed by how much you can get done in 20 minutes when you cut out some of your rest time!
AFTER YOUR WORKOUT
Once again – eat something. You need to make sure your muscles and tissues are properly nourished, so they can repair themselves. Eat foods that are high in protein after your workout, because protein is a must for muscle recovery. Some great healthy proteins to enjoy after a workout include beans and fish.
Eating carbs post-workout is also great, because you need to replenish all that glycogen your body ate up during your workout. Try eating foods that are high in complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates take longer for the body to break down, which is horrible before a workout, but perfect afterwards. Some examples of foods high in complex carbs are nuts, brown rice or whole-grain pasta. Or, supplement your diet with a protein shake, like our 100% Whey Protein Plus.
If you don’t eat after a workout, your blood sugar levels will plummet and you’ll be extremely fatigued. By not eating, you’re also inhibiting the recovery process, which could lead to injury down the road. Something as quick and simple as a protein shake can do the trick. It’s best to eat something within half an hour of your workout, even if it’s just a small snack.
Do your best not to over-indulge after a workout. It’s tempting to eat poorly after a workout, because you feel like “you deserve it.” But, at the end of the day, this can reverse a lot of the effects of your training session. If you must have a cheat meal, it’s better to do it on a training day than on a rest day. But, try and plan it out, so you’re not having a cheat meal after every single workout.
And again, hydrate! If you were working hard, you were sweating – this means your body has lost a lot of hydration. If you don’t hydrate after a workout, you risk low energy, as well as muscles cramps and spasms – even if you hydrated pre-workout.
You officially have all the tools to take your workouts and your results to the max. Keep in mind, these are merely guidelines. You know your body best, so listen to what it needs and act accordingly. Happy training!