The exercises you do during your time at the gym are very important and are going to be the exercises responsible for getting you to your goal. That much is certain!
However, what you do before and after your workouts are going to determine how quickly you get to your goal, and how comfortable it will be along the way.
In order to be perfectly prepared for a workout, ensure you are properly fuelled and your body is warmed up effectively for the exercise about to be performed. Throughout exercise, ensure proper hydration levels to avoid the effects of dehydration such as exhaustion and foggy thinking. After the workout is completed, make sure to re-fuel your muscles with proper nutrition and take necessary recovery measures so that you can hit the gym again quickly.
Before The Workout
Be Properly Fulled
Proper fuel can come in many different forms depending on the goal of the individual. During exercise, the human body burns glycogen as a means of energy production, and just like a car, your body has a certain capacity for energy, or fuel.
You wouldn’t head out on a long drive without filling up your car at the gas station before hand, our bodies are no different. Before you get to the gym and start your first set, make sure there’s something in the fuel tank for the athletic journey you’re about to embark upon, even if it is just a quick cardio session.
If you don’t have any food in your system prior to exercise, your body must find a means of producing energy in some way. We would expect that fat would be released in this case, however, your body needs that energy now, and muscle breaks down easier than fat due to the water already present in the muscle belly.
Do your best to avoid fasted workouts and have some fuel in your tank to burn so that you don’t burn the muscle that you have been working so hard to attain. Just make sure to give yourself enough time to digest your food, around 30 minutes for smaller meals up to 60 minutes for larger meals.
Don't Skip The Warm Up!
When it comes to warm up and pre-workout activities, ditch the pre-workout supplement you have been taking and, instead, start your workout with some dynamic, or movement-based stretches, as well as some balance and coordination exercises to wake up your Central Nervous System.
If you are in the mood, add some games like juggling, or if you are with a friend, throw a medicine ball back and forth to further develop your coordination. The warm up itself will add heightened awareness of your Central Nervous System, which will help with muscle activations during lifts. A dynamic warmup combined with a few minutes of moderate paced cardio will help you keep your energy levels high during the workout and get more done in less time. Win-Win!
Now that you are fuelled and your Central Nervous System is firing on all cylinders, go through your workout feeling stronger and more energetic than ever!
After The Workout
Take Some Time To Stretch
Upon completion of your routine, we still need to stretch and relax all the muscles that you used during the workout. There are plenty of different ways to recover your muscle tissue post workout, some of which include: foam rolling, static stretching, vibration and percussion.
They all have different applications, but the easiest to do on your own are the first two, foam rolling and static stretching. During exercise your muscles build up waste products as a by-product of the energy metabolism occurring in the muscle belly. I’m sure you have felt this before as the soreness in your muscles the next day or two after exercise.
The relaxation techniques allow us to restore length to the muscle tissue that has been contracted multiple times during the workout. When we have restored muscle tissue length, we get more blood flow into those areas of high metabolic waste and the blood delivers nutrients and oxygen to the muscles so that they can start the healing process immediately post workout.
Refuel Your Body With The Right Food
The addition of post workout nutrition will further enhance your recovery ability and enhance the gains! There is a lot of talk about a so called “Protein Window” and for those who don’t know what I am talking about, it’s the idea that there is a 30-minute window where you must get protein in post workout in order to maximize the effect.
I don’t disagree with the protein window idea, but the mistake that many people make, is forgetting that protein isn’t the easiest macronutrient to absorb. In order to truly get the most out of your post workout shake, have a piece of fruit or some simple carbohydrates before the protein so that your body can pre heat the protein absorption oven.
My personal favourite is a banana or an apple post workout, immediately followed by my 25g protein shake. About an hour afterwards, or at your next major meal, make sure to have another protein source and lots of vegetables for the abundance of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, that your body will be craving post workout. If you find yourself in doubt, consult a trainer on pre and post workout nutrition routines to straighten out your concerns.
Now go try it! Take time before your workout to ensure that you have enough gas in your tank to get thru your workout. Prioritize a movement preparation routine that warms up the muscles that you are about to use in your workout, as well as the most important muscle, your brain.
Drink lots of water, even electrolytes or amino acids, during your workout and finish off with some stretch exercises and foam rolling. Once that is all done, hit your protein shake window with some simple carbs to get those muscles back into fighting shape faster!