Exercise: Whether you love it or hate it, we can all agree that if you're going to do it, it should be as beneficial and effective as possible. It doesn't matter if you work out for the mental stability and positive endorphins it can provide, or if you're trying to get rid of a few extra pounds—we all want to feel that our time spent in the gym was completely worthwhile.
When it comes time to get down to business, though, most of us don't know where to start in order to maximize our workout. Should I drink or eat beforehand? What about stretching? Or maybe I should be taking a supplement? The questions are seemingly endless, and when it comes to our health, we don't like to mess around. We decided to round up all of our tips from our favorite fitness experts and scientific studies to get to the bottom of things. Keep reading to find out the five things you should be doing in order to get the most out of your workout!
When it comes to maximizing your workout, it all begins with deciding when to get started. Most experts agree that morning workouts tend to be most effective. Fitness expert, yoga instructor, and co-creator of PreGame Fit Dempsey Marks is a huge supporter of morning workouts for a variety of reasons. "Start your day with any type of exercise in order to get your metabolism going," she explains. "You maximize the benefits of your workout because you will burn calories all day long. Just 15 minutes of morning exercise will make a difference!"
But what if your schedule doesn't allow for an early-morning workout? Or, let's be honest, maybe you're just not a morning person. The good news is that, above all, consistency in your work out schedule is the most important component of maximizing the effects of your exercise. According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, your body adapts to your schedule and can learn when it should be most efficient. So regardless of whether you're working out at 7:00 a.m. or 7:00 p.m., as long as you stick to a schedule, you'll reap maximum benefits.
Stretching Is Crucial
We know—stretching before a workout seems like an obvious trick to having an effective trip to the gym. But you'd be surprised at how many people either rush through this important step or even disregard it altogether. "Stretching will warm up the muscles and protect you from becoming sore post-workout," explains Ilana Kugel, creative director of Koral Activewear. Skipping this step could be the make-or-break factor of your entire exercise routine.
Warming up with a stretch is especially important as we age, says Kugel. "Post-30, gravity isn't your friend, so it's important to start incorporating fitness regularly early on." And exercising without preparing the body can lead to injuries and soreness, which isn't fun for anyone. Take the necessary steps to protect yourself and have the safest (and most enjoyable) workout you can.
Use a Foam Roller
Foam rollers are a rising fitness trend that numerous celebrities and trainers are raving about. Not only can it be used therapeutically to relieve stress, but it's also a powerful and simple tool that is extremely beneficial for the body, as it can boost circulation, stimulate the lymphatic system to help eradicate toxins, and make muscles look and feel suppler and more youthful.
Structural integrative specialist and resident alignment guru at Goop, Lauren Roxburgh, suggests using the tool pre-workout for best results. "I always get asked when is the best time to roll. It's actually best to do before a workout so you can awaken and prepare your body for movement," she explains.
Eat and Drink Wisely
There are conflicting opinions on whether you should eat and drink before working out, but recent studies have found that if meals are chosen wisely, you could benefit from better results in your workout. In terms of hydration, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking two to three cups of water a few hours before you plan to work out in order to maximize hydration levels during exercise. Katie Mack, a personal trainer at Peak Performance in NYC, says that you might also choose to drink a cup of coffee pre-workout too: "The caffeine in your coffee will help to stimulate your nervous system to enhance performance."
Carbohydrates and lean proteins are the best choices when it comes to pre-workout meals. Mack recommends eating a low-fat meal in the hour before your workout. Some of her favorite options are chicken, fish, or Greek yogurt, coupled with a carbohydrate like sweet potato, rice, or beans. According to scientific research, those carbohydrates play a major role in your endurance—"carb-loading" right before exercise can help increase performance significantly. If you're really invested, Mack suggests adding coconut oil for a dose of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) for quick energy.
Try a Supplement
If you're not too seasoned in your fitness routine, the thought of adding a supplement might be a little scary. Not to fear: Recent studies have found that taking pre-workout supplements is a safe and effective method for boosting energy before you exercise. The supplements usually contain caffeine, which is the primary ingredient responsible for the benefits you feel.
However, it is important to note that while supplements can help curb fatigue and improve concentration during workouts, researchers have yet to find that they produce a substantial effect on body composition. So try out a supplement if you find yourself bowing out midway through your routine, as it can help your overall mindset, but don't expect your body to transform overnight. And be sure to check with your physician to make sure that adding a supplement is the right choice for you.