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 six 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 the most effective. Fitness expert, yoga instructor, and co-creator of PreGame Fit Dempsey Marks is a huge supporter of morning workouts for various reasons. "Start your day with any type of exercise 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. Above all, the good news is that consistency in your workout schedule is the most important component of maximizing the effects of your exercise. According to the research, there are no major differences between morning and evening workouts. In fact, working out in the evening might provide an advantage when it comes to power and work capacity.
The bottom line is that no matter when you choose to workout, sticking to your commitment and being consistent is the magic sauce leading to results. So write it down, schedule it in, set alarms—whatever you need to do to make sure you get it done.
Dynamic 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 dynamic stretching is especially important as we age, says Kugel, and exercising without preparing the body with dynamic stretches can lead to stiffness 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.
This high-density foam roller is perfect for warming up before a workout, helping to prevent muscle injury.
Eat and Drink Wisely
There are conflicting opinions on whether you should eat and drink before working out, but recent studies have found that you could benefit from better results in your workout if meals are chosen wisely. 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 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 significantly increase performance. Mack suggests adding coconut oil for a dose of MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) for quick energy if you're really invested.
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: 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.
Legion Pulse pre-workout is all-natural and will help get you hyped for your workout with ingredients like L citrulline malate, beta-alanine, caffeine, and L theanine.
Get Enough Sleep
"Sleep is one of the strongest determining factors for a successful health routine," says Monica Jones, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Performance Enhancement Specialist. "At our core, sleep affects the release and balance of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin (often referred to as the happy hormones). While these processes are handled at the cellular level, brain and bodily function strongly affect our ability to perform physical activity," says Jones.
Jones explains why sleep is the ultimate gatekeeper to a good workout: "The mood you are in determines whether you actually engage in exercise or not. The amount of energy you have and proper brain function decreases the chance of injury and increases your capability to handle heavy loads or quick movement patterns. With proper amounts of quality sleep, things like our focus, grip strength, and stamina improve, allowing us to achieve more activity and more progress consistently."
So set yourself up from the start by getting a proper night's sleep—from seven to nine hours.
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