Five Keys to a Great Workout

With hard work comes results, but you also have to work smart. Below are five ways to maximize the benefits of your workouts.

Pre-Workout Nutrition:

Just like a car cannot run without fuel, your body cannot work at peak level without proper nutrition. While you don’t want to have a full stomach while you train, eating a good meal two to three hours before you workout will prime your body to work at its best. For short bursts of intense activity your body relies on stores of glucose for energy. As you work over a longer period of time, your body will begin to break down fats as well. So for your pre-workout meal, you should eat whole grains, fruits, and veggies. Foods that are easy to digest, provide high nutrition, and are energy dense are great fuel! Although food is one part of the equation, hydration is the other side of the coin. Making sure you drink enough water, 8-10 glasses a day give or take, will provide your body with the transportation and chemical equilibrium required to keep your body working at its best.

Warm up:

To get yourself ready to give your all and get all you can from your workout, you must warm up. This should consist of breaking a light sweat while putting your body through different plains of motion. While jogging for five minutes or so will get your heart rate up, it does not require a large range of motion. Using a row machine, or even better, doing a dynamic warm up is a superior choice. The goal is to get your entire body working. By activating muscles you will use in your workout, the blood supply and thus the energy pathways to these muscles are ignited. This will reduce your risk of injury and will make sure you will be able to recruit all of the power you can during whatever exercise you are doing.

Workout:

When you get to your workout, remember that quality is always better than quantity. Try to tailor your workouts to be efficient and therefore more effective. The goal of exercise should be to improve your quality of life! Less time in the gym and more energy for other activities is a direct benefit of having a streamlined workout. Also, don’t just do exercises you like, do exercises that you need. Strength training is important for marathoners and cardio is important for athletes looking to improve power and strength. If you over look working your entire body, you are setting yourself up for injury and frustrating training plateaus.

Cool Down:

After a tough workout, it is very tempting to just get the heck out of the gym or crash on the couch. But there is one more thing that needs to be done, a proper cool down. This should consist of static stretching and/or foam rolling. Doing this will allow your body to get rid of the lactic acid build up in your muscles. Lactic acid is a by product of the energy your muscle use to function. It is also the source of the soreness and stiff feeling that you get after a hard workout. By helping your body get rid of this lactic acid through stretching and rolling out, you will speed your recovery, reduce soreness, and also reduce the risk of injury.

Post-Workout Nutrition:

While a proper cool down will help get you ready for your next workout by reducing soreness, proper nutrition will help your body rebuild and re-energize. When you workout, your muscle fibers will be broken down and damaged. The body is amazing in that when it rebuilds and repairs, it does so to make sure you will be stronger and therefore sustain less break down of the muscle tissue the next time you workout. When muscle is broken down, it will not function at full strength. If left unattended,  and with further working out these small micro tears in muscle tissue can turn into injury. The building blocks your body needs are amino acids which can be found in proteins. After finishing a tough training session, it is recommended that you intake 20-30 grams of protein within 30 minutes to an hour. Proteins can be found in leafy greens, nuts, dairy, eggs, and meats. The easiest way to get a quick serving of protein is through shakes or powders. If you use a mix, you want to find one low in sugar and carbohydrates. One final note,  if you are looking to bulk up or lose weight one principle remains the same. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change forms. If you use more calories than you eat, your body will use the energy it has stored in the form of fat and then muscle. If you consume more calories than you burn, your body will store this energy. Make sure you are giving your body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and grow stronger every day.

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