Pre- and Post-workout Tips
Optimize Your Exercise Routine
Every good workout starts with a warmup and ends with a nice, easy cool-down. But what, exactly, should you do to warm up? Do you need to stretch during your cool-down? And what should you eat, both before and after your workout, for optimal health?
These questions can feel overwhelming and confusing. But many of the answers are easy to find. The tips below from Mat Gover, owner of EXL Fitness and Performance in Orem, Utah, can get you started.
Pre-workout Must: Dynamic Stretching
Recent research indicates that stretching a particular muscle before exercise won’t necessarily prevent it from being pulled or torn during exercise. But even so, stretching is still highly recommended.
“There are many forms of stretching, including static stretching,” Gover says. Static stretching is holding a challenging position for several seconds without moving. “One objective of static stretching is to lengthen a muscle. Dynamic stretching, which incorporates movement into the stretches, is ideal for preparing the body and muscles for activity.”
Pre-workout Tip: Eat — Or Don’t
Some people say you should always eat before exercising. Others say you should never exercise on a full stomach. In reality, the best eating habits — both before and after a workout — are those that work best for you.
“I have some folks who wake up and exercise first thing in the morning,” Gover says. “They get sick if they eat before they exercise. Other people get really lightheaded if they work out on an empty stomach. People need to experiment to find what works best for them.”
When it comes to when we should eat, misinformation abounds. “It used to be that you shouldn’t eat late at night, or that eating multiple times a day was better than eating fewer, bigger meals, but that’s not true,” Gover says. “A lot of it just comes down to experimenting and finding what works for you.”
Post-workout Tip: Consume Plenty of Protein
Protein is an essential nutrient, and many people don’t get enough. It aids in muscle repair, which is important after a workout. It can keep hunger at bay and reduce your desire to snack on unhealthy foods, because the body uses more energy to break down protein than carbohydrates and sugars.
Some people think a protein shake is essential after a workout, but Gover disagrees.
“For the average person, drinking a protein shake right after a workout probably won’t make a big difference. It would be better to focus on lean proteins and fruits and vegetables for the rest of the day. If you’re a competitive athlete or body builder, that little bit of extra protein you get from a shake right after a workout could give you the edge over the competition that you need.”
Animal products, including meat, dairy and eggs, are great sources of protein, as are vegetarian proteins like quinoa, buckwheat, beans and lentils.
Post-workout Tip: Get Plenty of Vitamins and Minerals
While you might think a multivitamin is the perfect way to get the nutrients your body needs, that isn’t the case. Vitamin and mineral supplements help compensate for some nutritional deficiencies, but you should ideally get most of the vitamins and minerals you need through the foods you eat.
“Everyone has nutritional deficiencies, especially if they’ve been dieting,” Gover says. “A multivitamin can help fill those deficiencies, but for the most part, it’s just a Band-Aid solution.”
Instead, Gover suggests getting a blood test to reveal nutritional deficiencies. Then, if you can’t get enough of a certain nutrient from your diet, a specific supplement can help.