12 Before and After Workout Tips to Boost Results

Get the most out of your workouts.

By now, we’ve all gotten the message that we should be exercising more for better health and well-being. But did you know that there are certain things you can do to make your workouts even more effective and efficient? The following 12 strategies can help you make the most of your time working out.

1. Set goals.

“I think the first thing you want to do with any workout plan is to set goals,” says Dr. D. Harrison Youmans, a sports medicine physician with Orlando Health in Florida. “If you’re training for an event, you want to make sure you’ve got the goal in mind and that you’re trying to build toward that.”

Working with a coach or trainer can help you establish the right goals and build a smart and sustainable plan for achieving them.

2. Stay hydrated all the time.

Staying hydrated throughout the day is important,” Youmans says, both for helping you feel good and so you can perform well during a workout. He encourages his patients to take in 16 ounces of water before starting a workout and “drinking to thirst during the workout.”

3. Rehydrate after.

You also need to put back what you may have lost during the workout through sweat, says Dan Daly, coach, trainer and co-creator of the Equinox Group Swim Program EQXH2O in New York City. One way to make sure you’re getting enough water is to weigh yourself just before and after the workout. The difference in weight is nearly all water weight, so put back that same amount of water.

One cup of water weighs just over a half a pound, so if you’ve lost two pounds during the workout, you should drink four cups, or 32 ounces of water, to replenish what you’ve lost. Plain water is typically best, but if you’ve been sweating a lot, you can consider adding an electrolyte replacement drink that will put back some of the sodium and other electrolytes you’ve lost while sweating.

4. Eat something before.

Not everyone likes to work out on a full stomach, but Youmans says it’s important to make sure you “have some calories on board. But it may take some trial and error” to find the right pre-workout snack for you.

Many people like to have a banana or another piece of fruit beforehand. Others prefer a slice of toast with peanut butter. Generally speaking, a mix of carbs and protein can be helpful for making sure you’ve got adequate nutrition to perform well during your workout. Limiting fat intake is generally a good idea before a workout, as it takes longer to digest and could cause an upset stomach if you’re working out hard. Experiment to find the right pre-workout snack for you.

5. Eat after your workout.

While many people believe that there’s a window of time — 30 minutes or so — after a workout when it’s most optimal to eat, Daly says this theory of meal timing post-workout may be overstated. “However, within a few hours, it helps to replenish glycogen stores, particularly after workouts lasting more than an hour.”

Glycogen is a type of sugar that’s stored in the muscles and the liver and is the primary fuel your muscles use when you’re exercising. When you deplete your stores of glycogen, that can negatively impact your ability to perform when working out.

Daly recommends “eating complex carbohydrates within your caloric and macronutrient needs and consuming some protein to provide amino acids for muscle and cellular repair.”

Youmans agrees that eating a meal after a workout is important. “After the workout, we want to balance some carbohydrate and some protein because protein is going to help the muscles recover, but we also need to replenish those energy stores with the carbohydrates.”

Scrambled eggs with veggies and avocado, salmon and sweet potatoes or yogurt with nuts and berries can all make excellent post-workout meals.

6. Stretch.

After a workout, “stretching can facilitate a rest and digest state in the nervous system, initiating the recovery process,” Daly says. And this can help promote faster muscle healing.

Before you undertake a stretching routine, it’s best to understand what your range of motion is in each joint and if any joints are tight or inflexible. In all cases, approach stretching gently and consider consulting a fitness trainer or physical therapist for assistance in developing the right stretching and mobility routine for your specific needs.

7. Mix it up.

“For general wellness, fitness and weight loss, most people would benefit from moving most days of the week for 30 to 60 minutes,” Daly says. But you shouldn’t only do one type of exercise. You’ll get better results if you mix up your workouts with aerobic exercise, which gets you sweating and your heart rate up, and with strength training, which can build stronger muscles and bones and improve your ability to balance and perform daily tasks. The two types of exercise complement each other and will help you achieve gains across the board.

Daly recommends focusing two or three workouts per week on a full-body strength routine, and two or three workouts per week on cardio, “with a mix of steady state, low-intensity volume (long distances), middle-distance race pace intensities and short all-out high-intensity intervals.”

These variations in length of workout and intensity can be done with virtually any aerobic exercise, from running and swimming to rowing, walking and working out on an elliptical machine.

8. Add some caffeine.

Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, cola and chocolate. Many people find that it perks them up and makes them feel more alert, which could help you have a better workout.

“Caffeine has been widely researched as a legal ergogenic (or performance boosting) aid for exercise and performance,” Daly says. Drinking a cup of coffee before a workout could boost your performance and alertness during the activity.

But caffeine might help after a workout too. According to one 2008 study, the primary fuel used by the muscles during exercise — glycogen — replenished more quickly when participants consumed carbohydrates and caffeine following intense exercise. The study found that athletes who had ingested caffeine and carbs after a strenuous workout had 66% more glycogen in their muscles 4 hours later compared to athletes who had only carbs after their workout.

The faster your muscles can rebuild their glycogen stores, the faster your muscles can repair themselves and adapt to the training you’ve completed. This is good for strength gains and being ready to go for your next workout sooner.

9. Consider supplements.

Though some fitness professionals say that supplementing your diet with certain nutrients might help you perform your best, Daly says “it’s best to consult with a licensed nutritionist, particularly a sports nutritionist, before considering adding supplements. Supplements are generally 1% of the equation,” in terms of improving your fitness and performance. “There are many things most individuals could focus on that would have a much greater return on their progress.”

But if you suspect you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency that could be impacting fitness, work with your doctor to verify the deficiency with bloodwork and devise a plan for correcting it with dietary changes, supplements or medications.

One widely used supplement that does have some evidence backing its use for improved sports performance and recovery from workouts is creatine.

“Creatine is the most researched sports supplement ever, with a lot of evidence supporting improvements in sport, particularly high intensity, short duration activities, like sprinting and weight lifting,” Daly says. Nevertheless, you should check with your doctor before taking creatine or any other supplement to ensure it’s safe for you to do so.

10. Sleep consistently.

“Getting plenty of sleep is very important for recovery,” Youmans says. Daly agrees. “Sleep is one of the most anabolic, or tissue building, windows we have.”

It’s during sleep that your body repairs itself and can make the positive adaptions intended by the workout. So get consistent with a set bedtime and set wake time and establish a bedtime routine that lets you wind down and be ready for sleep when it’s time to get into bed.

Youmans also recommends trying to complete sleep cycles if you can, rather than waking up to an alarm clock. Sleep cycles typically last about 90 minutes to two hours. “The alarm clock can be difficult because it might wake you in the middle of the sleep cycle, and then you’ll feel groggy. Or if you wake up on your own an hour before you’re planning to get up and go back to sleep for an hour, you’ll be in the middle of a sleep cycle again.”

Youmans encourages his patients to establish a set bedtime and keep it consistent. Over time, you’ll naturally find the best waking time for you and may be able to do away with the alarm clock all together.

11. Be consistent.

One of the best ways to ensure you continue to make good progress towards your fitness goals is by committing to workout out consistently. Whether that’s two, three four or more times a week may be guided by your goals, but sticking with the frequency you choose can help you make each workout even more effective.

When you stop and start a fitness plan, you’ll lose what gains you may have made and have to rebuild from square one when you start again. Being consistent means the adaptations you’re working towards with training will come about sooner and be more likely to endure.

12. Stay healthy.

Lastly, Youmans says that if you’re new to a fitness routine, it’s best to check in with your primary care physician prior to getting started. Once you’re cleared to get moving, do your best to establish a consistent plan, but don’t get discouraged if you feel some aches and pains initially or progress slower than you’d hoped. “There’s certain things you can kind of manage through,” such as muscle soreness.

That said, there are some “red flag” symptoms that you shouldn’t push through, Youmans says. “Especially with joint pain or if you get mechanical symptoms like catching or locking. If you get swelling in a joint that you haven’t had before, or if a joint feels unstable. And any pain that’s worsening instead of getting better as you try to work through it — those are all reasons you’d want to seek help to try to figure out what the issue is and how to correct it.”

12 Workout Tips to Improve Your Results

1. Set goals.

2. Stay hydrated throughout.

3. Rehydrate after.

4. Eat something before your workout.

5. Eat after your workout.

6. Stretch.

7. Mix it up.

8. Add some caffeine.

9. Consider supplements.

10. Sleep consistently.

11. Be consistent.

12. Stay healthy.

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12 Before and After Workout Tips to Boost Results originally appeared on usnews.com

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