In some distant, parallel universe, the laws of responsibility are reversed. Work is something you do in your spare time. Working out, on the other hand, is an essential life task—something to which you devote countless hours to survive in society. In this bold, fitness-driven world, your benefits include being strong, looking fantastic and feeling even better. Life is good.
Reality check: No matter how much daydreaming you do, that alternate setting doesn’t exist—unless your name is Jay, Ronnie, or Victor, that is. In this time and place, working out plays second fiddle to a number of obligations. And since your time is valuable, you can’t waste one second on a bad workout. Hell, the good ones are tough enough to plan for. Strained reps, poor energy levels, incomplete sets, longer-than-desired workouts and shoddy results can leave you feeling like your time in the gym is all for naught. But there are things you can do before and after you head to the gym to ensure supercharged workouts today, tomorrow, and beyond—tips that can improve your efficiency, strength, even your time spent with the iron. If you’re going to schedule your day around the gym, make sure you head in there well-rested, your strength tank topped off, your playlist ready to go, and the following pointers in tow. The result? A stronger, fitter body. Now that’s a reality worth reaching for. Incorporate as many of these tips as possible to start maximizing the benefits of your gym time.
DAY OF YOUR WORKOUT
Your workout doesn’t start when you walk into the gym—it begins when you wake up in the morning and continues throughout the day. Preparations go beyond just packing your gym bag. They start with eating the right things at the right times to increase your body’s productivity at the gym. In addition to your usual nutritional goals, you should observe these tips to power you through your workout
1. Eat slow-digesting carbs before workouts
Researchers at Loughborough University (U.K.) discovered that when athletes ate slow-digesting carbs such as whole grains for breakfast and lunch, they had lower insulin levels and burned more fat during the day. The athletes also had more endurance and burned more fat during exercise compared to those who ate fast-digesting carbs such as white bread or plain bagels. Be sure that all the meals you eat before your workout, including the one immediately before, include about 40g of slow-digesting carbs such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes, fruit, buckwheat (see tip No.4), or whole-wheat bread.
2. Avoid higher-fat meals for up to four hours before workouts
A University of Maryland School of Medicine (Baltimore) study reported that a high-fat meal blunts the ability of nitric oxide (NO) to dilate blood vessels for up to four hours. That means less blood flow to muscles and less of a muscle pump, which is even more costly if you’ve invested in an NO supplement. In the four hours before your workout, avoid eating large amounts of fats, such as the obvious fast-food fare and packaged foods (even if you’re in a mass-gaining phase).
3. Eat a green salad with your last whole-food meal before the gym
The same University of Maryland researchers also discovered that consuming a small green salad with a high-fat meal prevented the adverse effects on blood vessel dilation, likely by enhancing NO. About two hours before you hit the gym, include a green salad with low-fat dressing with your meal.