When you’ve only got a short amount of time to squeeze a workout into your day, you’d want to make the most of it. But certain foods or activities could be slowing you down and affecting your performance. Here are six things you should never do before hitting the gym.
When you exercise, your body is working hard to circulate blood. This means unnecessary systems for exercise – like digestion, urination or reproduction – will take a back seat and blood flow is restricted to these organs. With a stomach full of food, the muscles you’re working during exercise will fight for blood flow, making it more difficult to perform at your best. At the same time that big, delicious bowl of spaghetti you ate will struggle to digest, causing cramping and sickness long after your workout. The solution? Opt for a pre-workout snack that will give you lots of energy and is easily digestible, like an apple or banana, and save the spaghetti to sit down and enjoy later.
We are constantly sitting, whether it’s working at a desk, driving or watching TV. Sitting down for long periods of time places the spine and muscles in a relaxed state, so when you suddenly hit the gym for a tough session, you’re at greater risk on injury. That’s why it’s always important to warm up and cool down before and after a workout, sit with good posture and get moving throughout your day.
Yep – too much shut-eye is a real thing, and it can have a big impact on your performance in the gym. Oversleeping or taking a power nap for longer than an hour can cause drowsiness, making it even harder to get the body moving and energy systems switched on. If you are feeling a bit sluggish, ease into your workout slowly or take a low intensity class and you will feel awake and energised by the end.
Did you know that what you eat the day before your workout can affect your energy and performance? Enjoying a good breakfast can certainly boost your energy for the day, but it’s just as important to eat enough of the right foods the day before. This includes carbs, good fats and protein to fuel your body. Remember, other factors such as stress or lack of sleep can also affect your energy so it’s OK to adjust your workout as you need. For example, take a walk outside on your lunch break instead of a hardcore HIIT session.
Having alcohol in your system before a workout is probably more common than it seems. Think about those two glasses of wine at a family lunch, or during an office function. When you exercise with alcohol in your system, your liver is working hard to break that down instead of burning fat. So does this mean you shouldn’t train after a big night out? Not necessarily. In fact, exercise may even help cure the hangover. But if you’re struggling to shift that extra weight, consider how alcohol consumption could be a contributing factor.
As a trainer, I often see people in the gym “warming up” with a 30 minute run on the treadmill before hitting the weight floor. The problem is you’ve already pre-exhausted your muscles – and as your energy is decreased, your results with the weights will be limited. The best way to warm up for a strength session is to start light. A good tip is to keep your cardio and strength sessions on separate days to maximise your energy for each. Alternatively, create a circuit style session with shorter sprints. If you love long distance running, a stretch or relaxation class after a long run is a great way to restore your energy levels.
Bottom line? At the end of the day, getting a workout in will benefit you no matter what – even if the spaghetti and glass of wine is still digesting! But changing some of these common habits will help you make the most of your time in the gym.