Let’s face it; we don’t always bust out the perfect workout and some days are just tougher than the other for many different reasons! Well, there are many factors that go into the perfect workout. Let’s take a look at a few of my favourite and most important factors that will help you get amped up and prepare you for the perfect workout time and time again:
You guessed it. Nutrition in general is extremely important. To keep you energised and ready to endure your workout, nutrition in and around your training session is the key to ensuring you’re fuelled and ready to rock! Your PRE and POST workout meals play a key role in the effectiveness of those workouts. Allow me to elaborate;
Pre workout “energy phase”:
What you eat before your workout is crucial for fuelling the workout itself and maximizing your performance throughout. The primary role of your pre-workout nutrition is to help reduce muscle glycogen depletion, reduce muscle protein breakdown and reduce post workout cortisol levels.
Your body needs whole foods in the form of lean protein and complex carbs 1-2hrs prior to your workout to fuel your session as these stay in the body much longer. Stick with lean proteins such as chicken breast, fish, beef or egg whites and carbs such as banana and greek yogurt (has double the amount of protein than normal yogurt), brown rice, oatmeal, or any low GI source are great pre workout options. Bananas are a great potassium booster as these levels drop when we sweat. Have amino acids readily available for muscle repair during and post-workout.
Post workout “recovery phase”:
What you eat after your workout is crucial for optimizing the recovery process and ensuring that your body has all of the supplies it needs in order to recover, adapt and improve the way you want it to.
You will need to replenish your nutrients and energy stores after your workout to help repair your muscles and to restore your glycogen. Again, lean protein and complex carbs are a must as your body is in recovery mode. Salmon and sweet potato are a great source of omega 3 and fatty acids which are great for the joints, bones and muscle recovery.
What you eat after hitting the gym may just be the most important food you eat all day. See, muscles store excess energy in the form of glycogen and protein and, when you work out, the body burns fuel from your pre-workout meal, then it breaks down glycogen stored in muscles. Within a few hours of working out, muscle protein drops and muscles begin to break down. However, within a 45-minute window, your body is the most responsive with absorbing carbohydrates and protein. Here are the best foods to fuel and reload the depleted muscles.
I don’t have to tell you how important hydration is in general. Drinking adequate amounts of water is critical to health, energy, recovery, and performance. Clear and calorie free with no gimmicks attached, water is the purist form of hydration your body can get.
Water plays an integral role in the optimal functioning of your body both during training and during rest and recovery. Water makes up 70 to 75 percent of an athlete’s muscle tissue. Did you know even your bones are made up of about 32 percent water!
Water is essential to keeping you hydrated. Dehydration causes muscle cramps, dizziness and/or lightheadedness. When you are physically active, dehydration is not only dangerous, but can also keep you from performing your best.
So for peak performance, drink plenty of fluids. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to start drinking water. That feeling of thirst means that you are starting to dehydrate. I keep a water bottle with me at all times. While I work, in meetings, during my workouts and next to my bed at night. Having it with me at all times reminds me to frequently down water throughout my day and it quickly becomes a habit. Remember changes in climate and how much you sweat affects your fluid requirements and will to drink even more in hot and humid weather.
Tip: Checking out the color of your pee will be a good indication of your hydration levels. Light yellow or ideally clear pee is a good indication of good hydration. Dark yellow colored pee means you need to down more H2O until you notice the change of color to your pee.
Rest and recovery is a critical aspect of any successful training program because it allows the body time to repair and strengthen itself in between workouts.
And I’m not just talking about sleep! Recovery includes hydration, nutrition, posture, ice, heat, stretching, myofascial release, stress management, compression, screen stimulation time out, and the list goes on. Recovery aids in muscle repair, hormonal, neurological and structural recovery.
Unfortunately few people acknowledge or even recognize the importance of rest and recovery in their ultimate success. Don’t underestimate the rest aspect of an exercise program because it allows the body time to repair and strengthen itself in between workouts.
Think that taking a day or two off from training will set you back all that hard work you’ve put in? Think again. It takes your body almost two weeks of non-activity before you start losing a noticeable amount of your progress or performance level. From a psychological standpoint, taking a rest period can rekindle your hunger for exercise and help prevent burnout.
There's just no getting around the need for sleep in order to maximize your fitness potential. Sleep is so important to your general rest and well-being. I like to use my Fitbit to trace my sleep patterns. When I wake up, I can sync my Fitbit to see last night's sleep stats on my dashboard. This is particularly helpful if I have had a restless night as I can then reflect on what I did leading up to my bedtime and make the necessary adjustments to improve my quality and amount of sleep.
Being the competitive little nut I am, I find wearing a tracking device of some sort such as a Fitbit or My Zone heartrate strap is where it’s at! It keeps me accountable, tracks my efforts and allows me to compete against myself. This is an absolute must for me. Sometimes you may think you’re going as hard as you can only to look at the screen and see you have more in you! Not only can you check how you’re going mid-session you can compare your efforts and aim to better them next session.
Music plays a huge role in my life and is absolutely essential when I work out. Music distracts me from pain and fatigue, elevates my mood, increases my endurance, distracts me from my bodies awareness and reduces my perceived effort. I run faster, lift heavier, endure for longer without even realizing it. It just seems easier when Beyoncé or Biggie are right there with me. To top this off it puts me in an energetic mood and leaves me feeling on top of the world especially when you couple that with the perfect workout!
Group training is one of the most powerful motivational training methods out there. There's nothing like a bit of healthy competition to push you harder, exert more energy, help keep you accountable and encourage team work. We are social little animals so the need for support is primal. Group training or a fitness buddy is a perfect support system to encourage us to keep going, push out one more rep and not to give up. Strength in numbers - Stronger together.
Whether it’s a group class, an outdoor workout or a solo gym session, make sure to pre-plan your session and know what you’re going to do. As soon as you get there, don’t waste any time. Get straight into it, every second, every rep, every step, every heartbeat and every sweat bead counts! To progress, develop, advance towards a better you, you need to push your limits!