What to do before and after a Workout to Get Better Results

Exercise: Love it or hate it, we can all agree that if you are going to do it, it should be as beneficial and effective as possible. It doesn’t matter if you work out for the mental stability and positive endorphins it can provide, or if you’re trying to get rid of a few extra pounds—we all want to feel that our time spent in the gym was completely worthwhile.

When it comes to your fitness routine, the time you spend sweating it out in the gym tends to get all the credit—but it shouldn’t. If you know what to do before a workout and what to do after a workout, you’ll know exactly how to tweak your routine in order to impact your progress and results.

Things like good nutrition and quality sleep matter too, and smart pre- and post-workout rituals can ensure you’re recovering properly, fueling your efforts, and crushing it in every single workout.

Before your workout:

Prioritize getting enough good quality sleep.

“The most imperative thing in any fitness program starts the minute you go to sleep—that’s where all the magic happens,” says Cardiello. Being well-rested not only energizes you through every burpee or sprint, but it also keeps your hunger hormones in check, so you’re not undoing your efforts in the gym by overeating the rest of the day.

“Whoever I work out with, they don’t show up to the gym unless they’re getting seven hours of sleep,” says Cardiello. “I tell them to go home.” (Whoa.) If you can’t do seven, at least try for six and a half hours, he says—he recommends his clients set boundaries with their electronics before bed so the light doesn’t keep them awake. A good sleep is also super important after a workout, too—that’s when muscles really get to recover.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

You already know that drinking your H20 is crucial to overall health, but it plays an especially important role in a fitness routine—when you’re sweating it out, you need to make sure your body is properly hydrated since you’re losing water. Plus, being hydrated will make sure your energy levels are where they need to be.

Although exact water needs vary from person to person, he recommends aiming for half of your bodyweight in ounces per day (so, if you weight 150 pounds, try to get in 75 ounces). If your urine is dark, it probably means you’re not hydrated enough.

Plan Your Workout Routine

A soldier never goes to the battlefield without a thoroughly thought out strategy and this goes with your workout routine as well.

Whether you are using an app or traditional pen and paper it is important to plot out all the routine you will be doing. Knowing what is expected in terms of reps, sets, weights, and rest periods removes the guesswork and can help make your workout more efficient.

Do an Adequate Amount of Warm-ups

Never ever skip on your warmup even for a short exercise routine. The purpose of the warmup is to prepare your body by stretching the muscle and increasing your body’s temperature in preparation for the task you are about to partake in.

It also decreases that chance of straining yourself during your workout.

If you do want to, you can even opt-in doing dynamic warmup this can aid in increasing your range of motion which in turn help you make the most of your workout because you’ll be able to recruit more muscles during an exercise.

Make sure you’re wearing the right clothes and footwear for the workout you’re doing.

Being able to move, jump, run, stretch, and get into certain positions and poses is about more than just your athletic prowess or your mobility and flexibility. It’s also about having the right gear for the job. For example, you might not care much about which sports bra you choose for yoga, but for running, you’ll want a high-impact one. Wearing the right sneakers on a long run will mean way more comfort, which could translate to better endurance and a more enjoyable workout. There’s nothing worse than arriving at the gym or setting out the door only to discover you’re actually a little (or a lot) uncomfortable. Before you head out the door, do a once over and make sure you’re outfitted properly.

Have Plenty of Rest

Having an adequate amount of rest is crucial for a balanced lifestyle. Being well-rested not only energizes you through every jog or sprint, but it also keeps your hunger hormones in check, so you’re not undoing your efforts in the gym by overeating the rest of the day.

Sleep is also necessary for post-work-out as it gives the body time to recover which it desperately needs.

After your workout:

Stretch it out

Yes, stretching gets a point before and after a workout because it’s just that beneficial (and crucial). “Post-workout, focus on isolated stretches: stretch and hold for 20-30 seconds to target the muscle groups that you used during your workout,” Brosnan recommended. Stretching after your workout also has benefits of injury prevention and improved recovery, but the difference is that you should hold each stretch to go deeper. Make sure to target the muscles you worked on, as well as the areas we often forget about, like inner thighs or upper back. Oh, and if you dim the lights, play some relaxing music, and light a candle or two? You just might feel transported into a fancy yoga studio.

And use a foam roller

According to expert opinion (as well as some preliminary research), foam rolling can help you recover from workouts and might also increase your range of motion. Experts also recommend it as a way to minimize post-workout soreness, which it does by increasing blood flow to the tissues you used while exercising. Foam rolling regularly (and properly) is a great way to speed up recovery.

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Eat nourishing food

There’s a reason spin class and brunch go together like PB&J: refueling post-workout is crucial for your health and achieving fitness goals (although I’m guessing bottomless mimosas don’t count toward that). After using up its available energy, the body needs to refuel (especially with carbs and protein) to get more energy and repair muscles. If your goal is more strength, endurance, or stamina (or just to be overall healthy), don’t ignore that stomach growl. Think about it: your body is like a car (a Rolls Royce, might I add), and food is gasoline. To keep going fast—and get even faster—you need to continually replenish the gas. A fruit smoothie with protein powder and chia seeds, eggs with avocado toast, or a grain bowl make for ideal post-workout meals since they combine protein, carbs, and fats.

Refuel and Drink More Water

We all know now that when we sweat, we lose water, to restore this and avoid dehydration it is important to intake an adequate amount of water.

After your workout, you may be tempted to munch on a big bowl of ice cream or anything sweet, avoid this. Consuming junk food or overeating will negate the efforts you have done with your workout.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are those who will be cutting calories or skipping a meal altogether. This is not healthy either as your body would still require calories to operate for the rest of the day.

Instead opt-in for food that is packed with protein and proper fibre to re-energize. This will also aid in faster recovery and help replenish your strength and rebuild muscles.

Consider a Cool Shower

If you have been working-out under warm weather, you may want to consider taking a nice cool bath after you have rested enough. Basically, if you are overheated, a cool shower will help your body get back to baseline.

And if you are one of the many people who feel that a cool shower after a workout makes you feel better mentally and/or psychologically, consider making it part of your post-workout ritual.

Take a rest day

If you’ve had a particularly tough workout, taking a rest day might actually help you maximize the work you did the day before. “Your muscles need time to recover after an intense workout,” explained Ashlee Van Buskirk, a registered nurse, personal trainer, and founder of Whole Intent. “However, if you’re itching to get active and you want to maximize the impact of yesterday’s workout, consider some light exercise. Walking, swimming, or doing yoga are great ways to stay active while letting muscles recover.” The key to health is tuning in to your body to find out what it needs. If you’re feeling too sore or exhausted, take a rest day. Listening to your body will help you get stronger.

Indulge in some self-care

“Recovery is the missing piece of self-care, and designing a post-workout recovery ritual is key to repairing, rebuilding, and strengthening our bodies from the inside out,” said Dr. Sharif Tabbah, a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist based in Miami. In other words, how much you care for yourself after a workout is just as important as how much you push yourself during a workout. Whether that means taking a warm bath to soothe sore muscles or a work break to destress, self-care deserves to be a part of your fitness routine. Going back to the car analogy: if food is gasoline, self-care is the “check engine” light. You have to care for the engine if you’re going to want the car to go faster. Self-care replenishes and nourishes the body so that you’ll be more motivated, ready, and energized for the next workout.

Write Down Your Workout

Keeping track of what you did in every workout will help you keep challenging yourself each time you exercise. It’s also a great way to make sure that overall, your workout routine is giving you what you want.

The Bottom Line

An effective workout routine begins before you even step inside the gym or start breaking in a sweat, it also does not end with your last set of lifts either.

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