Follow these tips to maximize your exercise routine
When we exercise to lose weight, we may overlook an important weight-loss strategy: Food. “If we don’t eat, we decrease our workout or exercise potential,” says Marc A. Boults, a doctor of physical therapy and certified athletic trainer at Lakeland Regional Medical Center.
For short workouts that require muscle, Boults recommends a high protein diet. Snacking isn’t critical for workouts lasting less than an hour, but skipping them in longer workouts may cause lack of energy, power, mental strength, and motivation. “If your workout exceeds the hour mark or is high in intensity, consider having an easily digestible, easy on the stomach snack available,” Boults advises. “It will give you the slight bit of energy needed to finish strong.”
Boults is a semi-professional road cyclist as well as a physical therapist. So he knows from personal experience if he doesn’t eat right and then tries to train he is miserable. “If the workout is going to be steady and longer in duration […] then the diet needs to consist of more carbohydrates and electrolytes,” he explains. “With any type of workout routine, one must stay hydrated.”
He points out recommended daily water intake is half your body weight, in ounces. Since he weighs 200 pounds, his recommended intake is 100 ounces.
“Once you factor in exercise that number needs to go up. The more strenuous the activity or longer in duration, the more you need to drink,” Boults says. “This is a MUST.” Individuals should drink 10 ounces of water for every 15-20 minutes of strenuous exercise.
Hydrating after exercise is important to help the body recover and remove metabolites and waste products. “Those metabolites increase post exercise soreness and if not removed can cause minor muscle damage and limit muscular recovery,” Boults says. “Hydrating before, during, and post exercise will also limit muscular cramping and spasm, which are very painful.”
Hydration is especially important in hot weather. “Living here in Florida it is extremely easy to encounter heat exhaustion and then heat stroke,” Boults continues. “The easiest way to prevent any heat related illness is to hydrate.”
A simple way to check your water intake is to monitor your urine, says Edith Hogan, a registered dietician in Washington, D.C., and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, Chicago. If you drink enough water, urine will be light; if urine is dark and pungent, head for the water cooler.
“You should always drink before you get thirsty because by that time, you have already lost 1 percent of your body weight,” Hogan says.
Ignoring your warm up and cool down
Warming up and cooling down is not a waste of time. “If we do not warm up, our tissues do not have sufficient blood flow, the elastic properties are not as high, and we increase our risk for injuries,” Boults says.
Here’s what you’ll gain from warming up:
- Efficient calorie burning by increasing your core body temperature
- Faster, more forceful muscle contractions
- Increased metabolic rate, so oxygen is delivered to working muscles faster
- Fewer injuries by improving muscle elasticity and muscle control
- A longer, more comfortable workout because energy systems can adjust to exercise
- Improved motion in joints
- Better mental preparedness for higher intensities through increased arousal and focus
“A cool down, depending on the duration and intensity of the exercise, is not so important,” says Boults, who suggests stretching as a cool down routine.
Form is also important while exercising. “Proper form allows for maximal muscle production,” he says. “That means your body is able to work faster, stronger, and more efficiently.” More importantly, it decreases risk for injury.
Lifting too fast
Weights should be lifted with strength, not momentum. Spend several seconds lifting the weight and lowering it. Start with low weight, and gradually lift more in increments of 5 or 10 pounds.
“If you don’t use good form, you can injure yourself severely, particularly with weight lifting,” says Jennifer Lawler, author of “Weight Training for Martial Artists” (Turtle Press, 1999).
Breathing may seem like a no brainer, but when working out we tend to hold our breath. “Most commonly this happens when lifting weights or performing a brief but strenuous activity,” Boults acknowledges. It’s a bad idea.
“When holding our breath it increases something called intrathecal pressure, or the pressure within the body,” Boults says. “When that happens, several major injuries can occur, like stroke, heart attack, aneurysm, and hernias.”
story by JOHN ELLIS IV and CHERYL ROGERS