5 ways to get more out of your workout

What should you do before and after a workout to maximise your results from a training session?

You might have the middle part down part, but fine-turning your pre- and post-workout routines can help you achieve your fitness goals faster and easier.

1.     Eat before a workout

Don’t train on an empty stomach if your goal is to improve performance during a session, recommends sports and performance dietitian Rebecca Hay.

Ideally, eat a snack 45-60 minutes before a workout, or a larger meal two to three hours before training.

“Eating before a workout ensures there is enough energy to put 100 per cent effort into that session, especially for high intensity or long training sessions,” says Rebecca, of The Athlete’s Kitchen.

If you’re doing a strength session, Rebecca suggests having a food or drink that contains a small amount of protein and some form of carbohydrate.

Think peanut butter or eggs on toast, nuts/seeds and fruit, crackers and hummus or a glass of milk and some fruit.

“This allows for glycogen stores in the muscles to be topped up in preparation for exercise and the small amount of protein allows for amino acids to be available for muscle repair to begin immediately,” she says.

If you’re doing a more intense training session, go for food of drinks that are rich in carbohydrates.

You could opt for fruit toast or crackers, and if you’re training early in the morning you could have a sports drink, fruit juice or even a coffee (with cow’s milk or soy milk).

2.     Warm up the right way

Give yourself enough time for a five to 10-minute warm-up before any workout, says Michael Cunico, head of fitness at Fitness First.

“This will get your body and mind primed for physical activity,” he says.

“A good warm-up will consist of movements that prepare the muscles and joints you are about to load, a gradual increase in heart rate and core temperature and ideally also prepare the nervous system for what is to come.”

3.     Take time to cool down

Be sure to set aside time after a workout to cool down, says Michael.

“Any activity that helps your heart rate and breathing to return towards resting levels slowly is appropriate, such as stretching or mobility exercises or a lower-intensity version of whatever workout you have just performed,” he says.

4.     Refuel your tank after your workout

“Ideally the snack or meal consumed after a workout will contain some protein for muscle repair and carbohydrates to refill muscle glycogen stores,” says Rebecca.

Some good snack options include yoghurt, a cheese sandwich, fruit and nuts or baked beans on toast.

Rebecca says if you’re sitting down to lunch or dinner, ensure your plate has the right composition:

  • Around a third of your plate should contain protein-rich foods such as chicken, fish, tofu or lean meat.
  • A third should be carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, quinoa, bread or fruit.
  • The rest should be made up of vegetables or other salad foods.

5.     Get a good night’s rest

“Not getting enough sleep can have an overall negative impact on your exercise performance, but it also makes it more difficult for your body to repair and recover after a workout efficiently,” Michael says.

That’s because we release the majority of human growth hormone when we sleep, and HGH is critical when we train as it boosts muscle growth, strength and exercise performance.

For optimum recovery, ensure you prioritise sleep after a big training session.

Written by Tania Gomez