Whether you’re a total workout-aholic or simply trying to achieve 10,000 steps a day, chances are you’ve heard some pretty conflicting information about what you should and shouldn’t do to prepare for or decompress after a workout. To make things easier, Goodness has broken down some of the best advice out there into easy-to-understand slices. If you’ve ever wondered what you should be doing before or after your workout to ensure that you reap maximum benefits, look no further than this handy guide.
Pre: Drink Coffee
Research has demonstrated that people can burn up to 20 percent more body fat if they exercise on an empty stomach, which means a.m. workouts are optimal for fat-burning. However, experts agree that there is one thing you should definitely be ingesting before a workout, and that’s coffee.
Sports nutritionist Heidi Skolnik, M.S., told CNN, “Caffeine is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system, the heart, and possibly the ‘center’ that controls blood pressure, all of which play a vital role in helping your mind and body push harder in a workout. It can also increase the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, which affects pain receptors and mood.”
Her suggestion aligns with the scientific data, which found that a pre-workout cup of coffee made workouts feel more enjoyable. The same researchers also found that, when subjects drank caffeine before a workout, they ate an average of 73 calories less per meal for the remainder of the day.
Post: Clean Up
Get ready to be grossed out. A study by Fit Rated took a look at bacteria levels on gym equipment and found some pretty disturbing news. Apparently, free weights are covered in 362 times more bacteria than a toilet, while treadmills and exercise bikes fare similarly. Gyms are cesspools of germs that a few quick pumps of post-workout antibacterial won’t take care of. Experts like Philip Tierno, PhD, a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology, recommend that you wash your workout clothes in hot water and that you take a full shower after every workout in a gym. For added results, take a hot bath, which helps strained muscles relax.
Post: Load Up on Protein
If you just endured an early-morning, empty-stomach, caffeine-fueled workout (good for you!), you’re likely starving. Nutrition experts recommend a protein-rich meal right after you exercise as your body requires protein “so that muscle growth and recovery can take place,” according to Dr. Neerav Padliya, the Vice President of Research Alliances at Qurr.
That means protein can help replenish depleted muscle protein stores after intense workouts. Low-impact exercises require less protein – around 20 grams – while strenuous exercise calls for more – around 40 grams.
Pre and Post: Stretch
For a long time, experts believed that static stretching (bend-and-hold style) before exercise helped warm up your muscles and reduce stress on your body. While this is still true, a recent study in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports concluded that static stretching after you exercise is equally important. Post-workout stretching helps relax muscles by getting them back to their resting length and can also help you cool down. Consider doing both to maximize the benefits of your workout.