In an earlier post, I talked about some of my favorite pre-workout supplements for men. But, as a triathlete and physician who works with a lot of athletes, I’ve learned there’s more to a good workout than vitamins and protein powder. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your fitness routine.
This one’s a bit controversial since some people prefer to exercise on an empty stomach—I know a guy who regularly runs 10 miles on nothing but coffee. Personally, I like to provide my body with fuel in order for it to function optimally. But, it’s not clear-cut what is best. There is evidence for fueling up, but there is also research out there supporting the benefits of fasting before exercise such as a small British study published in the American Journal of Physiology—Endocrinology and Metabolism which found that skipping breakfast before a workout activated genes that help regulate blood sugar, among other positive effects. In terms of weight loss, though, the study participants who ate before exercising actually burned more calories. Serious athletes will want to experiment with what works best for them in terms of how much and when to eat, but the average guy hitting the gym before or after work will probably want to do it with some gas in his tank. Men’s Fitness suggests eating simple carbs and some protein (while avoiding stomach-upsetting fat and fiber) before exercising. A banana smeared with a couple tablespoons of nut butter is a classic pre-workout snack. If the idea of food before fitness makes your guts churn, Men’s Health recommends this smoothie formulated by online personal trainer Scott Baptie.
- 300 ml coconut water
- 1 shot espresso
- 1 banana
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- Add ingredients to blender and mix until well combined.
Get Some Sleep
Adequate rest is crucial to maintaining a fitness routine. It’s fine to get up and go for a run after a late night every now and then—you want to stick to your training plan, and consistency is a good thing. But your body needs sleep to work properly, so getting enough of it should be a priority. The National Sleep Foundation says that a whole slew of vital functions are performed during sleep. Here are some of them.
Restorative actions like tissue repair and muscle growth mostly—and sometimes only—happen while you’re sleeping.
- Releasing Tension
When you enter the REM cycle of sleep, tight muscles loosen. Not only does this help you relax, it may also alleviate chronic pain symptoms.
- Improving Focus
While you sleep, your body clears itself of a chemical called adenosine that builds up during the day and causes you to feel spacey. If you’re an athlete who struggles with insomnia, you may be pushing yourself too hard. As I explain here, an inability to fall asleep at night may be a sign of overtraining.
Did you know having a sense of purpose can actually add years to your life? An analysis of ten studies that followed 136,000 people for approximately seven years found those who reported a feeling of higher purpose in life lowered their risk of death during the study period by approximately 20 percent. On a smaller scale, setting a clear intention to achieve your goal can help you achieve it. In a study measuring how often people exercised over two weeks, researchers randomly divided 248 people into three groups. In two control groups, participants were asked to keep track of how often they exercised and instructed to read a novel excerpt or asked to track exercise and read a pamphlet on the benefits of exercise after hearing a motivational speech. A third group was told to track their exercise and given the same pamphlet and speech as the second group, but they were also asked to come up with a plan explicitly stating where and when they intended to exercise. At the end of the two-week study period, only 35-38 percent of people in the control groups exercised at least once a week, compared to a whopping 91 percent of those who wrote down what they planned to do.
Wondering what areas of your health could use your attention? Consider taking my Optimal Men’s Health quiz. It’s designed to help you determine your next best step to getting healthier and closer to winning.
Myles Spar, MD, MPH is the Chief Medical Officer of Vault Health, a national medical practice specializing in care for men, and Is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.