Working out is obviously incredibly beneficial for so many different reasons. It helps us to stay in shape, it makes us look better, it makes us feel better, we enjoy doing it, and there are numerous other health benefits, both physical and psychological, associated with working out. Another fantastic benefit associated with working out, is that there are so many different ways to do so as some will prefer to lift weights, some prefer cardio, some play sports, some swim, and much more besides. Despite the fact that there are so many different benefits associated with working out, and the fact that more and more of us are working up a sweat and getting active, a lot of us tend to make some pretty costly errors, more often than not before we’ve even began our workouts, which can really bite us in the behind when the time comes to hit the gym, or running track, or anything else for that matter, and begin training. It isn’t just what you do and don’t do during a workout that is considered so important, it’s also what do and don’t do BEFORE working out that can also lead to such big problems. Here’s a look at four things you should NEVER do before working out.
Drink any alcohol whatsoever
It’s no good calling in at the bar during happy hour for half a pint or a glass of wine, or even sipping on a cold beer or other similar alcoholic beverage during a hot day, before working out as alcohol consumption before exercise is a strict NO, NO! It doesn’t matter if it’s a sip, a half, a glass, a pint, a bottle, a gallon, or anything else, one single drop of alcohol before you begin exercising is considered too much so don’t do it. The reasoning behind this isn’t for fear of getting drunk, as you’d do well to get drunk from one small glass of wine, the reasoning behind this is all down the effects that alcohol has on your body. Alcohol leads to feelings of drowsiness, tiredness, and lethargy, not to mention of dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it causes you to lose more water than you take in. Proper hydration before exercise is essential, so obviously any form of diuretic used before you exercise is only going to end badly for you. Perhaps more worrying still, alcohol narrows the blood vessels and causes them to constrict, which in turn means that they allow less blood to circulate through them. Less blood means less oxygen, and less oxygen means less energy and a reduced athletic output. Even worse still, alcohol also lowers blood sugar levels which depletes glycogen stores meaning you run out of energy quicker, plus, it can also become a precursor to diabetes. Nobody needs to drink alcohol before they exercise, so if you need to drink before exercising, drink fresh water instead.
Drink too much water
As mentioned, adequate hydration during exercise is absolutely essential as it not only improves athletic performance, it also reduces the likelihood of painful muscle cramps or injuries. Needless to say, you should drink plenty of fresh water each day but don’t think that drinking gallon after gallon of water before you exercise is suddenly going to fill you full of energy and make you perform better than ever because that is just not going to happen. Some people will realise they haven’t drank enough water for that day and will attempt to make amends by chugging as much water down as possible, all in one go. This can actually lead to renal damage, potentially causing a condition known as hyponatremia. This dilutes the blood and causes sodium ions to drop, leading to lethargy, fatigue, muscle cramps, and weakness. For optimal results, drink two to three cups of water around one or two hours before you workout, and then sip on water during your workout to replace lost fluids.
Eating too much
Another mistake that a lot of people tend to make before working out, is to cram as much food down their necks as possible, as they think it will “fuel” their bodies and make their workouts more effective. They’ll see articles about famous athletes, bodybuilders, and powerlifters consuming several thousand calories for each meal and will think that doing the same will improve performance and energy levels. In reality however, this has quite the opposiste effect because by consuming too much food, you bog down your metabolism, causing it to struggle to digest and process all the food in one go, meaning that less of the food is converted to energy. Rather than leaving you feeling refreshed, strong, and energized, you instead feel slow, sluggish, bloated, and lethargic, meaning the last thing you want to do is run around exercising on a full stomach. Instead, aim to eat around one hour before you work out, and space your meals out every few hours to allow your metabolism to properly process everything. Above all else, make sure your diet consists of mainly fresh, healthy, and balanced foods, with the occasional treat thrown in at the end of the week if you feel as if you’ve earned it.
Spend too much time warming up
While stretching and warming up before you begin any workout is absolutely essential, you need to ensure you don’t spend too much time or perform too much activity during your warm up. The idea behind a warm up is to raise your core body temperature, get your blood flowing to your muscles, and to help stretch the muscles to improve their elasticity. The problem is that some people take things to the extreme. Before they go to the gym they will cycle there at a high intensity, covering several miles in the process. They’ll stretch each muscle numerous times, or will hop on exercise bikes or treadmills and use them for 20 or 30 minutes which for some people is a workout in itself. Instead, slowly and steadily warm up and stretch the muscles, never over exert yourself, and never try to do too much in one go.