The actual workout routine is important. But, are your clients conscious about their daily habits and how to ensure their body is in the best position to be successful? The things they do before the workout, outside of the gym, can play a critical role in their long-term results.
Water is a vital component of survival. The human body is more than 50% water (1). It is essential for regulating body temperature, brain function, and numerous other processes within the body (2). During intense exercise, humans typically lose quite a bit of water through sweat and metabolic processes. So, ensuring proper hydration before exercise is incredibly important.
There are many variables to consider when determining proper hydration needs, such as:
Type of activity
However, the general recommendation is to consume 17-20 fluid ounces (fl. oz.) 2-3 hours before exercise and 7-10 fl. oz. 10-20 minutes prior to exercise (3). Keep in mind, post-workout hydration to replace water loss is just as important as pre-workout hydration.
Sleep is another essential component of a healthy routine. Humans don't just need sleep—they need good sleep. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can have a negative impact on physical and cognitive performance. Reaction time, anaerobic power, alertness, mood, and accuracy can all suffer from a lack of sleep (4). Studies have also shown a link between inadequate sleep and an increase in injuries (5).
Much like water, sleep requirements can vary from person to person. However, the general recommendation for adults is at least 7 hours a night (6). If clients are getting less than this, they will want to uncover the reasons why and start to make changes to their behavior. Habits such as having a good bedtime routine, reducing/eliminating the usage of electronic devices before bed, reducing caffeine, and eliminating afternoon naps may be valuable in helping improve their sleep.
Nutrition is a key player in exercise and athletic performance. Clients need a balance of all three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat). The intensity of the exercise typically determines what the body uses as a fuel source but all three macronutrients play a role in proper body function. Much like sleep and hydration, navigating an individual's pre-workout nutrition needs can be challenging because there are many variables. There are, however, some general recommendations:
Carbohydrates (carbs) are the main source of fuel for the human body. The Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 recommends that 45-65% of the daily diet comes from carbohydrates. There are two main types of carbs: complex carbs and simple carbs. They both play an important role in pre-workout nutrition.
Complex carbohydrates: Carbs that take longer to digest and enter the bloodstream. They are more ideal for a meal that is eaten a few hours or more before an exercise routine. Foods like oats, sweet potatoes, and quinoa are examples of complex carbs.
Simple carbohydrates: Carbs that digest and enter the bloodstream quickly. If a client needs a quick energy source, simple carbs are ideal for a snack within about an hour of an exercise routine. However, keep in mind that consuming too much or too close to an exercise routine could have adverse effects on their performance. Sports drinks, a piece of candy, or a small piece of fruit are examples of simple carbs.
The amino acids in protein play a vital role in repairing muscle tissue. This is especially important for intense workouts, endurance workouts, and strength training. The Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 recommends that about 10-35% of the daily diet comes from protein. Unlike carbohydrates, protein typically takes longer to digest. So, protein consumption should ideally be a few hours or more prior to exercise.
The Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 recommends that 20-35% of the daily diet should come from fat with no more than 10% of diet coming from saturated fats (7). Like protein, dietary fat is known to slow the rate of digestion. This means that consuming a meal with fat too close to exercise is not ideal. However, the body still needs healthy fat to function. So, add fat to meals that are several hours or more prior to exercise.
Preparing the body for exercise is important. A good warm-up can help get the blood flowing which helps warm up the muscles and increases range of motion. A proper warm-up may also help reduce injury. Although there is some conflicting evidence as to whether pre-exercise stretching is ideal, most professionals agree that there are many physiological benefits to getting the body prepared for movement. Proper warm-up might also provide psychological benefits as well (8).
Tips for a good warm-up:
Create a warm-up that allows the muscles to mimic movements executed during the exercise routine
Start slow and progress gradually
Include dynamic stretches
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Mitchell, H.H. et. al., "The Chemical Components of the Adult Human Body and its Bearing on the Biochemistry of Growth." Journal of Biological Chemistry. (1945): 158, 625-637.
Popkin, Barry M et al. "Water, hydration, and health." Nutrition reviews vol. 68,8 (2010): 439-58.
Casa DJ, Armstrong LE, Hillman SK, et al. "National Athletic Trainers' Association. Position statement: fluid replacement for athletes". Journal of Athletic Training (2000).
O'Donnell, Shannon et al. "From pillow to podium: a review on understanding sleep for elite athletes." Nature and science of sleep vol. 10 (2018): 243-253
Watson, Andrew M. "Sleep and Athletic Performance", Current Sports Medicine Reports.Vol. 16: 6 (2017): 413-418
Hirshkowitz, Max et al. "National Sleep Foundation's updated sleep duration recommendations: final report." Sleep healthvol. 1,4 (2015): 233-243.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. (2015). Available at https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
Park, Hyoung-Kil et al. "The effect of warm-ups with stretching on the isokinetic moments of collegiate men." Journal of exercise rehabilitation vol. 14,1 78-82. 26 Feb. 2018
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