- Brian Tully, MS, EP-C
Beyond The Workout
(As seen in Leland Magazine)
The workout is all about training the body to move better and get stronger, and to burn calories. All of which are great reasons for beginning an exercise program. However many of us fall short of reaching our goals, because we neglect to consider the other 23 hours of the day. This is assuming your workout is 60 minutes every day. Not working out every day for 60 minutes? Well now you have even more time for things to take you off track. Let’s discuss some of the more common road blocks that are slowing or preventing the progress you are looking for.
A large part of your daily 24 hour period should be spent sleeping. But many people tend to forgo this important element of getting an adequate amount of sleep. If sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the phases needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. This can leave you feeling sore, low on energy and concentration, increased hunger, and slower metabolism. Do you think these sound like good characteristics of someone on track to reach their health and fitness goals?
This is where some of the useless calories in your diet are lurking. A single shot of alcohol is approximately 100 calories of zero nutritional value (and that doesn’t count the liquids being mixed in). As the drinks add up over the course of a week, so do the excess calories. Excess calories never leads to weight loss, you have to burn more than you consume to lose weight. Additionally, alcohol will disrupt brain function, making your sleep cycle less productive, leaving you with the side effects mentioned above when you don’t get enough sleep. Not to mention that hangover feeling the next day that prevents you from eating right and getting a good workout in. You don’t have to be a party pooper, but think before you drink. Could you limit the quantity or frequency to help bring you closer to your goals?
So let’s say you are sleeping 8 hours a day and working out 1 hour a day. This is extreme for most, but that still leaves you with 15 hours. How are you spending those hours? Are you sitting at your desk, in your car, on the couch? 1 hour of activity is going to be a slow path to your goals. Am I saying you need to be working out 5 hours a day? Absolutely not, but you are going to want to incorporate daily activity in where ever possible. Some examples that can really add up could include going for a walk, going to the driving range or playing a round of golf, playing tag with your kids or grandkids, walking or swimming laps at the pool, yard work, cleaning the house, etc. All movement will help to burn more calories, help the muscles recover from your workouts, and keep them supple and ready to move.
I have already covered hydration in a previous article, but the benefits of being properly hydrated are certainly worth repeating in this context. Being properly hydrated (drinking enough water) provides benefits such as helping maintain healthy body weight, improving workout performance and recovery, flushing toxins from the body, relieving joint pain, helping deliver nutrients to the body, boosting energy level and mental clarity. Not being properly hydrated will provide the opposite effects, which would obviously not support your workout efforts.
How much, what type and when are all important elements of your nutrition. Are you consistently taking in more than you need? If so, you are creating an excess of calories. And excess calories will most likely be stored as fat. Are you taking in too few calories? If you are way under fueled, meaning you aren’t taking in enough to support your exercise and your body’s day to day processes, your body will go in to a conservation mode and slow metabolism down to conserve energy. Slow metabolism does not equal good progress toward your goals.
Are you getting a good amount of nutrients throughout the day or are you eating most of calories before bed? This could again impact the ever important sleep. If your body has to work on digestion all night, it will have little time to work on the other important functions required to occur during your sleep cycle. If you are not giving your body a steady supply of nutrients throughout the day, you will find bad cravings getting stronger and harder to resist. Those cravings are usually for sugary and fatty foods; these are the foods that will provide energy quickly and densely. But these are also usually the foods that will derail you from your goals. Eating healthy balanced foods before you are feeling like you are starving will help stave off those hard to beat unhealthy cravings.
Is your fuel intake balanced? Each of the macronutrients plays a role in fueling and maintaining your body. The macronutrients (or macros) are fat, carbohydrate, and protein. We need adequate fat to support metabolism, cell signaling, immunity, hormone production, and the absorption of many nutrients. In addition to all of these important roles, having enough fat will also help keep you feeling full between meals. The amino acids in protein are responsible for maintaining our body’s structure (muscle building), our hormones, our enzymes, and our immune chemicals. Just like healthy fats protein helps keep us satisfied between meals. And finally, carbohydrates provide energy. These are your body’s first stop for refueling energy stored in muscles and providing glucose to the brain to maintain peak function. As with everything in life, balance is key, these macronutrients all play a role that requires you to make sure you don’t get too much or too little of any one of them.
Getting a good workout based on what your body needs and what your specific goals are, is an important component in your quest to improving your health and wellness. But I urge you to consider and incorporate the other elements mentioned here if you want to reach the level of success you are striving for.
If you have additional questions regarding this month's article or have a topic you would like to see covered in future articles, please reach out to me via email. BrianTully@BetterTogetherFitness.com