Adding exercise to your daily routine and committing to getting fit are sure-fire ways to gain more energy – but what about when you’re just starting out and you don’t have the energy to stick to your work out plan in the first place? Don’t worry – many fitness beginners face this very problem. Fortunately, there are a few diet and lifestyle “tricks” you can use to gain the energy you need to get through those exercise routines.
Staying hydrated is important for everyone, of course, but particularly for athletes. Water regulates temperature and ensures that nutrients are carried to cells throughout the body. Studies consistently show that dehydration decreases athletic performance – when the
body is dehydrated, the heart has to work much harder to pump blood through the body, which can result in a number of various health issues, including fatigue, dizziness, muscle cramps, and heat stroke. Since you lose more fluids than usual while exercising through
sweat, it’s necessary to drink even more water than usual.
Use Food as Fuel
Eating the right foods at the right times in relation to your workout can make a world of difference. There are certain minerals and nutrients that are ideal when choosing a snack or meal before or after your workout.
Before a workout, you’ll want to choose a light snack that is high in easily-digestible carbohydrates. Carbohydrates give you energy to really charge up your workout. Keeping it light is best, since heavy foods can weigh you down and make you feel sluggish – the last thing you want while you’re exercising! Some good pre-workout snacks are:
- Fresh fruit
- Whole wheat toast with peanut butter
- Whole grain pasta with tomato sauce
- Small bowl of oatmeal with fruit
Avoid meats and high-fat foods like doughnuts or fried foods. Your body uses a lot of energy to digest these – energy that you want to have during your workout!
Post-workout, your body needs a combination of carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates will replace any glycogen (the source of energy your body uses during energy) stores that need rebuilding, while protein optimizes insulin production and speeds recovery time. Eating a snack with a carb-to-protein ratio of 4:1 within 30 minutes of exercising is ideal. Try snacks like:
- Chocolate milk
- Snack mix with dried fruits and nuts
- Cereal with milk
- Cottage cheese with fruit
- Sandwich on whole wheat bread with tuna, chicken or roast beef
Sleep to Recharge
Too many people don’t get enough sleep and the results can be drastic, especially for athletes. While we sleep, our body recharges and the brain repairs itself. Sleep deprivation causes irritability and negatively impacts concentration, focus and reasoning. Lack of sleep also leads to – get ready for a shock – fatigue.
It can be a little difficult to determine exactly how much sleep you need, since everyone is different. If you fall asleep shortly after you lay down in bed at night and find it pretty easy to get up in the morning (ideally, without an alarm), you are probably getting enough sleep. If you have to drag yourself out of bed each morning or find yourself sluggish every afternoon, you’ll want to add more sleep to your routine, either by switching to an earlier bedtime or adding a short nap to your day. If your schedule allows, an afternoon “power nap” can be a really effective and healthy way to sort of “reset” your energy for the day.
Motivation is definitely energizing – next time you find yourself without the energy you need for a workout, try getting motivated focusing on your fitness goals. Do whatever works for you – it might be something like listening to a certain song or reading elliptical reviews. Whatever gets you excited about reaching your goals will give you a boost of energy to get your workout started.
These tips will help you not only in the beginning stages of your fitness regime, but also down the road if you ever face “burnout” or a drop in energy levels for any reason. For example, if you get sick and don’t work out for a few days, using these methods will help you sidestep any major setbacks and get back on track toward your fitness goal.
Tracy Martin is a freelance writer and health enthusiast. Although she gets plenty of exercise keeping up with her husband and three young kids, she enjoys hiking, yoga and dance. She loves to read anything related to health and fitness, whether it’s an elliptical machine review she comes across online, or the latest nutrition news.