Being physically active is an important habit (Habit #6) for maintaining health and fitness, but after attending the 2013 American College of Sports Medicine conference, I have even more reason to believe so. A classic 1956 study by Jean Mayer showed that those who eat the least number of calories tend to have light/moderate activity levels. Higher calorie intake comes with those who are more active (makes sense – work more, eat more) or those who are sedentary (hrmm…too much time on our hands?). In addition to citing the study above, obesity researchers James Blundell and Greg Hand presented a compelling case to focus on energy flux (the amount of calories going through your system) rather than just energy balance (calories in vs. calories out). A few research-backed, logical reasons why exercise is a crucial part of long-term weight loss:
- Increases our resting metabolic rate due to the exercise itself along with increases in lean body mass.
- Can promote gains in lean body mass (muscle, bone, etc.) when consuming excess calories. Eating excess calories when sedentary usually leads to body fat.
- Allows you to eat more and still get results (i.e. minimizing risk of feeling deprived)
- And all of the usual benefits of physical activity on the heart, brain, lungs, etc.
So we’re all exercising, yes? When gearing up for your workouts this week, keep these three tips in mind to get the most metabolic bang for your exercise buck:
Before – Warm-up First
Adapted from Death of the Diet:
“A warm-up helps restore healthy movement patterns and prepares your brain and body for the upcoming workout or physical activity. You’ll get the most out of your workouts this way – moving better, farther and harder – while minimizing your risk of injury.
Whatever you choose to do, know that an effective warm-up must do two things:
1. Release any tight muscles to prevent putting strain on the wrong joints or ligaments when training, which is a major cause of chronic pain and injury.
2. Get all of the target muscles and joints “awake” and engaged before you start your physical activity or workout.
Some components of an effective warm-up: myofascial release (foam roller, pinky ball), dynamic or active stretching and movement preparation.”
In simplest terms, the easiest warm up for an activity is a lower intensity version of that activity. I recently wrote a post on running warmups here.
During – Have a Plan
You’ve seen the people without a training plan roaming around the gym – eyes always looking around, doing one set here and one set there. Taking lots of time between sets even though they’re easily doing 15-20 reps.
Having an exercise plan allows you to maximize your calorie burn and strength gains. And isn’t that why you’re working out to begin with? Three targeted 1-hour workouts can do more than four 90-minute aimless jaunts around the gym just like it’s a lot easier to build a house with a blueprint rather than your contractor “trying a few things” until it works.
Know your warm-up routine for the days’ exercises/activities, sets/reps, target weights/intensities, scheduled rest times, etc. Then write down what you did to set the foundation of future progress.
After – Eat Something
Research shows that eating a bit of protein and some carbohydrates right after exercise (within an hour) can help promote better recovery and increased lean body mass:
- Recover better and you can exercise harder the next time you’re at the gym, or going for your run.
- Increase your lean mass and boost your metabolism and lose inches, even if you don’t lose weight.
If the exercise is really intense, it’s best to wait at least 30-40 minutes. Otherwise, sooner is better. It need not be a ton of calories (unless you’re trying to gain weight), 20g of protein and 20 to 40g of carbs ends up being a 160 to 240 calorie snack. If you’re looking to lose weight, just make sure you have a usual meal planned for after your workout rather than adding an extra snack.
Do you have a method for maximizing your workout results? Share with other readers below!