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Exercise can be done in just about any format that you choose but how do you know that you are getting the absolute most out of your exercise regime?  No matter how you exercise, there are some tricks that you can use to ensure the maximum benefits.

When to Exercise

There is a lot of debate about when the best time to exercise is, precisely.  Some say that it is best done in the mornings, while still others say that it should be done in the evening.  However, most experts will agree that it is not about when you exercise so much as choosing the time that is right for you.

If you choose to exercise in the mornings, you may find it easier to get into an exercising habit.  This is because there are fewer demands made on your time and you are less likely to be interrupted.  It’s also easier to find the time to exercise if you make a conscious decision to do so before your actual day begins.    By raising your heart rate and metabolism earlier in the day, you will burn more calories through the day and will feel more physically and mentally alert throughout the day.  In summer, it also has the benefit of being cooler.  However, in the mornings your muscles will be more prone to injury so you will need to be sure to warm up properly.

Many people choose to exercise in their lunch breaks.  This is useful in that the scheduled time makes it easy to stick to exercise.  You may also find that it helps to relieve the stress from work, and it improves the flow of blood to the brain, so that you are able to focus more throughout the afternoon.  It can also help to regulate the amount of food that you eat for lunch.  However, because of the time constraints, you may not have enough time to fully complete an exercise regime.  Your lung function is also at its worst around lunchtime.

Most people see their body temperature and hormone levels peaking at around 6pm.  If you exercise three hours before or after the peak, you will get maximum benefits as far as endurance and building muscle is concerned.  Your muscles will be warm and flexible at this time of day and your lung function will be optimal.  You also may not feel like you’re working out as hard as you normally would be – meaning that you can work out harder or faster without feeling like you’re putting in the extra effort.  It can regulate the amount of food you eat for dinner and also help you unwind after a long day.  However, do not exercise too late as you will need up to three hours to wind down in order to be able to fall asleep.  If you have sleeping problems, you should do your exercise earlier in the day.

Eating and Exercise

When you choose to eat food will also have an impact on your exercise.  If you exercise directly after a large meal, you may end up feeling sluggish, nauseous, or have cramping and diarrhea.  This is because the digestive system and the muscles end up competing with each other for the body’s resources.  However, if you don’t eat before exercise, this can be just as bad as overdoing it, due to low blood sugar levels in the body making you feel weak or tired.  So when should you eat and what should you eat?

It is important to eat a full breakfast in the mornings.  If you plan to exercise in the morning, within an hour of having breakfast, have a smaller breakfast or have a drink that provides energy and raises your blood sugar.  Large meals should always be eaten at least three to four hours before undertaking exercise.  If you’re having a smaller meal, wait two to three hours before exercising.  Most people are able to eat a snack just before exercise or even during exercise.  Listen to your body and work out what feels right for you.  However, it is important not to skip meals throughout the day as it will cause low blood sugar, leading to weakness and lightheadedness.  After you have exercised, eat a meal containing both protein and carbohydrates.  This should be done within two hours as it helps the muscles to recover and replace their glycogen stores.

What to Eat When Exercising

However, to exercise correctly, you will need to eat the correct foods.  This is because food provides your body with the energy that it needs.  Eat foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in fat.  This is because the body stores carbohydrates as glycogen, which your muscles use for energy.  The best sources of carbohydrates are cereals, breads, vegetables, pasta, rice, and fruits.  When exercising however, it is best to avoid high-fibre carbohydrates such as bran and lentils as they can cause gas or cramping.

Protein is not necessary for exercise, per se, as it does not actually fuel the exercise.  Rather, it assists in muscle repair and growth.  Protein can be easily obtained from poultry, meat, dairy products, and nuts.  Fats are also important in the diet as they help to provide the body with fuel.  Get your fat from healthy sources such as nuts, oily fish or vegetable oils.  Stay away from saturated fats.

The Importance of Water during Exercise

Be sure to stay well hydrated when exercising and throughout the course of the day.  This is because the body uses water to carry nutrients to the cells of the body and to carry waste products away.  When exercising, the body generates heat which is regulated by perspiration.  If you don’t replace the fluids that are lost by perspiration, your heart rate will increase and your body temperature will rise, putting you at risk of dehydration.  It is a good idea to drink a glass of water before and after your workout and to regularly drink water throughout the duration of the exercise.


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