When you first make the decision to begin a workout routine, the initial excitement of the thought of flat abs, protruding biceps and a well-maintained physique make you feel invincible. You commit 100% to doing the work. You are so committed that you hit the gym every day for the first week, only to find yourself sore, aching and tired the following week and lacking the results you thought you would see immediately. But, it’s still attainable with the right advice to help you get the most out of your workout routine.

Rest

Muscles are made outside of the gym after a workout, and not during a workout. Working your quads, hamstrings and abs by lifting weights is stressful on the body, even though it produces great rewards. Yet, the intensity of burn in your muscles after a workout is not where your muscles will be built.

“If you want your muscles to grow, you must give them some rest,” says Sherman Merricks, owner of Gainesville’s Dynasty Crossfit. Merricks enjoys the time he gets to spend in his gym building muscle, but he wants his clients to understand how important rest and nutrition are to getting the exciting results they craved when they first stepped into a gym.

According to Men’s Journal, “A lack of proper recovery can lead to overtraining, otherwise known as under-recovery or over- reaching. Exhaustion can ensue if the training stimulus is too high or too frequent. So, maxing on your bench every week is a big no-no! Worse yet, Overtraining Syndrome can develop if fatigue is not addressed, which can lead to a host of physiological and chemical changes.”

Not only is rest after a workout important for your muscle growth, it is also important for your peace of mind. Exercising relieves stress in our minds, which is beneficial for optimal health. After a workout when our bodies are in recovery mode, resting our minds during recovery mode helps us to release the worries of the day and ease into a restful night’s sleep. This, in turn, will equip you to face the responsibilities you have for the next day.

Nutrition

What you put in your body is just as important, arguably more, as the exercises you do for your body. Exercising produces great results, but those results can only be measured alongside the foods you eat. Nutrition is paramount to an overall successful workout program. Alongside adequate rest/recovery after a workout, the foods you eat before and after a workout are paramount.

Before a workout, Merricks recommends a plate of protein, carbs and fat about 90 minutes before intensely exercising. Then after a workout, he recommends eating protein and carbs only and no fat because the fat will deter the muscle-developing process. Although experts say there’s no one meal that can be recommended as a pre workout meal, there are some suggestions like a grilled chicken sandwich or a slice of cheese pizza and plenty of water. After your workout, a hard-boiled egg, a glass of chocolate milk or a whey protein shake will solidify your workout and maximize muscle growth.

In the end, all the effort that you put into your exercise and workout routines comes from having a goal for better health. With the right combination of nutrition, rest and exercise, those goals are reachable!

by Georgina Chong-You