By Michelle Kennedy, M.S., Best Life fitness expert
You may think you're making the most of your sweat sessions by giving it all you've got. But there are a few more things that you can do—outside of the gym—to make your workouts more effective and burn even more calories. Take a look at the four tips below to learn how you can increase your energy throughout the day, which will help fuel you through your workouts, allowing you to burn even more calories. An added bonus: They can also help boost your mood and confidence, too!
Fuel up. Trying to plan your meals around your workouts can be tricky—too much and you get cramps, not enough and you don't have enough energy. To make sure you get just the right amount of food to power your workout, follow these tips: First and foremost, don't skip breakfast. Even if you exercise in the morning, make sure to eat something beforehand. If you're short on time, have a small snack. (Check out Fueling Up Before and After Exercise and your meal plans for suggestions.) If you have a bit more time, feel free to have a full meal (keep it small if it's two hours or so before your workout; you can enjoy a bigger meal if you have three hours or so). When you're through with your workout, eat a meal that contains both protein and carbohydrates, which will help your muscles rebuild the glycogen stores that were used for energy.
Squash stress. Traffic jams, big meetings, fast-approaching deadlines—a day at the office can leave you completely frazzled. Not surprisingly, when stress levels soar, many people skip their workouts to save time and energy. Be proactive by figuring out what helps you manage stress, whether it's taking some time to meditate, going for a walk or chatting with a friend. Then, when a stressful situation strikes, you can turn to your go-to calming technique and still keep your workout appointment. And don't forget, exercise has been shown to help relieve stress and boost energy levels. Note that you're less likely to let stress sidetrack your sweat sessions if you stick to a regular routine, according to research presented at American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting in Seattle. So try to get on a good schedule and stick with it.
Load up on antioxidants. Antioxidants, compounds found in fruit, vegetables and other foods, have been shown to help protect against a variety of diseases from cancer to heart disease. And new research from the University of South Carolina in Columbia found that a specific antioxidant, quercetin, may also boost endurance. In the study, the researchers measured how long healthy 23-year-olds could ride on a stationary bike. The volunteers repeated the test a week later, after taking a supplement of quercetin daily. Their second ride was significantly longer and during those session, their bodies used oxygen more efficiently. The researchers suspect that quercetin gives cells a burst of energy and relieves feelings of fatigue. You can find the antioxidant in many of the foods featured in your Best Life meal plans, including red onions, red apples, berries, cabbage, broccoli and green and black teas.
Hit the sack. Getting the right amount of sleep has been linked to improved physical and mental health—it can reduce your risk for obesity and related diseases, like diabetes, as well as improve your mood. Now, a new study shows it can also improve your athletic performance. Tennis players reported almost a second and a half increase in sprints after logging more shut-eye, suggests research presented at the SLEEP conference. (They aimed to sleep an average of 10 hours a night for five to six weeks.) Their hand-eye coordination also improved, allowing them to increase their serve accuracy. You may not need a full 10 hours; many experts recommend between seven to nine hours a night for good health.