If you’re exercising like crazy but still not losing weight, chances are you’re making some little mistakes that are sabotaging your workout. Small diet tweaks — like staying hydrated and eating less meat — along with the help of some cheap workout gear, like a foam roller, will make sure you get the most out of your workouts. You won’t want to miss these four helpful tips!
1. Invest in a foam roller, and use it
Foam rollers look kind of like a shorter, dense pool noodle, and they can do some seriously healing. As trainers and athletes have started to focus more on soft-tissue care and injury prevention, foam rollers have become extremely popular, and for good reason. They can be used as a recovery tool and may be even more useful to use pre-workout.
Using a foam roller before you exercise will help prevent injuries. An incomplete or improper warm-up means your body will be continuously compensating for your problem spots. “Deep pressure [like the kind you get from a foam roller] stimulates the Golgi tendon organ, which then overrides the muscle spindle, which allows the tissue to relax, which prepares it for stretching,” Dr. Mike Clark, CEO of the National Academy of Sports Medicine, told Outside.
Foam rolling pre-workout is like a mini acupressure treatment; it allows your body to realign itself. Take some time to use your foam roller before you start working up a sweat — your body will be better prepared to handle the work load, and you’ll be preventing future injuries.
2. Drink enough water
If you’re thirsty, it’s too late. When it comes to hydration, drinking enough is essential to staying in shape, especially for athletes. Water is involved in so many processes in the body that being just 2% dehydrated can start to hinder your body’s ability to perform.
Heading to the gym or out for a run thirsty is not a good idea. On average, a person sweats out between 0.8 to 1.4 liters per hour during exercise, so if you weren’t making water a point before your workout, your body will get hit hard. Training while dehydrated can lead to poor performance, cramps, and injury.
If you’re planning a super intense workout, don’t forget about sodium loss; sodium plays a major role in our bodies’ ability to retain water. Research published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology has shown that adding electrolytes to your fluid is necessary for longer, harder efforts. In general, avoid or limit fruit juices or sugary drinks, such as soda. They can be hard on your stomach if you’re dehydrated. Make sure your diet includes water-filled fruits and vegetables, and make water your go-to drink.
3. Eat less meat and more fish
After exercise, your body needs protein to start repairing your muscles, but that doesn’t mean eating burgers and other red meat is a good habit. Most Americans are getting plenty of protein, so there’s no need to consume extra meat — chances are, it’s doing more harm than good.
Processed meats and red meat in particular are known to contribute to a slew of health problems, like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It doesn’t make sense to eat foods that cause the very problems you’re trying to avoid with exercise.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends choosing a variety of high-protein foods, including eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. The guidelines also suggest replacing high-fat protein — like meat and dairy — with foods like seafood, nuts, and seeds.
4. Start using compression gear
Tall socks, tights, and sleeves, which are common among athletes, promote blood flow and healing. Compression gear is an affordable way to get the most out of your workouts and then recover after.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that focused on compression gear use confirmed a 2.1 to 6.2% improvement in an individual’s aerobic and anaerobic threshold. It may not seem like a lot, but even a 1% improvement in your marathon time could result in a final time that’s 1 to 2 minutes faster — that boost may be all you need to qualify for a big race or break your personal record.
Research surrounding compression gear has been mostly focused on performance, although newer studies have found that athletes feel better wearing compression gear while recovering. While endurance athletes will get the most benefits from compression gear during training, wearing a nice pair a compression socks post workout is a great way to speed up recovery — no matter what your sport of choice is.