Several years ago, Time magazine ran a provocative cover story titled, “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin.”
The premise was as simple as it was unsettling: Active individuals are lulled into a false sense of security because of their exercise regimens. Consequently, they overeat and gain weight.
It’s true that many of us sabotage our workouts with poor dietary choices. What we eat — and what we don’t eat — helps determine whether we reap the full benefits of an active lifestyle.
But it’s hardly the only factor in the equation.
At every turn, we face choices that affect how we look and feel. If we make sound choices when we’re not working out, we look refreshed and feel energized. That, in turn, inspires us to keep exercising.
When we make bad choices, we feel tired, tapped and cranky. In this condition, it’s hard to motivate yourself to hoist barbells or hop on a treadmill.
If you work out an hour a day, its time you asked yourself this question:
How am I spending the other 23?
Here, five steps you can take to make the most of your down time.
1. Drink more
Water, that is. It energizes muscles, makes your skin glow, helps you shed toxins and prevents constipation. So why aren’t we getting enough? Experts recommend we drink eight 8-ounce glasses a day. Remember it as the “8 by 8” rule. Then, make it a fun habit by investing in a high-quality, personalized water bottle that reflects your style. Sigg, Tervis, bkr and S’well are a few of the brands we reach for.
2. Get enough z’s
If you’re staying up late to catch Jimmy Fallon, you may not be laughing the next morning. Lack of sleep causes us to overeat, gives us sallow skin, impairs our memory and darkens our mood. The good news? Gadgets can help us slumber soundly. DVR or stream your favorite late-night program. Use a Fitbit tracker to see how many hours you sleep, and better understand the quality of your sleep. Download an app that plays white noise as you drift off. Most importantly, know when to say when to screen time: At least a half-hour before hitting the sheets, power down all electronics.
3. Sweat, then nosh
To stimulate muscle repair, strength and growth, eat after you exercise. You’ll feel better today and ready yourself for tomorrow’s workout. Just make sure you nosh sensibly. Select low- or no-fat snacks that are rich in protein and carbohydrates. Hummus and pita slices work. So does a 250-calorie protein shake. Chocolate milk serves as surprisingly effective post-workout fuel: A cup contains double the carbohydrates of plain milk and between eight and 11 grams of protein.
4. Supplement — first thing
Take vitamins first thing in the morning, with your breakfast. When you do, it’s like cueing yourself to have a healthy day. Supplementing in the morning also ups the odds that the vitamins will be absorbed into your system with the food you eat throughout the day. If you tend to forget this ritual in the a.m. rush, leave your vitamin bottle on the counter as a visual reminder.
5. Roll with it
A massage is more than just relaxing. It helps increase our flexibility, improve our circulation and alleviate muscle pain, priming us for more productive workouts. But regular massages can get pricey. To reap the benefits at a fraction of the cost, buy a foam roller and do it yourself. You can find them at sporting goods and department stores; prices typically range between $15 and $45. Online tutorials can teach you how to use your roller to release muscle tension and knots.