When it comes to almost any situation in life, timing is everything. A birthday present just doesn’t seem the same three days after your birthday, and showing up late to an interview is as good as kissing the job goodbye. Time seems to fly by when you’re having fun and then come to a screeching halt when you’re sitting in one of those windowless, jail cell-like Cooper Hall classrooms.
Time seems to be the master in every other situation, so why would it be any different when it comes to getting fit? For example, when is the right time for a cardiovascular workout — morning, evening, before lifting weights or after? Following your workout, is it time for some protein, or are carbohydrates what the body needs? Time is obviously a factor in those fitness equations; so don’t sweat another drop until you make sure your watch is set.
No matter what, exercise is always good and when your body’s hungry food is never bad; however, there are some situations where timing can help decrease your wait-time in reaching those fitness goals. For example, one of the most common myths among gym-goers today is that you need to eat carbohydrates before your workout and protein afterwards. Though it makes sense when the nutritional store representative is explaining it to you, it doesn’t make sense to your body. Research shows that consuming protein before you workout is better for muscle repair than waiting until after your workout. Because the body cannot store protein in its original form, excess protein is broken down and excreted from the body via urine and/or stored in the body as fat. Even though your body needs protein for muscle repair after a strength training workout, significant research has shown that consuming small amounts of protein before your strength training session results in superior gains in lean body mass (also known as muscle). Kevin Tipton, Ph.D., and University of Texas’s lead researcher explains, “The combination of increased amino acids (and) blood flow dramatically increases amino acid delivery to the muscles.”
If protein is best before a workout, what is a good recovery meal to follow a workout? After a workout there is more room to be flexible with food. Keep in mind that due to the previous sweat session, glycogen stores may be running low in your body; carbohydrates are needed to refuel, resulting in the continuation of fat burning and muscle growth. Carbohydrates are an important part of all your recovery meals, and are the preferred source of fuel for the body.
Focusing on the workout itself, which came first: resistance training or cardiovascular training? Like the chicken-and-egg debate, it is ongoing. The best answer is whatever you feel like doing first. My preference is resistance training before cardiovascular training. My reasoning behind this is due to form. Form is crucial when you are lifting weights, so I want to lift when I know I am 100%. After a cardiovascular workout I notice that my form isn’t as good as it should be, because so much energy was just expended on the treadmill. Either way, you are getting a workout, so you really can’t go wrong.
In fitness, timing isn’t everything, so don’t let yourself get hung up on it. The important thing is that you make time for exercise and always refuel your body.