Nothing worth having comes easy, so the saying goes. Just ask anyone trying to accomplish their fitness and health-and-wellness goals. But motivational quotes aside, those who are trying to get used to an exercise routine — either for the first time or after a long break — need real advice to help them stay on track.
Fitness newbies or oldies who want to hop back on the wellness bandwagon have to face certain (sometimes unfamiliar) challenges. For example, what if you start a consistent routine that includes 45 minutes of cardio five days a week, and you find that regardless of how much you may have already eaten you end up so ravenous you could hoover three servings of pasta in one sitting? Or what happens if you're trying to settle into a routine that includes brisk walking, running or jogging outside, but just a week or two in you get sidelined by a heatwave?
The good news is you can tackle those challenges smartly and without blowing all your hard work. After all, carving out the time (however much or little) to work out is half the battle. Don't let it be in vain.
To that end, HellaWella caught up with nutrition expert Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, who has worked routinely with clients ranging from soccer moms to collegiate and professional athletes and was the sports nutritionist for the Cincinnati Bengals. Mohr answered our questions and offered a number of simple, easy-to-adapt tips and tricks so you can overcome some of the most common fitness obstacles.
Is it better to fuel up before or after a workout?
Both. I certainly want to make sure people have some fuel in their body before working out. The muscles require carbohydrates for energy and protein for building and repair of muscle tissues. That said, you can see why it’s important to eat after as well. Recovery nutrition — again, a combination of carbs and protein — will help.
A favorite post-workout shake of mine includes unsweetened almond milk (flavor and liquid), a small handful of almonds (protein, fiber and healthy fats), one cup blueberries (carbohydrates and loads of nutrients) and a scoop of whey protein (more protein).
In your opinion does a healthy diet include both proteins and (complex) carbs? What should the ratio be and why, and is it different from person to person?
Absolutely, both are critical. Rather than focusing on a ratio between the two, I use hands to teach about what’s recommended. Every single meal should have one handful of protein and one handful of complex carbs, then two handfuls of veggies/fruit (half the plate). For protein, that could be something like almonds and Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, animal protein and eggs. And complex carbohydrates could be a wide variety of whole grains, like quinoa, buckwheat or sweet potatoes.
Sometimes people who start new workout routines feel hungrier than usual. What advice would you give them so they don't get derailed?
Have quality snacks on hand that include filling protein, fiber and healthy fat. I’ll grab a handful of almonds and a piece of fruit, for example, as a snack between my meals when I hit the gym hard.
How long should you warm up for prior to a workout routine? What about cool down afterward?
There’s no set amount of time to warm up, as long as your body is physically prepared. This means going through a full-body dynamic warm-up — skips, air squats, pushups, etc. And then after cooling down is when you’d also include some static stretching to keep the body healthy and strong.
Why is the cool down so important?
It’s important to cool down for a few reasons. First, to allow your heart rate to slow down because as your heart is pumping blood more rapidly to provide oxygen to your working muscles, it’s important to make sure that continues without having blood pooling if you immediately sat down to drive home, for example. Use this time to stretch the muscles you just put through a rigorous routine.
What happens on really hot and humid days when you sweat more than usual and you feel dizzy? Drink water? Eat a banana?
Actually, dehydration and cramping are not symptoms of losing too much potassium (what’s in a banana), but sodium. So I’d opt for a sports drink if the vigorous workout is on a hot, humid day where you’re just pouring out sweat. Of course plain old water is important the rest of the day as well.
How can you keep from dehydrating on especially hot and humid days so you don't have to skip your workout?
Drink early, drink often. Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of your workout to start sipping water. Start first thing in the morning, aiming to have urine that is the color of pale lemonade vs. apple juice.
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Chris Mohr PhD, RD is a nutrition expert and has worked routinely with clients ranging from soccer moms to collegiate and professional athletes (including as the sports nutritionist for the Cincinnati Bengals).
Dr. Mohr has Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Nutrition from The Pennsylvania State University and University of Massachusetts, respectively. He earned his PhD in exercise physiology from the University of Pittsburgh and is a Registered Dietitian. He resides in Louisville, Kentucky.
You can still get cardiovascular benefits from riding an electronically powered bicycle