Everyone dreads that midafternoon crash — that time at your desk when your keyboard looks as comfortable as a fluffy, down pillow. But even more troublesome is a workout during which you just can’t seem to find your groove. The weights feel heavy, your reps are labored, and your cardio session is so plodding that it seems like you’re wearing lead shoes. That’s why it’s crucial that you focus on maximizing your body’s energy stores each day.
Los Angeles-based trainer Eric Fleishman considers energy to be the most precious commodity you can take into the gym. He encourages his clients to work on it from every angle possible — because energy shortages always result in poor workouts.
“Your body’s energy levels slowly drain over the course of a long day, but minimizing that leak is easy,” he says. Here are five ways to jack up your energy levels and achieve the level of intensity that delivers an awesome workout each time out.
1. EAT FOR ENERGY
It’s impossible to ignore food in the great energy equation. What you eat, particularly around workout times, might be the most crucial piece of the puzzle. “Food is fuel for the body,” Fleishman says, “so increase your energy in the gym by making your preworkout meal a priority. Have a protein shake that contains 25 grams of fast-digesting protein and 45 grams of carbohydrates, or even half a chicken sandwich on whole wheat if you want to go the whole-food route, for strong fuel.”
2. EXERCISE FOR ENERGY
“Sometimes you need to kick-start the day to increase your energy levels,” Fleishman says. “The best way to do that is to work out first thing in the morning. It places importance on your gym time and allows the rest of the day to unfold relatively guilt free, with your day’s exercise already complete. But more important, it revs the body’s metabolism and keeps it running on high for hours after your morning workout.”
3. SUPPLEMENT FOR ENERGY
“The most popular energy supplement used worldwide is caffeine,” Fleishman says. “When used strategically, it can be the difference between a slow, tail-dragging workout and a dynamite iron festival.” Fleishman points out that caffeine has been proved to combat depression, especially in women. Studies also show that caffeine prolongs time to exhaustion and provides acute increases in strength.
4. CARB UP FOR ENERGY
“With the popularity of weight-loss diets hitting an all-time high, many people often forget that carbohydrates are not the enemy but rather a primary energy source for the body,” Fleishman explains. “An easy way to increase your energy levels inside the gym and out is to increase your intake of carbohydrates. Focus on slow-digesting carbs such as whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal and sweet potatoes to deliver an important flow of power and stamina.” He also recommends consuming the bulk of your carbs earlier in the day to minimize potential fat storage.
5. REST FOR ENERGY
The sag in your energy levels may, in fact, be a direct result of training — too much. “For many gym enthusiasts who find themselves low on energy, the problem is overtraining,” Fleishman says. Overtraining syndrome is characterized by fatigue, depression, decreases in strength and a plateau in results of any kind. You can counter this, he adds, by keeping your workouts short and intense, never going longer than an hour.
Eric Fleishman is a Los Angeles-based celebrity trainer and fitness expert. For more information about Fleishman, visit ericthetrainer.com.