What can I do to support my body with a new exercise routine?

Top 5 physical tips

  • Accept deconditioning and reduce your weights
  • You will experience DOMS, but this is normal
  • Warm up properly
  • Have a professional check your technique
  • Gradually increase your load
  • Start a prehab program before returning to sports

Top 5 food tips

  • Have breakfast everyday to support your increased energy levels
  • Drink enough fluids (link to hydration blog) 
  • Before a session, snack on foods high in carbohydrates 
  • Don’t skip dinner after an evening session. It might be handy to have a small snack shortly after to tie you over, and then a larger meal 2-3 hours after with a balance of carbs and protein. 
  • What can you appreciate about your body? 

Have you started a new exercising schedule lately? With exercise as one of the only reasons for us to leave the house, For some, the COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect opportunity to begin a new exercise routine. And exercise a great stress relief so maybe it’s your tool to help cope with the current lifestyle. Or maybe you have been a little less active over isolation and now plan to start a new exercise regimen as restrictions continue to ease and gyms re-open. With this comes extra stress on the body, a shift in nutritional needs, and extra focus on body image. Find out from resident Physiotherapist, Ryan, and Dietitian, Monica, about what you can do to support your body over this time.  

Where should I be starting getting into an exercise routine: 

If you are a beginner in the gym or regular gym junky returning to the gym or sport post the COVID-19 isolation period there are a few things that you will need to consider and a few recommendations that will help you start back on the track to achieving your activity related goals.

Starting low or apply the load slowly

First of all accept deconditioning has happened, even if you have been able to increase your cardiovascular fitness in the break! If you are a small or big lifter in the gym it is recommended that you reduce the load that you were doing previously to the lockdown. Not only will you not be able to lift the same amount of weight but you will struggle to do the same amount of sets and repetitions. With 3 months of stopping physical activity the muscles of your body will have reduced in size and force production. It is suggested to reduce soft tissue injury that a reduction of at least 30% of the weight is taken, plus taking a rest day more often within your old routine.     

  

Soreness response to exercise or Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

Experienced gym goers will know DOMS well and some even aim to feel DOMS to know that they have worked hard enough, but for a beginner DOMS can be a very unpleasant experience and be quite debilitating. DOMS is not related to muscle injury but related to the healing and strengthening response post a strengthening workout. In extreme cases DOMS can last 2-3 week for people who are severely deconditioned, but most people will experience DOMS for a few days to a week which is totally normal. We should all expect to feel some DOMS after returning to the gym post the COVID-19 period.


Warming up before exercise

With our bodies being deconditioned take the extra step you would normally skip and warm your body up before getting into your exercise routine. With increased blood flow and warmth within the muscles we are less likely to strain a muscle. Take 10 minutes before your routine to warm up with some general movement like walking, cycling or jogging before starting your routine and take the time to do 1 or 2 warm up sets for each of the exercises you’re going to perform.  


Having a professional check your exercise technique

A quick check with your exercise professional can go a long way in reducing your risk of injury, this will make sure that your body is in the optimal position for lifting, especially if you are new to the gym and wanting to start high level movements in the future. 

Gradually progress yourself back to precovid exercise levels

It will take around the same amount of time you have stopped doing exercise to regain your previous levels. In this case we have had 3 months with no gym so expect that reaching your previous personal bests will take 3 months of consistent work.

If you have had soft tissue injury before, play sports or you are worried about injury, seek a trusted physiotherapist to reduce your risk of injury.

Physiotherapists are not only experts in treatment for injury rehabilitation but also injury prevention, if you would like a smooth transition back into your beloved gym or sporting activity make sure to seek advice from your trusted physiotherapist. As a profession we are expecting there to be a higher rate of injury on the return to regular activity as people are deconditioned, but a reconditioning program or prehab for at least 4-6 weeks or of the same period that you were not active can significantly reduce the occurrence of strains, sprains or ruptures.

Supporting the body with food 

As you become more active, your body burns more energy, so naturally there is a greater need for carbohydrates, protein and fluid to support the body. Many people make the mistake of reducing total caloric intake when they begin an exercise routine for weight loss, which is there the stumbling blocks begin to fall. It makes sense right? If you are more active, you need extra nutrients to support your body, especially the muscles! Dropping your total food intake too much isn’t sustainable, and is typically where we see the yo-yo effect? Have you heard of this? It happens when you start a restrictive low calorie diet, have great short term weight loss, but then rebound to your regular food intake and body weight because your nutrition isn’t sustainable for long periods. Sound familiar? Trust me- persistent yo-yo dieting isn’t healthy. In fact, it can cause damage to your metabolism, gut microbiome and mental health.


So to sustainably support your body through a new exercise routine, you need to have sufficient nutrition intake, so let me let me tell you a little about this: 

Protein 

Typically, the average woman needs 46g protein per day, and the average man 64g. If you start any strength training, your protein requirements increase to help support muscle gain. If you are doing this strength training 3 or 4 times a week, your protein requirements may increase up to 1.5g protein per kg body weight. As your body gets used to this new routine, your protein requirements will reduce to around 1g per kg body weight, which is still quite high compared to the average middle age aussie. So do the math yourself, how much protein do you need? 

Let’s take for example a 26 year old guy who is 5 foot 10 and 81kg. Let’s call him Joe. Joe just started doing F45 online 3 times a week and likes to go for a 10km run around the Barwon river on Saturday mornings. Joe needs 1.5g protein per kg body weight, that’s 121g protein per day! Almost double what the average sedentary Joe needs (remember this guy is not average Joe, he does F45). 

So let’s add it up and see what this looks like on the plate. Joe has 2 eggs on toast with avocado for breakfast and a glass of milk (20g), a tub of yopro and berries for morning tea (15g), a chicken, cheese and salad roll with a banana for lunch (18g), a handful of nuts and a protein ball for afternoon tea (16g), a protein shake after his workout (30g) and chicken and vegetable carbonara for dinner (24g). This is 123g protein, you’re nailing it Joe! 

Food timing 

Protein timing is also very important. Making sure you have a protein rich meal within 60-90 minutes after your workout. This is prime time for muscle recovery.

Keep in mind that much of the literature points towards a maximum of 25-30g of protein per meal as this tends to be the maximum the body has absorbed from one meal. Having too much protein in one meal can put extra stress on your kidneys to digest, and will be wasted in your urine. The research on total protein per meal is still evolving, so hopefully we will know more in next few years. Regardless, it is important to spread your protein intake throughout the day to maximise the opportunity for the body to absorb enough protein. 

Pre-exercise carbohydrate timing is also important. Joe doesn’t need to carb load- this is only beneficial for people during ultra endurance sports. But, carb availability is crucial. Keep your pre-workout fuel low in fibre and easy to digest. A high carbohydrate snack within 45-60 minutes of exercise, or a meal 2-3 hours or so before exercise is the way to go. It’s best if this carbohydrate is a white or high GI – what?! Yep, that’s right. Having a carby high GI snack or meal before exercise will make is much easier for the body to quickly digest and use the energy for the exercise. Perfect pre-excersie meal would be a salad sandwich on white bread with chicken and cheese, or a bowl of oats with banana for breakfast. Or if it’s a snack you need, a banana, honey sandwich, or raisin toast with jam might get you over the line and carbed up ready for exercise. 

Have you heard about athletes drinking chocolate milk in their recovery? Milk has carbohydrates AND protein. And if you add some chocolate syrup into the mix, you have some simple sugar to immediately replace glycogen stores. Perfect! 

Hydration 

Hydration is so important for every day body and brain health. If you are adding regular sweating into the mix, it becomes even more important. The average Aussie needs 2-2.5L per day, but on average we only drink 1L water per day. Seems a little out of balance right? 

Any fluids are going to hydrate you. Joe might benefit from a sports drink after his long distance run on the weekends, but on the typical day he doesn’t need this to stay hydrated. In fact, it might be adding extra unnecessary sugars into his diet. 

Good old water is fine! 

And if you are exercising late at night, remember that your hydration will continue the next morning- keep those fluids up at breakfast if you urine hasn’t yet returned to a normal colour (especially in the summer)

Carbohydrates 

It’s simple, don’t cut carbs. Our brain needs carbohydrates for energy. Interestingly our other cells can use nutrients such as fats, and in extreme circumstances, protein, for energy. But cutting carbs put extra stress on our body to produce glucose to feed the brain. And as low carb diets have cycled through trends for a while now (remember the atkins diet?), we have some really good research emerging. Some research predicts that low carb diets are challenge to maintain, and after that we typically rebound into a food routine high in low quality carbs (like white bread, white pasta, cakes and biscuits).

Low carbohydrates do provide short term weight loss- but they can compromise performance in high intensity activities. There are many different approaches to support weight loss which do not bring on the effects of the low carbohydrate diet. 

Valuing food and fuel

When you begin a new eating routine, sometimes your regular much-loved meals are chucked out the window. Sometimes this means that we are not having as many of the meals which bring us joy. Fear not- sustainable food changes means that you don’t throw away the foods which bring you comfort, but you do give yourself permission to have them less, and saviour them when you do have them more. These principles are along the lines of intuitive eating. More blogs on this to come. 

As we put more pressure on the body to perform, what comes along with it is a higher emphasis on body image. It is so important to do this with kindness. Don’t hate your body. It gets you to and from work each day, it brings comfort wrapped around a blanket at night, maybe it hosted home to your darling kids, and it allows you to stretch to the top of the pantry to reach the dark chocolate. So as your begin a new exercise routine, I challenge you to notice more value in your body. Keep a daily body appreciation diary (corny right? wrong). No one has to see this journal. You could keep it on your phone or at the back of your sock drawer. As you start to eat well and exercise more- how does your body feel and respond? You can write whatever you like! 

https://digitalcommons.butler.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1032&context=buwell

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2009.10719767

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