Often times i'll have clients during a session get down on themselves because they don't feel like they are performing at their highest level. Either they can't lift the same amount of weight they could the time before, or they get winded easier / feel lightheaded / dizzy. This happens to absolutely everyone once in awhile, there are good days in the gym and there are bad days, we all experience it! However, there are ways to try and prevent this from happening as often in the future. In these situations, there are always two questions I will ask right away:
1) What did you eat today and did you properly fuel your body for this workout? Have you been regularly getting enough calories each day over a long period of time to ensure continued sufficient energy?
2) How did you sleep last night and how long did you sleep? Did you toss and turn all night or were you sound asleep for the whole time?
These two factors - FOOD AND SLEEP - can and will 100% make or break your workout!
It is absolutely essential that your body has the energy stores (through caloric intake and quality macronutrients: carbs - fat- protein) to allow your muscle to function properly during a physically demanding workout. If your body does not have sufficient energy stores to be able to call upon when attempting to lift heavy weights or push through intense cardio, you will undoubtedly feel "weaker" and less conditioned than usual.
It should be no secret by now that I advocate for getting your body the correct number of calories daily (check online for a free calorie calculator to get a good starting point!) and a fairly even split of macronutrients (Roughly 33% of calories from carbs, 33% from fat, 33% from protein for an average individual). This will ensure that you get enough carbohydrates to fuel your body through intense workouts, enough protein to help repair and build muscle in your body after your workouts, and enough fat to also aid in energy production, vitamin absorption, and insulation of vital organs.
Usually when someone is experiencing a “bad workout” (no workout is really a bad workout, and it's 100x better than sitting on the couch!), it is due to the lack of nutrition in the hours before said workout. We lead busy lives, and often times will not make it a point to get proper nutrition if we’re rushing around and heading straight from work to the gym, or straight to the gym upon waking up. However, Busy or not, YOU NEED to have energy to expend in the form of calories ingested (preferably quality carbohydrates) roughly an hour before exercise. Your body will thank you! For more on meal timing and exercise, please check out my previous blog article Meal Timing and Exercise!
If your food intake is on point, then something else is to blame... and that is usually sleep! People underestimate the importance of sleep in relation to their workout routine effectiveness. When people tell me they only got 3-4 hours of sleep I stop them right there and say, "there's the culprit!" Sleep is not only essential to rebuilding/building muscle but also to the energy you will have the following day and during your workout! A lack of sleep can leave you feeling lackadaisical and unmotivated, and can make you feel weak during exercise. Even if you don’t “feel” tired in your head, your body most certainly is!
Another negative effect of not sleeping enough is that you are not giving your body proper amounts of time to repair and rebuild muscle that you broke down during previous workouts. You are essentially short changing yourself additional muscle growth and strength simply because you didn’t sleep long enough! Most of the muscle rebuilding and repairing takes place when your body (and mind) is completely at rest, aka sleeping!
Do what it takes to get 7-8 of sleep every night if you want your body to continue to perform at the highest level or performance.
WHAT ELSE COULD IT BE?
So you SWEAR that your nutrition is perfect (hint: it's not) and you SWEAR that you are getting 7-8 hours of good sleep every night (hint: you’re not)... what else could it be? There are several other factors that could come into play when considering why your body might not be performing at its highest level possible.
Could you be sick?
Being sick physically drains your body and mind of energy, if your workout is suffering big time you could be getting sick or already sick. If you are sick and it's serious, you should not be working out until you are recovered!
Could you be stressed?
Worrying about your job? Finances? Family members? Relationship? Stress can be brought on by so many different things, and it can truly take your mind elsewhere so you will be less focused on the task at hand and it could negatively affect your workouts. Do what you can to tackle that stress!
Are you working out properly/effectively?
This one should go without saying, but a proper routine which follows the guidelines of progressive overload is essential to make sure you don’t get stuck in a rut or start to feel like you’re getting nowhere with your workouts! Hire a certified professional if your progress has stalled or you don’t know how to follow a proper routine!
By this point in the article you should have said to yourself, “yup, been there” at least once! Nobody feels like they have an amazing workout 100% of the time, the goal is just to try and have positive and effective workouts MOST of the time by controlling the factors that can be controlled (food and sleep!).
Remember, if you find yourself having a “bad” workout, stop for a minute and try to think WHY it might not be the best workout you’ve ever had. Did you eat enough? Did you sleep enough? Is there anything else going on in your life that has been negatively affecting you? Then the next important step is to try and not make that same mistake again. After all, life is just a learning process that we hope improve upon as time goes on… and your workouts are no different.
Thanks for reading, if you have any questions or want to meet with a certified professional you know what to do!