In the next Pro Tips spot, we’ll discuss some workouts that can fit into your busy schedule. For now, let’s start with what to bring to the gym to maximize your workout.
These days, there are an ungodly amount of supplements out there, each boasting different effects. If you’re ready to take your workouts to an elite level, these can certainly help. However, for most folks, you can still get some great results out of affordable, basic supplements, without going overboard.
PRO TIP: Supplements are meant to SUPPLEMENT your diet, not REPLACE it. I cannot stress this enough. None of these are meant to be meal replacements. Your diet is easily the most important part of fitness. All the supplements and workout tricks in the world aren’t going to do jack if you aren’t eating right.
Men's Multi Vitamin
You can easily pick up any men’s multi at your local GNC, on bodybuilding.com, or any other equivalent. If you need help at GNC, ask the dude in the black. I’ve taken a variety of multi vitamins in the past and they’re all pretty comprehensive. They can range from 8 pill “packs” for the more invested, to a one-a-day, single pill multi-vitamin. Pick the one that fits your lifestyle and your goals best. Unless you're spending 90 minutes a day working out, a one-a-day will be just fine.
Getting enough protein in your diet is vital to muscle growth. Protein shakes help to make sure that you reach your daily goals when supplemented with a healthy diet. A good rule of thumb is 0.5-0.8 grams of protein/ pound of body weight (ie 160 lbs would take 80-128 grams of protein). Again, these shakes are meant to help you reach that goal and supplement the protein you intake from food on a daily bases, not replace it. A protein shake can help give you that last 25-30 grams that you need in order to reach your goal.
PRO TIP: Make your shake with whole milk instead of water. This will give you an extra 8g of protein and its SUPER tasty.
There are so many protein powders out there it would be silly for me to try and tell you which one to get. In lieu of that...
PRO TIP: Find one that tastes good! My favorite for overall results and delicious taste is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Vanilla Ice Cream. If made with whole milk it legit tastes like a milk shake. No joke.
If motivation is an issue, a pre-workout supplement can certainly help. Some people just slam a Red Bull or a 5 Hour Energy. Carbonation makes me uncomfortable when working out and 5 Hour Energy isn’t meant to give you a sustained energy boost, especially the kind you need while exercising. By using mainly B vitamins and caffeine, actual pre-workout supplements can jump start your workouts and help you maintain a high level of focus during while exercising.
For something like this, it's hard to recommend a specific product, so I’ll list off a couple that I’ve taken for reference: N.O. Xplode, C4, Assault, Fast Fuel, Hyde, Amino Energy, and Dyno. Through standard workout routines while using supplements, the pillars of pre-workout have always been N.O., C4, and Assault, so any of these is a safe bet to try out. I’ve been through multiple jugs of each.
Another thing to consider it that everyone’s body may react differently to a pre-workout supplement. For instance, I’m incredibly sensitive to niacin, an ingredient in all thee of the aforementioned. If I take too much, I experience what has been called a niacin flush; basically, a very uncomfortable feeling where your joints get red/itchy and your heart begins to race. Not super fun and kinda scary.
However, while pre-workouts can be a bit of trial and error, the biggest point is this: follow the damn directions. Don’t choke down two scoops your first time and expect to hulk out. Gauge your tolerance to all the active ingredients and take it slow. This goes for anything you do while working out, from supplements to a new workout routine. Your body knows best what it can and cannot handle, so take it slow and listen to what your body tells you.
PRO TIP: The recommended serving size is generally plenty to get you going, perhaps even too much. Start with a half scoop of the recommended level about thirty minutes before your workout. If you feel like you might need a bit more of a boost during your workout, put the other half scoop into a water bottle and drink it throughout your routine. This will give you a sustained B vitamin energy boost as you exercise.
Literally the worst thing to forget when working out in my opinion. I NEED music to get a solid workout in. If I don't have it, everything just feels off. In my opinion, the ambient music played in most gyms is lame, so bringing your own headphones saves you from something that might kill your buzz.
Which headphones you use is important as well. I’ve gotten shocked in the ear by headphones with a short in them, and, contrary to popular belief, it did not give me super sensitive hearing like a super hero.It really stung and was super jarring, which does not make for a happy Pete. Personally, I like earbuds, but that may be just me; over the ear headphones definitely seem to have their place in they gym these days.
Throughout my time in the gym, I’ve tried both versions of Beats and, personally, I don’t get the $199 hype. Sure, they look cool (or whatever), but I would rather have my Skullcandy Heavy Metals any day. The bad news is that the Heavy Metals were discontinued, so you can't grab that specific model anymore. The good news is that their Method earbuds are not only sweat resistant, but cost less than half of what my pair of Heavy Metal dinosaur headphones cost. Either way, Skullcandy is an amazing brand and, in total, I own five different products of theirs.
PRO TIP: Make sure whatever you buy is sweat resistant; getting shocked in the ear is no fun (you would think that that one experience has scarred me for life!... it has). Most sweat resistant headphones will have a warranty as well, just in case they happen to short out!
Make sure your shoes fit your goals and the exercises that you have planned. Don’t run ten miles in basketball shoes, don’t dead lift super heavy weight in running shoes (especially ones with air bubbles; I’ve seen blow outs, it isn't pretty), and get some cleats if you’re going to be training on grass or turf extensively (also, don't wear these inside either; everyone will laugh at you... I don't know from experience...).
Choosing the right type and fit of shoe means that your feet will thank you and you will perform better. Shoe stores such as The Walking Company will even go as far as to analyze your step pattern and weight distribution to help you find shoes that fit your specific body type.
PRO TIP: Shoes have an expiration date. When the tread is worn, get new ones so you can perform at top efficiency. If you wait too long, the support structure is shot and your joints are what takes on the wear and tear, so don't wait until your shoes are full of holes.