It’s easy to exercise every once in a while. Almost everyone does that. It’s kind of like eating a healthy meal every now and then. The real challenge is to stick with an exercise routine over the long term, and that’s where the true health benefits of exercise reside. In order for exercise to be a truly powerful force for good, it needs to be incorporated into your lifestyle.
There are a whole host of reasons for avoiding a consistent exercise program. One of the top complaints is that exercise can be exhausting and painful. The workout itself may be fine, but the recovery process is often fraught with fatigue and soreness. I don’t deny that this is a common “side effect” of regular workouts. But, I can tell you there are some holistic ways to minimize the discomforts of exercise, while simultaneously improving the results you seek.
My prescription for improving exercise benefits and recovery is three-fold. The first thing I recommend is to lower some of the inflammation caused by endurance and resistance training, although a certain amount of inflammation is actually good and necessary in order to build muscle. Secondly, it’s important to nourish your muscles in the right way. Lastly, ensuring optimal sleep is absolutely essential if you hope to slowly, but surely become more fit.
Step 1: Taming the Flame
Numerous studies report that drinking tart cherry juice reduces many of the ill effects of exercise, such as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and, even infections caused by intensive exercise. Also, cherry juice helps to hasten strength recovery by protecting against muscle damage and oxidative stress.
This allows you to work out in a more efficient manner. Tart cherry juice likewise contributes to improved overall sleep quality (more on this topic below).
Step 2: Protein and Carbohydrates
It’s commonplace to supplement with protein powders and carbohydrates either before and/or after a workout. However, drinking a protein and carb shake prior to retiring at night isn’t nearly as popular. This is a missed opportunity which is influenced by concerns about the health and weight effects of snacking after dinner. It’s important to note that in recent years, there has been an evolution in how nutritional experts view nighttime eating. Snacking close to bedtime can be health promoting if you choose your food wisely.
Having a high-protein, moderate-carbohydrate drink before you go to bed doesn’t necessarily promote weight gain. In fact, it may actually improve your metabolism and moderate morning appetite. What’s more, this nutritional combination aids the body in building muscle mass and strength.
Step 3: Better Sleep
Adequate sleep is an underutilized secret to maximizing exercise results. If you don’t sleep enough, it negatively affects your mental outlook, your physiological response to exercise and improvements in your athletic performance. In fact, one study involving basketball players, found that adding extra sleep to their daily routines boosted shooting accuracy, feelings of vigor and reduced the sensation of fatigue on the court. What’s more, if you choose the proteins and carbohydrates carefully, you can actually promote a more restful night’s sleep while providing muscles with optimum nutrition.
I suggest mixing a serving or two (depending on your weight) of pumpkin seed protein and 8-12 ounces of tart cherry juice. Pumpkin seeds are a source of tryptophan, a relaxing amino acid that reduces anxiety and promotes healthier sleep. Tart cherry juice is a reservoir of low glycemic carbohydrates and melatonin, a hormone released during sleep.
By simply supplementing with my cherry-pumpkin seed shake and inhaling lavender oil at bedtime, you can dramatically alter how you experience an ongoing exercise routine. You’ll feel better and you’ll look better. Hopefully, this provides enough incentive to keep your body moving. And, as a bonus, make sure to keep an eye on your blood test results too. Regular exercise will most likely improve a variety of health markers ranging from fasting blood sugar to liver function.
John Paul Fanton, based in Los Angeles, California, is a consultant, researcher and writer with over 20 years of experience in the field of natural medicine. He designs unique nutritional plans, mind-body (meditation, mindfulness, etc.) and vitamin/supplement programs for individual clients who are interested in improving overall health, weight and wellness. You can find his weekly column on the Healthy Fellow.Main Photo Credit: Maridav /Shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Pressmaster/Shutterstock.com