CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- See if you can relate to an email I received: "Practically every time I commit to exercise, I fall off the wagon because I don't have the energy to make myself go."This is a very common reason many find it impossible to remain dedicated to an active lifestyle. Talk about a power outage!Several things need to happen to feel like exercising before or after work hours. After all, few of us have the luxury of exercising in the middle of the day when energy levels may be higher. These four keys to energy will make or break us:1. Exercise recovery
2. Sleep3. Pre-workout fuel4. HydrationExercise recovery
This involves diet and the amount of time between workouts.Diet:
Your body gives you a golden opportunity for about an hour after a workout. During that time, you need to replace the carbs and protein you've expended. If you don't, your muscles won't build as effectively, and you won't replenish your energy stores.Protein for growth and repair and carbohydrates to refill your tank should be on your menu. Protein comes from food -- beef, chicken, fish, eggs or even in a whey protein powder drink. Carbs, slow-burning ones in particular, are needed to restock the glycogen your muscles use for fuel. So include grains such as quinoa, brown rice and vegetables and fruit.Muscle recovery:
If you stress the same muscle groups day in and day out without giving them ample time to regenerate, you deny them the benefits they've earned. Nine out of 10 people do not over-train, they under-recover. Getting enough rest after exercise is essential to high-level performance, but many people feel guilty when they take a day off.Don't want to take a day off? No problem, as long as you target different muscles so as to allow the necessary 24 to 48 hours' rest for the muscle. This is the time they repair and strengthen themselves. Without sufficient rest and recovery, your muscles will be more vulnerable to injury, and you'll be tapping into a depleted energy source when you hit the gym.Sleep
Make an effort to get eight hours of restful sleep two to three nights in a row and see if you don't wake ready and willing to exercise. Just like plugging in your cellphone at night is critical to its energy stores, deep sleep will recharge you and allow you to begin the day with a 100 percent battery rather than, let's say, 26 percent.
No one says it's easy but it is doable if you decide it's important.Going to bed with lights out -- and putting all screens (TV, computers, cellphones) out of sight and sound -- as well as making it a habit to lie down and get up at the same time will facilitate restful sleep. Your body recognizes and thrives on a natural rhythm. Creating a routine for your body will go a long way toward making the most of this rejuvenating downtime.Pre-workout fuel
This is a meal that falls within three hours before you exercise.Eating the right kinds of foods in the right amounts before activity will assure your energy tank is full. When you weight-train with little attention to diet, you are apt to run low on glycogen, which is your immediate energy source, and force your body to go to the muscle for its energy, which won't do you any favors. In fact, the workout will be much more difficult, and you won't get as much out of it. An optimum meal before exercise will prevent muscle breakdown and replenish energy.Digestion, of course, plays a key role, considering you are preparing for intense exercise. Activity and a full belly are never a great combination, so allow adequate time for digestion to take place. Fat takes six to eight hours, protein takes three or four hours and carbs two to three hours to digest, depending on the source. But you don't have fully digest food before you work out.
Pre-workout meals should contain a small amount fat, moderate amount of protein and complex or low glycemic carbs. In general, the more intense the exercise effort, the more carbs you'll need.Predicting how quickly you digest will most likely require a trial-and-error period. Keeping a food log will help you find the best combination and the amount of time you should allow between the pre-workout meal and your activity.Hydration
Water will optimize your performance and ready you for activity.If you're not sure how to gauge whether you are staying hydrated, check the toilet after urination. Urine should always plentiful and very pale yellow. If it is not, you need water.Sports drinks are for extended periods of intense exercise -- marathoners, long tennis matches, etc. Otherwise, drink water.In an hour of exercise, the body can lose more than a quart of water, depending on the intensity and the temperature, so it's essential you drink before, during and after physical activity.If you're getting your adequate sleep, eating a good diet and still running on empty, chances are you need to focus on hydration.Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified instructor/trainer since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to her at YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World," at www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.