Don’t worry, I’m not going to spew meaningless nonsense like, “Well, you NEED water. And well, you NEED deodorant. And, uh… you NEED an MP3 player!” No, I am here to offer a bit more helpful information; Although, it should be required to wear deodorant in any gym…
I’ve been frequenting the gym for a year and a half to two years now. I, like many others, are on a long journey that lasts a lifetime. I’ve also earned my Certified Fitness Trainer certification from ISSA – the International Sports Science Association.
During this journey, I’ve been to an array of gyms with friends and family. As long as they have the basics, I can work with it to get a good workout. However, what I see at these gyms can astound me — bad form, a lack of knowledge in fundamental fitness, and, of course, those terrible locker room experiences that scar you for an eternity.
I won’t teach you form through here. There are a myriad of websites with more information on exercise form that includes videos, pictures, articles, research and more. Rather, I am here to help maximize your workout at the gym by informing you to include certain supplements and items.
Please, keep in mind that these are all important, and they are in no particular order.
1.) Exercise Gloves
While these aren’t “necessary,” they help more than you think. There are ridges on the handles of many dumbbells, barbells, EZ bars and other equipment. Holding such equipment will leave impressions and indentations on your hand, possibly even damaging the skin (Sadly, I’ve seen someone even bleed from them not wearing gloves to an extended period of time).
Exercise gloves come in an array of styles and sizes. Go to your nearest sporting store (Example: Sports Authority) and grab a pair. They’re usually under $20 for the basic ones, and you’ll save your palms in the long run.
Some of these gloves even have wrist straps that can help support the wrists when engaging in certain exercises.
Be wary, though, as these should be washed from time to time. The smell these gloves emit after extensive use will even make the treadmills scatter like cats from a dog.
2.) Whey Protein
Supplementation is key when it comes to getting adequate levels of certain macronutrients, vitamins and so on. This is especially true for those of whom are trying to gain a lot of new muscle mass.
Overall, there are many types of protein that avid exercisers can take to rebuild their muscle fibers after an extensive workout. However, whey protein is by far the best due to it’s high biological value, relatively decent price, and because it hits the digests an hits the muscles at a rapid rate — something that is important for repairing muscle fibers.
There are different types of whey protein, but I won’t get into that. Basically, whey protein isolates is the best for the money, as it has a higher concentration of protein (Compared to whey protein concentrate), so you get more protein to the muscles overall, too.
The prices vary depending on the brand and contents of whatever you purchase, so shop around. I highly suggest going to BodyBuilding.com and checking out their store. They have some great deals that were actually even cheaper than the stores in my town, even with the shipping and tax included. Also, sometimes they run promotions and will send you an additional item, depending on what you buy. For example, last time I got a bottle of Creatine. The time prior I got Flax Oil caps.
Last but not least in regards to whey protein, it is best to take it as soon as possible after a workout. Also, take it with water, as it ensures that the whey protein gets to the muscles as fast as possible. Milk is great, especially thanks to the vitamins and extra protein, but your stomach takes longer to digest the whey protein powder and milk compared to the whey protein powder plus water.
Personal Suggestion: Optimum Nutrition’s 100% Whey Protein. It has a great profile overall, isn’t expensive, tastes great with milk and decent with water (It’s rare to come by a protein powder that tastes “good” mixed with water) and contains a myriad of amino acids, especially BCAA’s.
3.) Heart Rate Monitor
I never understood why people would wear their heart rate monitor. This was my pre-certification days, as I merely thought it would be sufficient to exercise for 30 minutes and go on my merry way. *WRONG!*
The Heart Rate Monitor is a fantastic tool to have, as it allows you to keep yourself in the training zone (Basically 220 – your age is your Max Heart Rate. The “training zone” is 55%-85% of that. Newer exercisers should stay near the 60% or so mark, whereas more seasoned exercisers can go higher). Some monitors even count how many calories you’ve burned, duration of your workout, have a stop watch and more.
Personal Suggestion: Timex Mid-Size T5G941 Easy Trainer Heart Rate Monitor Watch . This Heart Rate Monitor has a bunch of neat features, is easy to use and lasts a long time. It’s about $35 on Amazon new, but it’s worth the investment overall. I’ve had mine for over a year and it still functions great!
4.) Branched-Chain Amino Acids (Also known as “BCAAs”)
These bad boys are amino acids that help prevent muscle catabolism, or the break down of muscle. During intense bouts of exercise, the body will seek energy. If no general source is available, the body will engage in gluconeogensis, or the formation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources (muscle!). The amino acids that make up BCAAs are L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine and L-Valine.
Many bodybuilders and seasoned exercise enthusiasts use these religiously, and for good reason. Why not try to prevent losing the gains you’ve made in the past just to add a bit on top? It’s like building up the wall of a sandcastle (gaining muscle) and kicking a bit off of the top (engaging in exercise), then rinsing and repeating. Branched-Chain Amino Acids helps combat that, because we all want a beautiful sand castle (body).
Branched-Chain Amino Acids can be found in multiple forms, such as capsules and powders. Generally powders have the highest concentration of Branched-Chain Amino Acids. These powders mix easily in water and generally taste pretty decent, (I know, that isn’t the most important aspect, but it certainly helps!) depending on the company and the flavor. I am also not knocking BCAAs in capsule form, either; They are good for opening and supplementing additional Branched-Chain Amino Acids to a protein shake. You can also easily pop with throughout the day between meals.
So what’s the best way to take in your Branched-Chain Amino Acids time-wise? I suggest before a workout and in the midst of a workout that lasts ~90 minutes or more (Any supplementary drink taken during a workout is called an “Intra” workout drink). Also, it is important to supplement with Branched-Chain Amino Acids during a diet that is low in carbohydrates.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids can also be found in various foods, but it is easiest to ensure that you get the adequate amount through supplementation.
Personal Suggestion: Allmax Nutrition’s Aminocore. This product has a great blend for a decent price (Many supplements are expensive, but this is really no more than any other BCAA powder product). Aminocore also has a nice complex of B vitamins.
5.) Log of Exercise History
While it may seem simple (And sometimes look silly), I bring a piece of paper and pen to all of my workouts to track what I do in the gym. Not only does this remind me how many sets and reps I had done earlier in my workout, but I plug in these values online at Fitocracy.com — a website that grants values to exercises and allows you to “level up” over time by accruing points.
Logging what you’ve done in the gym allows you to study and allows you to make strategic decisions toward achieving your fitness goal, whether it be losing body fat, gaining muscle mass, increasing endurance and so on. Plus, the whole aspect of “leveling up” is an innovative idea that will make users want to progress since they can visually see their workout data, as well as complete achievements and venture on “quests.”
There are also exercise trackers online and exercise trackers that can be found on mobile markets (Example: the Android marketplace).
Personal Suggestion: Fitocracy.com. The cleanest and most efficient electronic-based log that I’ve found. They recently came out with a mobile application for the Android market and iPhone market. The community seems pretty large, it’s free (There is a payment version that nets you cool, new content), and you can easily network with others based on common interests (groups).
There are a lot of items that can help maximize your workout’s potential, but these are just a handful. Creatine Monohydrate, for example, is another supplement used largely in the bodybuilding community. Oh, and don’t forget the deodorant!