There’re many things you can do to enhance the quality of your workout, but there are also a few things you should never do, especially before your workout, that can ruin your performance.
These can range from minor mistakes that make you feel a little weaker or lower your energy to big mistakes that completely ruin your workout.
So, if you want to see optimum results from your workout, whether you’re trying to build muscle or burn fat, you should definitely avoid these nine worst things before hitting the gym.
9 Worst Things to Do Before a Workout
Here’re the nine things you should never do before a workout.
1. Eating Big Meal
The very first thing you should definitively avoid is eating a big meal too close to your workout.
When we eat, our body starts digesting the food, and our body will direct blood flow to the digestive organs.
And on the other hand, when we work out, the body will direct the blood flow to the hard-working muscle — this puts digestion and exercise as competition odds.
So, eating big close to your workout, your body will essentially start fighting for blood flow and neither get the optimum blood flow for either digestion or optimal performance.
And also, when the food sits on the stomach, we feel bloated, heavy, and nauseous — decreasing our ability to perform at our best.
Another reason is that digestion itself requires a lot of energy, that’s why our body wants to go to sleep after a big meal.
However, everyone digests food at a different rate, so there is no fit answer. But in general, eating a big meal 2-3 hours and a snack 45-60 minutes before your workout can be okay.
Keep in mind that the meals that are high in fat or contain a huge amount of food will take longer to digest, so plan accordingly.
Related: 10 Best Foods to Eat Before an Intense Workout
2. Empty Stomach
Another common mistake that most people make is that they don’t eat anything before a workout means on an empty stomach.
Training on an empty stomach can cause you several negative effects. These can range from decreasing performance and minimizing your lifting ability, which causes you a less effective workout and even stops your progress.
So, taking a healthy snack in combination with protein and carbs is always a good idea to provide the fuel you need during your workout and keep your body in the anabolic stage.
Related: The 50 Healthy Snacks to Eat Before a Workout
3. Taking a Long Nap
Another thing you should make sure of is that you’re not taking a long nap.
Even though taking a short 20-30 minutes of power nap can significantly improve your performance and feel refreshed, but making it long can backfire on you by leaving you lethargic and tired.
So, if you feel tired before hitting the gym or in your regular life, feel free to take a nap, but make sure you keep it short and not more than 45 minutes.
4. Over Consumption of Caffeine
Another mistake we would make to increase our focus and performance is drinking too much coffee or pre-workout before working out.
Although taking caffeine or pre-workout is an excellent way to increase our energy and boost performance during the workout.
But the problem is that taking in too much caffeine can lead to more contraction in your colon and induce more bile production, increase bowel movements, and you’ll find yourself setting toilet in-between your sets.
You should definitely avoid taking too much caffeine or pre-workout or else before your workout, which can negatively affect your health and of course, will ruin your performance.
So, don’t drink cup after cup of coffee before your workout and if you’re taking a pre-workout supplement, make sure you’re taking the recommended dosage mentioned on the back of the bottle.
5. Drinking Alcohol and Junk Foods
The next one is obvious you shouldn’t drink alcohol and junk foods before your workout.
However, after drinking alcohol, you may feel like superman and more motivated to hit the gym or do bodyweight workouts at home, but I highly recommend you don’t.
The reason is that alcohol is a depressant that will slow down things like your reaction time, coordination, and balance, resulting in a less effective workout, and you may wind up getting some serious injury which can be very dangerous.
Another reason is that when you drink alcohol right before your workout, that alcohol you drink is then carried by your blood cells to your torn-up muscles, which will ruin your recovery and overall results as well.
Finally, the last issue of drinking alcohol is that it really dehydrates your body. So, combining this with a workout that makes you sweat a lot can lead to all kinds of adverse side effects.
We all know that junk foods should not be eaten in the pre-workout, and they should be cut off from your overall diet. This is because junk foods are filled with calories, and most of them are sugar or fat.
And due to their high-fat content, it takes too long to digest in the stomach and eating them before your workout can make you lethargic and have less energy to train.
Related: 16 Foods You Should Avoid Before (and After) a Workout
6. Taking Pain Killers
Another common mistake is taking some sort of pain reliever before a workout. It’s something you should avoid taking no matter how sore you are or how sore you think you’ll be.
Studies show that exercising while on ibuprofen lead to gut problems and even can cause intestinal injuries. (1, 2)
Like alcohol, taking pain relievers can also cause slow down your body, and taking them before your workout can lead to serious injury.
So, if you happen to be so sore before your workout and can’t properly move around, then instead of taking a pain reliever, it would be best to skip your training for that day.
7. Drinking Too Much Water
The next mistake you should avoid before your workout is drinking too much water, and it’s pretty similar to overeating food or drinking too much coffee.
With water, we become obsessed with the concept of staying hydrated, and when we don’t meet our daily water target, we try to slam it all down at once before the workout.
And of course, it’s good to stay hydrated throughout the day, but it’s not a great idea to drink a ton of water either directly before or even during the workout.
The reason is that once again, when you drink a lot of water, your blood flow will be directed to your extremities when you working out, which feel you nauseous and cramps during the workout.
So, the best practice is to drink a small amount of water here and there between your sets, and you should make sure you’re drinking water consistently throughout the day to meet the daily requirement (3-4 liter).
8. Static Stretching
The second last mistake that most people make before starting their workout is stretching before weight training.
Although not all forms of stretching are wrong before the workout, but static stretching should actually be done after your workout.
Static stretching is done by stretching or elongating a muscle and holding that stretching position for about 15-20 seconds, like sit and reach stretch for the hamstring.
So, instead, what you can do is dynamic stretching — an active form of stretching where you move back and forth through a full range of motion rather than just holding one position.
An example of dynamic stretching for the hamstring would be a stretching drill known as Frankenstein, which helps to prepare the muscles for activity. The static stretches do the opposite and tend to hurt your muscles performance.
So, perform dynamic stretching at the beginning while static stretching at the end of your workout to reap the maximum benefits from them without hurting your performance.
9. High Intensity Cardio
Another damn mistake you can make before weight lifting is performing high-intensity cardio.
It’s something that many people do as a warm-up, but there is an increased chance of hurting your performance more than helping.
Why? Because it’ll once again reduce your performance and most likely force you to do either lift lighter weights or reduce your reps.
This is because glucose is the primary source of energy that our body uses to lift weights. When we eat carbohydrates, it is stored in our muscles and liver in the form of glycogen, which is broken down for energy when muscles require it.
If you do cardio before you lift weights, you’ll burn through a lot of your precious glucose, and your body will lack while doing weight training.
So, if you want to do cardio and weight lifting within the same session, it would be best to perform the cardio afterward.
Keep in mind that warming up by walking on the treadmill for 3-5 minutes before weight training won’t negatively affect you. But if you do more intense cardio for a long time, like 15-30 minutes, it’ll definitely negatively affect your weightlifting session.
Related: How Many Times Per Week Should You Do Cardio?
Okayyy, let’s enhance your athletic performance and workout results by punching these nine worst things out of the park.
So, which of the mistakes did you make?
In the beginning, mine was static stretching. What yours?
Read next: 9 BEST Things to Do Before a Workout (Maximize Results!)