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10 Things You Should Never Do Before A Workout (Learn Why)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 26, 2022

I've been in the fitness world long enough to understand that the success of any workout depends on what you do beforehand.

You can do specific activities that seem like normal behavior, but they buffer your gym progress.

To ensure I succeed in my fitness goals, I solicited advice from my personal trainer to understand what pre-workout habits I should avoid doing.

Here's a summary of my findings.

Quick Summary

  • Eating food rich in fats and fiber, which take long to digest, can cause bloating during exercise.
  • Caffeine is good for energy, but when taken in excess before a workout, it can cause irritation and dehydration.
  • Drinking excess water before hitting the gym can cause discomforting stitches.

10 Things to Avoid Before Working Out

Not having enough sleep

Here are ten things you need to steer clear of to reap the most benefits from your fitness session.

1. Cut Down Sleep Time

Inadequate sleep harms athletic performance, whereas adequate sleep has a positive impact.

Researchers believe sleep deprivation reduces fitness efficiency because working out feels more difficult [1].

Furthermore, a sleep-deprived workout can undermine your motivation to exercise in the first place.

You could perhaps find yourself rueing your gym sessions and despising every moment in the gym, which isn't suitable for long-term fitness adherence.

2. Skip Warm-ups

A person holding towel behind his neck

Ditching your warm-up regimen is a surefire way to injure yourself. Improper joint and muscle prepping is one of the renowned causes of severe muscle strains [2].

One way to avoid such sprains and further injury is to condition your body beforehand with warm-up exercises like static stretching.

Always include a few minutes of dynamic stretching warm-up before you start exercising for optimal performance.

Blood flow through the muscle fibers is often minimal and negligible during relaxation, causing them to tighten [3].

A light cardio or foam roller warm-ups help to increase blood circulation, which provides your muscles with oxygen.

3. Workout Without a Fitness Plan

Your training will have direction and purpose with the help of a workout plan, allowing you to concentrate on the activities that will bring you closer to your fitness goals.

It's a bad idea to exercise without a strategy, as you'll be wasting time hopping from one piece of equipment to the next.

This is why you might not gain the most out of your exercises due to this oversight.

Start by setting aside upper and lower body days, including leg day exercises. Then you can add specific pull, push, and stretching exercises for each workout.

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4. Eat Heavy Pre-Workout Meals

A woman holding a dumbbell and a bowl of meal

Eating a heavy meal before exercise will force you to workout on a heavy stomach, which is frequently problematic, especially if you engage in intense workouts like running.

Doing so can cause gastrointestinal distress, a condition known as the "stitches” [4]. You may also feel sluggish, which can prevent you from exercising or shorten your workout.

Eating huge fatty and fiber meals can cause bloating because fat and fiber take way more time to metabolize and get absorbed in the digestive system.

A big meal can cause distress and abdominal discomfort if you do intense workouts or cardio [5].

Heavy pre-workout meals can also cause exercise-induced anaphylaxis (EIA). EIA is an allergic response to exercise, mainly if you have eaten an aggravating food beforehand [6].

“Your pre-workout habits can set you up for either an effective or ineffective workout."

- Dempsey Marks, Personal Trainer

What I do to perfectly balance between exercising on a properly-full stomach and fasting before a workout is grabbing a small but nutrient-dense pre-workout snack containing protein and carbohydrates.

For example, whole wheat bread rolls, fruits, veggies, or a protein shake can help you maintain a healthy gym session without making you sick.

If you have exercise-induced anaphylaxis, avoid foods that will cause a reaction and consult your doctor about prevention and treatment options.

Related: Should I Eat Before or After a Workout?

5. Drink Too Much Water

Close up image of a water bottle

Drinking excess water before working out can make you feel queasy, create cramps, or want to end the session early.

You may also increase your risk of hypernatremia, an uncommon but severe illness, by attempting to chug down a gallon before hitting the gym [7].

Also, with excess body water, the kidneys cannot handle the fluids quickly enough, and this causes the body cells to imbibe the fluids and swell [8].

Make it a rule to drink just enough water throughout the day in small bits instead. Drink a few sips before your workout, especially if you're doing it in the morning.

Related ArticleShould I Drink Water While Working Out?

6. Drink Too Much Caffeine

Although there is evidence linking caffeine use to improved performance, there may also be severe adverse effects.

According to a study, caffeine use before or during exercise may raise the risk of blood clots.

During two high-intensity training sessions, the researchers monitored 48 men and discovered that caffeine boosted their coagulation factor.

The males who had caffeine-containing beverages before working out were more likely to get blood clots, associated with significant medical conditions like heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism [9].

7. Over Moisturize Your Skin

A woman moisturizing her skin

Working out with excess moisturizer on your skin can clog sweat glands and skin pores, making it difficult for your skin to breathe.

Because many lotions are soft and slippery, this might be dangerous when you're lifting weights.

Lotion limits your grip on the heavy metals, and they might slip and hurt you.

If you have dry skin, try using light moisturizers in fewer amounts before working out. Otherwise, it would be best to avoid it altogether.

8. Take Anti-Inflammatory Medication

Although taking over-the-counter pain meds when you feel achy or sore before exercising may be tempting, it's not the best choice.

These medications affect your whole body, not just the area of pain.

Research shows that using painkillers before working out may cause further injuries because your body won't get the pain signals that indicate you're straining your body beyond its capacity [10]. 

Additionally, most medications relax muscles, which can negatively impact your muscles and reduce your performance [11].

Ibuprofen may worsen exercise-related intestinal damage and impair the gut barrier in healthy gym goers and athletes [12].

Add rest days to your training plan to help your body heal from intense activities that could be causing aches. It's wise to rest instead of popping a pill at the slightest muscle pain.

In the case of severe pains, seek medical help to treat if it's a chronic muscle and joint damage.

9. Finish Intense Sets Back to Back

A woman hurting her back from having intense back to back workouts

When you exercise back to back without giving yourself adequate time to recuperate between sessions, you may develop overtraining syndrome (OTS) [13].

After a certain point, exercising excessively might harm your health and inhibit your progress, particularly if your workouts are scheduled closely together.

OTS can impair your fitness level, negatively impact your performance, and result in injuries [14].

Back-to-back exercises like HIIT, aerobics, and weightlifting can also result in severe burnout.

You may prevent overtraining by exercising within your limits and giving yourself enough time to recover between exercises.

Take care of yourself after each training session and re-energize, so you have the energy to continue exercising.

10. Consume Alcoholic Drinks

It only takes a little alcohol to impair your ability to manage your body.

Additionally, it damages your coordination and focus, making it difficult for you to do the sets in the proper form, and this affects your performance in the long haul.

It's best to skip your next workout if you're enjoying a happy hour with your friends that day.

FAQs

Is It Okay to Nap Before a Workout?

Yes, it's okay to nap before a workout to get extra rest. Make sure you time your nap, so it doesn't interfere with your static stretches workout schedule.

Should You Poop Before The Gym?

You should poop before the gym if you have to. Emptying your bowels will keep you comfortable throughout your workout.

How Long Is a Power Nap?

A power nap is 10-20 minutes long.

Do The Right Things Before Your Workout

Avoid eating heavily, skipping static stretching, drinking alcohol, and taking too much caffeine before your workout because they can plateau or spiral down your progress.

Alternatively, there are certain things you can do before you hit the gym, like taking the right pre-workout supplement:

We've tested these supplements for over a year, and they tick all the right boxes, from boosting energy, improving performance, and burning more fat to speeding post-workout recovery.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29422383/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18027995/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4551211/
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/stitch-when-running
  5. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5257219/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4027093/
  8. https://journals.lww.com/cjsportsmed/Fulltext/2015/07000/Preventing_Deaths_Due_to_Exercise_Associated.1.aspx
  9. https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-is-too-much-water-intakehttps://www.urmc.rochester.edu/childrens-hospital/allergy/exercise-induced-anaphylaxis-eia.aspx
  10. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/opioids-and-exercise/art-20396866 
  11. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Abstract/2019/03000/Caffeine_Augments_the_Prothrombotic_but_Not_the.5.aspx 
  12. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/opioids-and-exercise/
  13. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20121205/painkillers-before-exercise-gut&ved=
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35320774/
  15. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnetp.2021.794392/

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