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The Lunch Hour Workout

No time to work out? Try a lunchtime fitness break.

Intensity Is Key continued...

Some gyms offer noontime classes that are ideal for a lunch break. Or you could log 20-30 minutes on your favorite cardio machine, perhaps using an interval program for a higher-intensity workout. Weight lifters might work a different body part at each lunchtime session, or alternate strength-training days with cardio days.

Circuit training -- short bursts of resistance exercise using moderate weights and frequent repetitions, followed quickly by another burst of exercise targeting a different muscle group -- can give you a full-body workout in a hurry. (The popular Curves gyms use this approach). Or you could partner with a co-worker for a jog or power walk at a park near your workplace.

Fueling Up

While a lunch-hour workout is great, experts say don't forsake some face time with food in order to fit one in: "You body needs to be refueled and it's essential you do eat, so don't skip lunch in favor of exercise,"' says Valency.

You can do both if you follow a few simple rules. First, all our experts agreed that you should eat after, not before, your workout.

Also important: Go for a light, lower-fat lunch, which is easier to digest after activity. Croze also suggests brown-bagging your lunch on days you have a workout scheduled, to cut down on travel time to and from a restaurant.

On workout days, Valency says, it's also important to have a healthy breakfast, followed by a high-protein snack (like some cottage cheese and a few crackers) about three hours into your day. Then, right before your lunchtime workout, he recommends a "shooter" of whey protein powder in a drink or energy bar to help you push your muscles to the max.

"After your workout, you can also have a quick, high-carb snack -- even a small candy bar -- but you should also have a light lunch within no more than 45 minutes after working out," says Valency.

Back to Work

One reason high-intensity, short-burst workouts are effective is that you're pushing your muscles to the point of temporary fatigue.

"It's all about progressive overload -- stepping up the intensity while cutting down the time, so your muscles are pushed to the point where you feel you have to stop," says Tyne.

That doesn't mean you'll be heading back to work sore, tired, and achy, experts say. The key is to start slowly and build intensity gradually.

"The [muscle] recovery period is different for every person and fitness level at the start," says Tyne. "So if you haven't been exercising, you'll want to start by doing some light activity and working up to the point where you're pushing your muscles to fatigue."

And not only should your workout session not leave you drained, it should help energize you for the rest of the workday.

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