Looking for new workout shirts, yoga pants, or other activewear? As you sift through the options, you have two main choices. The first option is to just grab a cheap t-shirt and a pair of shorts. A lot of people think a basic t-shirt and shorts are the best option, but if you want the most comfortable working out experience, you should buy fitness apparel. Here’s a look at the science behind activewear.
How Workout Shirts Can Help with Your Exercise Routine
In this article:
- What Are the Benefits of Fitness Apparel?
- What Are the Best Fabrics for Workout Clothes?
- Workout Shirts Fabric You Can Try
- Which Synthetic Materials Are Best for Your Workout Wardrobe?
- How Do You Clean Activewear?
- Are Fabrics the Only Element to Consider?
- Is Expensive Activewear Worth the Cost?
- How Do You Find the Best Workout Clothes?
What Are the Benefits of Fitness Apparel?
Fitness apparel, such as workout shirts, is designed to keep you cool and dry during your workouts. Often made with technical fabrics, this apparel is designed to wick moisture away from your skin. Here’s how it works. As you sweat, the fabric absorbs the sweat. Then, the material moves the moisture away from your skin and towards the outside of the fabric. At that point, the moisture quickly evaporates into the air.
This process helps to reduce chafing, which happens when your skin rubs against wet sweaty clothing. It also prevents your workout shirts or shorts from getting wet and heavy. At the same time, these special fabrics are breathable so you stay cool while you exercise. Sometimes, they’re even waterproof so you don’t get too wet if you workout outside in the rain. However, there are a variety of fabrics for workout shirts, and they all have slightly different features.
What Are the Best Fabrics for Workout Clothes?
The best fabrics for fitness apparel vary based on the type of clothing and your personal preferences. For instance, if you’re buying sports bras, you need a fabric that is wickable and comfortable, but it also needs to be supportive and retain its shape really well. In contrast, with basic workout tops, you may also want wickability and comfort, but you may not be as concerned about how well it retains its shape.
Workout Shirts Fabric You Can Try
To help you decide, here’s a look at the some of the most popular fabrics for workout clothes:
- Cotton — A lot of people are drawn to cotton simply because it’s a natural and widely used fabric. However, for workout clothes, it’s not ideal. Cotton is hydrophilic, meaning it is very attracted to water. In fact, it can absorb 25 times its weight in moisture. That can get heavy when you’re working out. Additionally, it can lead to chafing and blisters in warm weather and hypothermia in cold wet weather. Worst case scenario, cotton workout clothing can be deadly.
- Bamboo — If you want natural fibers, consider skipping the cotton and looking at bamboo or merino wool. It can be pulped and processed into a variety of fabrics. Bamboo fabrics include bamboo linen and rayon made from the cellulose of bamboo stalks. For workout clothes, the best bamboo fabrics are jersey or knit fabrics. They are soft, antimicrobial, wickable, and durable. In addition, many people consider bamboo to be more environmentally friendly than some synthetics.
- Merino Wool — Another natural option, merino wool is also wickable. Although it can be warm in cold temps, it’s also cool and breathable in warm temps. Merino wool is soft to touch and doesn’t have the scratchy feel that may pop to mind when you think about traditional wools. When mixed with a bit of synthetic material such as spandex, it also tends to hold its shape very well.
- Synthetic Materials — The majority of synthetic fabrics used in activewear are polyesters. Sometimes called technical fabrics, polyester has come a long way over the last 40 years, and these materials aren’t anything close to the polyester wear popular in the 1970s. Modern polyester workout fabrics are breathable as well as waterproof. That means they wick sweat away from your skin while also stopping rain from getting onto your skin. Synthetic materials can include everything from smooth jerseys to mesh fabrics to rib knits and more.
Which Synthetic Materials Are Best for Your Workout Wardrobe?
When you’re creating a workout wardrobe, synthetic fibers give you the most options, and the majority of high quality workout wear tends to consist of synthetic fabrics. However, these fabrics don’t all perform the same. Check out this overview of some of the top synthetic workout fabrics:
- Supplex — Trademarked by Invista, Supplex is a breathable, fast-drying thinly woven stretchable jersey that holds its colors well so you don’t have to worry too much about fading.
- Tactel — Also trademarked by Invista, Tactel is strong, soft, and lightweight. It’s a stretchy jersey fabric that dries a lot faster than cotton, and its great for undergarments.
- Dri-Fit — A trademarked microfiber fabric from Nike, Dri-Fit is a wicking fabric, and the moisture on it evaporates quickly. It has just a little bit of stretch and when you look at it closely, you can see very small regular holes in it.
- Meryl — Made by Nylstar, Meryl is a nylon microfiber that stretches well but also bounces back to its regular shape. It boasts wickability as well as odor control, and it can be mesh, coated woven material, or soft stretch jersey.
When searching for workout shirts online, you can search for any of these fabrics by name. If shopping in a brick-and-mortar shop, just check the tags.
How Do You Clean Activewear?
After investing a lot of money in activewear, some people get frustrated because their clothing starts to smell. Luckily, you can avoid that with the right cleaning routine.
Although wickability is ideal in the gym or on the sports field, it’s not that convenient in the washing machine. Because these fabrics aren’t designed to absorb water, they sometimes resist absorbing water while in the washing machine. As a result, you may struggle to get out some stains.
To get your workout wear as clean as possible, consider soaking it in vinegar before washing it. Alternatively, try a special antimicrobial detergent — those cleaners are specially designed to target body oils and sweat. When you’re ready to wash your workout clothes, put them inside out and wash on cold. Don’t use fabric softener. That can degrade special coatings on the activewear, and it can also prevent the detergent from penetrating your stains adequately. Finally, either hang dry activewear or tumble dry on low heat.
Are Fabrics the Only Element to Consider?
When investing in workout wear, you shouldn’t just look at the fabrics. You should also look for additional features that can improve your workout experience. For instance, basic workout shorts can work fine for a short bicycle ride, but to stay comfortable during long rides, you may want to invest in cycling shorts that have built-in padding to cushion your bum for long rides.
Similarly, if you’re buying clothes to go running at night, you may want to look for built-in reflective elements so that drivers can see you. You can also buy reflective tape and add it to your clothing. On top of that, you may want to consider how the clothing makes you feel on an emotional level.
Is Expensive Activewear Worth the Cost?
On a physical level, the cost of the activewear doesn’t reflect on its performance. If you can find two workout shirts made of the same technical fabric and you like the fit on both of them, you may want to buy the cheaper one. Some people even buy fabrics so they can sew their own discount workout wear.
However, there are studies that indicate that the clothing you wear can have a direct impact on how you feel. People undergo mental changes when they wear certain clothing. For instance, they perform better on attention-related tasks when wearing lab coats or other special outfits than they do wearing street clothes.
In that same vein, many people are more inclined to want to workout if they have special clothes for the occasion. For some people that means wearing expensive Lululemon clothing or Nike activewear. For others, it simply means wearing workout wear that makes them look and feel great, regardless of the price tag. If you’re trying to inspire yourself to workout more, you may want to treat yourself to some workout clothes.
How Do You Find the Best Workout Clothes?
To find the best workout clothes, keep the tips above in mind, but also remember that everyone is unique. The right option for your best friend may not be the best option for you. Don’t be afraid to try a few different options. If you try workout shirts in one fabric but they don’t feel right, try another fabric. To get a feel of different fabrics, you may even want to order a few swatches so you can feel the fabric against your skin before you order a full workout wardrobe.
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Do you have certain workout shirts that you feel comfortable exercising in? Share your experience in the comments section below!