Sweat The Small Stuff: 6 Must-have Fabrics For Working Out

Millions of Americans resolve to hit the gym this time of year, but many don’t realize that the clothes you wear while working out have a big effect on your exercise. Some shirts leave you feeling cold, sweaty, gross, while others keep you warm and dry, and ready to hit a new PR. The difference: the right fabric. Whether you’re new to working out a gym vet, don’t start sweating without taking a look at these six fabrics:


1. Nylon

Nylon is a synthetic fabric (human-made) that was developed as a silk substitute during World War II. Its popularity exploded because of its durability, elasticity, and low cost. Nylon is also moisture wicking and extremely flexible, so no matter which way you move, nylon clothing will move with you. Nylon will also keep you fairly dry, as moisture can evaporate away from the top moisture-wicking layers. Shop Nylon >


2. Spandex/Lycra

You’ve probably heard of Spandex because it’s almost synonymous with working out. However, you probably haven’t heard it being referred to by its European name, Lycra. Spandex, a play on the word ‘expand’, can stretch to over 600 times its original size. Spandex is also moisture wicking and dries quickly, making it ideal for keeping cool on your way home from the gym. Shop Spandex >


3. Polyester

Polyester was developed alongside nylon to be an inexpensive substitute for silk. Polyester is made from plastic and has similar properties to nylon. It’s durable, elastic, wrinkle-resistant, lightweight, and breathable. Its main difference from nylon is that it’s non-absorbent, meaning moisture evaporates from your skin instead of from the fabric. Because of its insulating properties, polyester is used in hot-weather and cold-weather sportswear. Its one downside is that it is the stinkiest of all the workout fabrics, as polyester’s insulating properties foster the growth of odor-causing bacteria. Shop Polyester >


4. Bamboo

Surprised? Bamboo is easily one of the best fabrics for workout wear that you can buy. It’s moisture-wicking, lightweight, and a natural fiber. As an added bonus, it protects your skin from UV rays (bamboo is UPF 50!), so it’s great for being outside in the summer. Most bamboo clothing you’ll find will be a bamboo/cotton/wool blend. You may have to search a bit harder and pay a bit more for bamboo workout gear, but once you try it, you won’t want to wear anything else! Shop Bamboo >


5. Wool

Any outdoor enthusiast knows wool is a must have on any camping trip. It’s moisture wicking and insulates incredibly well, keeping you warm in cool weather, and relatively cool as long as it’s not scorching outside. You’re probably most used to seeing wool in performance hiking socks, but more companies are starting to blend wool with other workout materials like polyester and spandex to create soft, breathable blends for fitness. Shop Wool >


6. Cotton

Many gym-buffs will go back and forth on cotton. You’re probably familiar with its downsides: it collects sweat, it stinks, it’s cold, and it wears down easily. Still, for low-sweat workouts, cotton blends can still be a good option. And in the end, it’s all about your preference and what makes you feel good. Shop Cotton >

Tom Fell

Tom Fell is a copywriter for Swap.com. His name is a sentence and he likes wearing tropical shirts year-round.

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