The Best Fabric for Workout Clothes
Sports science and workout technology have come a long way in the past few decades.
Not too long ago, people wore whatever was popular for their workouts without a second thought. Today, tons of research and innovative technologies can bring maximum efficiency to anyone who wants to take their performance to the next level.
Many of these innovations revolve around the fabrics we use for our workout clothes like leggings, sports bras, tank tops, and other sportswear. However, not all activewear fabrics are created equal!
Today, our Tasc Performance guide breaks down what factors are the most essential for workout clothes and what materials can help you perform your best.
Let’s get right into it!
What Makes the Type of Workout Fabric?
All clothes should have some performance features, especially workout clothes.
With intense activities being athletic apparel’s main arena, they need qualities that can keep up with you instead of holding you back — and it all starts with the material.
Activewear materials for cardio and strength training cover a broad spectrum, but the most common that you can find today are synthetic fabrics. These fabrics are touted as being ultra-convenient and performance-ready. Although they do have some moderate performance capabilities, they never truly hit the heights that natural materials like bamboo do in terms of function or comfort.
Let’s break down the qualities that workout clothes’ materials need in more detail.
Moisture-Wicking and Absorbent
Perhaps the most important factor for workout clothes is moisture-wicking technology. Being something of a hot topic in activewear social circles, you’ve probably seen moisture-wicking listed in clothing descriptions, but you may not know exactly what it means.
Moisture-wicking is the process by which a fabric draws moisture (typically sweat) from your skin and then releases the moisture of vapor. This occurs thanks to capillary action, something we also see in tree roots and even our skin. Tubes in tiny gaps of the fabric allow moisture to be pulled through the fabric and to the surface, where it evaporates.
Don’t get moisture-wicking confused with moisture-absorbing or quick-drying capabilities.
Cotton is great at absorbing moisture, but it takes a long time to dry, rather like a sponge. This is why traditional cotton is rarely used for workouts outside of fabric blends. Likewise, some synthetic fabrics can release moisture quickly but aren’t particularly good at absorbing it.
For high-performance workout clothes, ensure the material you choose can both absorb and dry with the greatest efficiency.
It’s no secret that people sweat when they work out. Unfortunately, sweat tends to result in body odor. This is due to the combination of sweat and bacteria building up on your skin.
Moisture-wicking materials help mitigate this issue by keeping your skin dry, but some moisture-wicking materials (namely synthetic fabrics) have a tendency to trap the odors they absorb. These odors can remain even after multiple washes, building up over time until your clothes perpetually stink.
Thankfully, alternative natural fabrics, such as bamboo, have naturally odor-resistant and sweat-wicking properties, so they don’t build up stench over time. Not only does this keep your clothes fresh, but it also helps them last longer. That means less waste and less spending money on new clothes!
Sustainability is an area where most common workout clothes are lacking, especially those made with synthetic materials. Many brand-name gym wear pieces aren’t made with natural fibers, which often means cheap, man-made materials were used instead.
Many synthetic fabrics are made from petroleum, coal, or other fossil fuels. Not only are these styles drawing on non-renewable resources, but they’re also contributing to carbon emissions (a big problem for most of the fashion industry).
What’s more, microplastics on these fabrics come off during wearing and washing. These harmful particles end up in the ocean or elsewhere, polluting the environment.
Chemical treatments that almost all synthetic fabrics undergo are another huge problem in terms of sustainability. These chemicals don’t just harm nature, they can also harm your skin.
While optimizing our personal health and fitness is a core goal of working out, it’s all for nothing if we sacrifice our planet’s health to do so. Choosing sustainable workout clothes is one way we can contribute to a better future, one step at a time.
Whether you’re doing low-intensity yoga or high-intensity interval training, your body needs room to move. This range of motion can be impeded by non-flexible fabrics, which makes your workout less comfortable and efficient.
When you look for workout clothes, seek those that come with two or four-way stretch for the ideal range of movement. Synthetic fibers like spandex and elastane can help with this.
This way, you aren’t hindered when your next pose pushes you to your limit.
In tandem with moisture-wicking, breathability rounds off the best workout clothes. Your workout clothing should have the ability to keep you cool and dry. It all comes down to a biological process called thermoregulation. Sweat is actually our body’s primary means of thermoregulation, but there are other pieces to the puzzle as well.
With a breathable fabric, air flows through micro gaps in the material, which prevents your body heat from building up too much and causing you to overheat. This airflow also helps sweat dry from your skin and clothes more quickly.
We really can’t emphasize enough how important it is to find moisture-wicking gym clothes that bring the complete package when it comes to absorbing moisture and drying quickly. If you’re only getting one-half of the deal, your workouts will almost certainly suffer for it.
If you’ve ever tried to go for a run or play a sport while wearing a pure cotton shirt, you should know exactly what we’re talking about. When your shirt becomes full of sweat, it feels more like a soaked towel. This is especially true in the summer months, but it applies to cold weather workouts, too.
Wet clothes are significantly heavier than dry clothes, but they’re also just plain uncomfortable, as they stick to your skin and compound the problem, causing you to overheat and sweat more. Choosing the right fabric — one that wicks moisture and dries quickly — will help you avoid discomfort.
Quick-drying capabilities are absolutely essential if you’re looking for a more comfortable and efficient workout, whether you’re weightlifting in your workout gear or wearing yoga pants while doing pilates.
Though softness isn’t the first thing most people think about when it comes to workout clothes, it can be surprisingly impactful!
With all the discomforts an intense workout can bring, having uncomfortable clothes can be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Whether your clothes are causing annoying chafing during a run or just breaking your focus due to general discomfort, these impediments can be avoided by choosing material that’s soft and comfortable.
Synthetic fabrics are notorious for feeling rough and grating, especially the more you wear them. Bamboo fabric shines in this category once again with an all-natural soft feel that many people compare to a mix of silk and high-quality cotton.
Easy To Clean
Laundry day certainly isn’t the first thing we think about when we’re going into a workout, but clothes that are easy to clean are always appreciated when that day rolls around.
Synthetic fabrics and traditional cotton trap sweat and odors, making them an unpleasant challenge at best on laundry day. Plus, with lasting odors, multiple washes likely won’t leave those clothes truly fresh. They might even build up mildew and end up ruined.
Bamboo is antimicrobial, stays dry, and resists odor, so you won’t have to worry about extra wash cycles or stench buildup.
What Makes Bamboo and Cotton the Best Fabrics for Workout Clothes?
We’ve mentioned bamboo a lot, but not without good reason. Bamboo is one of the most powerful materials for fabric in the world, with superior breathability, excellent moisture-wicking, odor-resistance, wrinkle-resistance, hypoallergenic properties, and a soft touch.
Here at Tasc Performance, we blend bamboo with organic cotton, a highly sustainable, higher-quality alternative to traditional cotton. The result is an incredibly comfortable, versatile workout material.
Give some of our workout styles like our Carrollton Fitness T-Shirt and Recess Fitness T-Shirt a try and we’re willing to bet you’ll find your new favorite styles, plus some inspiration for a few more outfits. Thanks to their versatile design, these styles are just as suitable for commuting or a cozy evening indoors as they are for high-intensity workouts!
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re looking to make your exercise sessions more efficient or comfortable, or just looking to make more environmentally friendly clothing choices, our Tasc Performance signature bamboo-organic cotton collections have something for you.
For all things activewear and active lifestyle, right here at our Tasc Performance blog is the place to be!
Capillary Action and Water | U.S. Geological Survey
Fossil fuels and climate change: the facts | ClientEarth
Microplastics | National Ocean Service
Toxicity of Synthetic Fibres & Health | Austin Publishing Group
Thermoregulation: Types, How It Works, and Disorders | Medical News Today