If your workout mantra is ‘go hard or go home’, it might need a little finessing. Sure, putting in the effort at the gym is crucial, but not all gains are made at the squat rack. Check out these smart ways to maximise your next training session – no extra sets required.
1\ Eat a snack
If you’re a morning person or tend to squeeze the gym into a busy day, it’s easy to bypass the pre-workout bite. But, trust us on this: your body will perform better if you top up the tank. Its preferred fuel? Simple carbs. Try eating a banana, a couple of medjool dates or a slice of white bread with honey 60-30 minutes before you head to a tough session, like speed work, HIIT or heavy weights. These quick-releasing carbs will not only fuel your muscles so you can push harder, they’ll fuel your brain for better focus, too.
2\ Hydrate all day
Heard the one about how humans are 70% water? Turns out it’s actually closer to 60%, but regardless of the figure, dehydration is no joke. Studies show that being dehydrated by as little as 2% of body weight is enough to measurably impact physical performance. Don’t just plan to top up during training – get ahead of the game by sipping on water all day. The recommended intake for men is 2.6 litres per day.
3\ Dress for success
What you wear to work out counts. Stay with us here: this isn’t just about pleasing the fashion police. Scientists have found that what you wear can affect your performance if you attribute meaning to it – when study participants wore a white coat, for example, they performed better in mental tests when they were told it was a doctor’s coat rather than an artist’s smock. It’s a phenomenon known as ‘enclothed cognition’, and if you want to make it work for you, choose kit that makes you feel like an athlete, or, even better, is worn by an athlete you admire.
4\ Warm it up
Still holding static stretches before you start the real workout? Get moving with a dynamic warm-up instead. These active stretches, like leg swings, arm circles, hip rotations, lunges and skipping, will improve your range of motion in the workout to come, allowing you to reap the full benefit of every exercise right from the get-go. Need to save time? Try a short, light jog on your way to the gym, and do some discreet leg swings or squats at the traffic lights.
5\ Supp up
What you consume after a workout is just as important as the pre-training feed. Necking some quality protein, whether in the form of a shake or a meal, is a no-brainer post-exercise, but how much protein you need might depend on the way you worked out. Research suggests a dose of 20g is plenty after focused resistance sessions, like leg day. For a full-body resistance workout, however, you can up your intake to 40g for maximum growth.
It’s not all about your muscles, though – stiff joints or an injury can seriously hamper your gains by keeping you out of the gym altogether. A supplement with collagen can help to keep joints strong and healthy. Naturopathica Collagenix Joints is clinically proven to rebuild joint cartilage, reduce joint pain and improve mobility, with chewable tablets in a zingy citrus flavour.
6\ Take a break
If your goal is to become an Aquaman lookalike, you probably have a pretty intense gym schedule. But, if you don’t factor in some downtime between sessions, it’ll take far longer to chisel those epic abs. Your body needs rest to repair the damage done to your muscles at every punishing workout, and giving it regular breaks will help you bounce back stronger than ever. Plus, pushing too hard for too long is an excellent way to increase your risk of injury. Aim for at least one rest day a week, try to alternate sessions so you’re not overworking one muscle group, and prioritise your shut-eye on a nightly basis – those eight hours are crucial for optimising the hormones you need for building muscle, as well as topping up your energy levels.
7\ Foam rolling
Forget the ice baths (research shows they actually stunt muscle growth) – if you want to recover quicker after your workout, grab a foam roller. Like your very own masseuse, this simple tool helps to relieve tightness, reduce inflammation (think: less DOMS) and improve blood flow, which flushes out waste products. The bottom line? Spending quality time with this tool a few evenings a week will speed up your recovery – and your gains.
8\ Pump the tunes…
The slow jams, that is. Music is a proven performance enhancer during a workout, but research shows it can also speed recovery after training. The UK study showed that listening to sedate tunes for 20-30 minutes after an intense session reduced cortisol levels more quickly than listening to up-tempo music or none at all. That’s important, because lowering this stress hormone allows your body to move more quickly into the recovery zone. The magic number? Start with mellow, mid-tempo songs at around 115 beats per minute and wind down from there.