Exercise can do great things for your body. And sure, you could hit the treadmill for 30 minutes, lift some weights, and call it a day. But that’s probably not going to give you the results you want. Whatever you want out of your sweat session – to lose fat, grow your muscles, or perhaps improve your cardio fitness – there’s so much that you can do to truly reap the benefits of the time you spend working out. From eating appropriately to training smart, incorporating high-tech technology, and using the right gear, here are several ways you can boost your workout and hit your goals that much faster. Happy gymming!
EAT SOME CARBS (AND DITCH THE FATS)
We’re not saying you need to give up your beloved fasted cardio – that has proven benefits of its own. But if you’re really looking to maximize the benefits of your sweat session, it might be worth eating a little meal beforehand. Research has shown that consuming some slow-digesting carbs – think wholegrain bread, oatmeal, and fruit – can boost your endurance and help you burn more fat while you exercise. But, you’ll want to skip a high-fat meal. This can lessen the blood flow to your muscles by blocking the ability of nitric oxide to dilate blood vessels.
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GET SOME COMPRESSION GEAR
Compression gear has become de rigueur among gym lovers, and for good reason. These garments offer serious benefits. They can support and stabilize your muscles, as well as improve your performance as your train, boost your blood circulation and increase oxygenation to reduce muscle fatigue during recovery, and even improve your endurance, power, and jumping ability. With all these positive attributes, you’d be doing yourself a disservice to work out without compression gear!
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MASSAGE YOUR MUSCLES FOR OPTIMUM RECOVERY
What do all superstar athletes have in common? For one, they all include massages as part of their recovery training. These days, though, many are taking it one step further with percussive therapy devices, like the Theragun by Therabody. Created by Dr. Jason Wersland while recovering from a traumatic motorbike accident, the Theragun line offers four generations of percussive therapy devices that deliver deep, effective “massages” to offer serious therapeutic effects, including decreased muscle soreness, increased blood flow and range of motion, and improved recovery and sleep. The Theragun devices can be used pre-workout to warm up muscles and increase flexibility for maximum performance; post-gym, you can use them to soothe sore areas and assist with muscle recovery. Therabody also offers other technologically-driven devices to help recovery, including the Wave Series of vibration therapy roller devices the Power Dot neuromuscular electrical stimulator, and the Recovery Air pneumatic compression boots.
Cryotherapy refers to the use of freezing or near-freezing temperatures as a medical treatment. You’ve probably seen athletes take ice baths after a game, though the modern version involves stepping into a chamber for just a few minutes to achieve the same effect. Cryotherapy is normally used after exercise to accelerate the recovery process because it can soothe muscles and decrease inflammation while breaking down the accumulated lactic acid. However, cryotherapy may be less effective if you’re trying to increase your muscle mass because it disrupts the metabolic process required to grow muscles.
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TAKE A SUPPLEMENT
Many gym junkies swear by supplements, but you’ll want to make sure you’re taking the right kind. Experts suggest whey protein and creatine can be very useful for increasing strength and muscle mass while decreasing body fat. Some also suggest taking 3-5g of arginine half an hour before your workout to increase your strength and endurance at the gym. It is also recommended to take vitamins such as magnesium, iron and vitamin E to help your body recover and build strength in a healthier way.
DRINK SOME COFFEE
You already know coffee can give you a quick energy hit and help you focus, but did you know it can help get you through a tough day at the gym? Research has shown that consuming caffeine before you hit the gym increases your endurance and fat-burning capacity while dulling muscle pain. Translation: you can push through a few more reps. Try taking 200-400mg of caffeine an hour before you exercise – a supplement may work better than a cup of joe.
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To get the most out of your sweat session, make sure to train smarter, not just harder. Popular advice says to train to failure on every set. But, it’s been suggested that training to failure for one set and keeping the rest within your limits can actually boost your strength gains. If you’re looking to make some serious gains, though, ask for an assist. Studies have shown that doing forced reps in your last set (i.e. with a spotter) can get your growth hormone levels sky-high. Another tip? Save the cardio for the end of your gym session. Lifting weights first – or saving cardio for another day – can significantly increase your GH response, which is exactly what you want if you’re trying to gain muscle.
BE SURE TO REFUEL
While you’re working out, you’re depleting all the glycogen in your body – that’s your body’s favorite fuel source, after all. That’s why it’s important to rebuild your glycogen stores soon after you exercise. By consuming a nutrient-packed meal after a workout, you stop the breakdown of muscle proteins while increasing muscle synthesis and enhancing your recovery. That’s why all experts recommend eating some carbs and protein within 45 minutes of leaving the gym. Aim for 20-40g of protein to the amino acids you need to repair your muscles, as well as 1.1-1.5g/kg of body weight of carbs to rebuild your glycogen stores.