Sweat smarter not harder: 5 easy ways to get more out of your workout

While there has been a lot of discussion around different types of exercise (see here for Denizen’s definitive guide to the best fitness trainers in Auckland), there has been less around what we should be doing maximise the effects of our chosen workout. From the benefits of coffee to the importance of active warm-ups, here we round up five easy-to-implement tips that will boost your daily workout and result in meaningful, longer-lasting results.

Drink your coffee

We all know that caffeine delivers energy, but the boost it gives to athletes across virtually any sport (from weightlifting to marathon running) is significant and scientifically proven. As the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world, caffeine is the most studied, too. Consequently, we know that it tends to improve athletic performance by an average of 2 to 5 percent (although exactly how much benefit one gets from it depends on genetics and other environmental factors). So, how does this work? For starters, caffeine binds to the receptors in our nervous systems responsible for making us feel drowsy, and stops that from happening. It also helps our muscles operate with more force by allowing them to contract at a faster rate. So the next time you’re feeling unmotivated to pound the pavement, perhaps start with a freshly-brewed cup of your favourite coffee… it might make all the difference.

Do a dynamic warm-up

Instead of starting your gym session or run with that classic stretch sequence we were taught in primary school PE, warm up your muscles with a series of dynamic, mobility-focused exercises to boost your daily workout instead. This means replacing the bend-and-hold style warm-up with light movements like squats, leg extensions or other exercises that will mimic the more intense ones you are about to perform. Blood flow will be better, muscles will respond faster to your workout and recovery will be more straightforward. Runners, for instance, should do 10 minutes of lunges, leg swings, knee raises and squats before starting out.

Add MCT oil to your pre- or post-workout meal

MCT or medium-chain tryglicerate oil has become a popular superfood among athletes for a raft of supposed benefits around weight loss, energy, gut health and more. It is made of medium-length chains of fats called triglycerides which are easier for the body to absorb and contain about 10 percent less fat than long-chain tryglicerates (found in other nut and seed oils). Not only has MCT oil been shown to increase the release of two hormones that promote the feeling of fullness (peptide YY and leptin) but the way it is broken down by our bodies means that it enters our cells without being broken down, making it an immediate source of energy (both for your body and for your brain). In addition, taking MCT oil before a workout may help your body use fat rather than carbs for energy, and it can also help to reduce lactic buildup.

Eat protein before bed

While protein has long been touted as the fitness fanatic’s best friend for its ability to support muscle repair and growth, research has shown that eating some protein (yoghurt or cottage cheese, for instance) just before bed actually keeps this process ticking along overnight. Work smarter, not harder we say.

Get a massage on your day off

Beyond soothing aching muscles, treating yourself to a massage on your rest day is crucial to getting the best results from all the effort you’ve put in. Studies show that having a post-workout massage can actually influence genes in your muscles to decrease inflammation and increase mitochondria (which support recovery). In order to get fitter, rest days are just as crucial as workouts (where one without the other will be totally ineffective), so why not optimise them too?


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