9 Ways to Make Your Workouts More Effective

By Tina Paymaster, PHASE IV Functional Nutrition & Health Specialist & Shelby Stoner, PHASE IV Exercise Physiologist

You’ve been sticking to your new year’s goals, making it to the gym 5 days a week and eating clean. Perhaps you lost some weight, improved your muscle tone and felt more energetic the first few weeks, but now things have started to slow down.

Whether you’ve hit that dreaded plateau or feel like you’re doing all the right things and not seeing any results, here are 9 ways you can make your workouts more effective so all that time and energy doesn’t go unrewarded.

Run hungry

If you do your cardio first thing in the morning it may be a good idea to not each anything prior to your workout. As you are already in a fasted state, your body will be forced to tap into fat stores for energy instead of burning through carbohydrates from food you eat.

Fuel appropriately

If you will be doing a cardio session longer than an hour or are lifting weights, eating prior to exercising will be helpful in supplying you the necessary energy to make it through the workout. You want to eat easily digestible foods that are low in fat and sugar, moderate in protein and higher in carbohydrates. A bowl of oatmeal, Greek yogurt with berries, an egg and toast or a smoothie made with unsweetened almond milk, berries and a little protein powder would all be great choices. Just see what works best for you and your digestion.

Refuel quickly

One of the biggest mistakes you can make after a workout is not refueling with proper nutrition. Why is this so important? Eating after a workout helps to replenish glycogen to your muscles, prevent protein breakdown and support protein synthesis, which improves your ability to build muscle. For post-cardio, eat a small meal that has a 3:1 carb-to-protein ratio. For post-strength training sessions you can eat closer to a 2:1 or 1:1 carb-to-protein ratio.

Load up on produce

While drinking tons of protein shakes and eating only chicken and egg whites may seem like a good plan to reach your fitness goals, you’ll end up doing more damage than good if you’re not getting the right variety of nutrients. Make sure to load up on plenty of fresh greens, vegetables and some fruit to provide your body with the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that will help to offset inflammation and oxidative stress that can result from exercise. This will help you recover faster and stay healthier in the long run.

Hydrate adequately

Drinking adequate amounts of water is necessary to transport nutrients to cells, support detoxification, digest food, regulate body temperature and prevent dehydration. When muscles burn through glycogen, they also release water to prevent dehydration, so it’s important to support your muscles by rehydrating. Signs of dehydration include infrequent urination, dark yellow urine, headaches, muscle cramps, constant thirst, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, fatigue, brain fog, mood swings and very dry skin. Because it can take up to 2 hours for water to be completely absorbed into the blood stream, it’s essential that you stay hydrated throughout the day. Aim for 80-100oz of water daily.

Follow the Hard / Easy principle

Bill Bowerman (former U.S. Olympic track coach and founder of NIKE) developed a training strategy for his distance running that became known as ‘ The principle of hard/soft’. The principle states that one or two days of hard training should be followed by one day of soft or easy training, which allows the body and mind to fully recover and prevent overtraining. The hard / easy principle is a crucial component of all periodized training programs. Periodization is the gradual cycling of specificity, intensity and volume of training in order to achieve peak levels of fitness.

Get adequate recovery

Monitoring rest is arguably the most important aspect of training and yet it is the most neglected. Exercise is a stress that is placed on the body; it increases our cortisol levels and shifts our metabolism into over-drive. What many people do not realize is that the benefits we are looking for occur AFTER the workout, not during. Proper recovery determines strength gains and weight loss, the physical adaptations we all seek. Not to mention, it prevents burnout and fitness plateaus. Make sure you are getting at least one FULL day recovery each week, with active recovery after hard workouts to help promote blood flow to the muscle and eliminate toxins.

Include cross-training

Add variety to your training. Cross-training is a great way to supplement exercise and helps prevent boredom and burnout. Rather than run or bike day in and day out, try and throw in activities like swimming, hiking, or hop on the elliptical for a change. Alternative forms of exercise provide definite benefits: improved fitness, injury prevention, and quicker recovery. Hint: the pool is a runner’s best friend. Pool workouts are a great form of cross training for runners as aqua jogging most closely mimics the running movement while providing valuable improvements in fitness. At PHASE IV’s sister company, Forster Physical Therapy, Water Power Performance is a great way to stay in tip-top shape while protecting joints and injured structures.  

Utilize Heart Rate Training

Did you know that your heart rate is a measure of exercise intensity? As the intensity of exercise increases, your heart rate increases in order to compensate for the energy and oxygen demands of the active musculature. In addition, our energy metabolism shifts from using fat as fuel to carbohydrates. From both weight loss and performance perspectives, we want to expand our fat-burning abilities to higher intensities and heart rates which leads to less fatigue and greater overall fitness. Here at PHASE IV, we utilize scientific VO2 testing to determine at exactly what heart rates you burn fat and develop personalized programs to help you achieve your goals in a safe and effective manner.

Schedule a VO2 test with us to make sure every workout is efficient! Call 310-582-8212 to book your session!

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