Training may take 3-4 hours out of your week to do, that leaves about 164 hours outside of the gym where you can take control and improve your results. What you do in that time will always outweigh whatever you do in the gym. No matter how much of an animal you may be in the gym.
Here are 12 ways to help you improve your fitness results, without adding more to your training.
Improve your food quality.
Nutrition is the driver of your fat loss results and it’s the fuel for your muscle building training. It’s also a major player in your recovery for both. By improving the quality of the food you eat, you get a better range of vitamins and minerals, more protein and better ratios of fat and carbs than you would with more processed options.
Get more sleep.
Think about the last time you didn’t get enough sleep. If you are anything like me, you probably reached for the coffee and carbs and ground out the day feeling crappy and lacking your usual go get em attitude.
Sleep is your body and brains way of repairing and restoring itself after your day. It removes stressors and prepares you for the next day. Getting less sleep increases stress, decreases performance and adds stress into an already stressed system.
Aim for 7-8 hours per night. Yes, you can do it because you don’t really need to stay up late watching the latest “must watch” TV show.
Increase your protein intake
Protein is the 1 macronutrient that you can not do without, yet it is the one that is chronically under eaten by most people. And I get it, fat and carbs are tasty, easy to get and cheap. But by overeating either of those 2, usually carbs, (but with the popularity of keto based diets, fat too), you can induce insulin insensitivity when you consume too many overall calories, combined with reduced physical activity. Basically limiting your cells ability to use glucose as fuel leading to more being stored as fat.
Increasing your intake of protein has been shown over and over to improve body composition results, improve recovery and satiety. Tied in with point 1, this last point means you eat less overall calories as you likely will snack less, and you eat more veggies and fruit, which are nutrient dense and lower in calories than their processed alternatives.
This isn’t only a great way to get some active recovery in, but you’ll get a bit of extra calorie burn too. Other benefits include a range of health improvements from decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes to improve cholesterol levels.
It also increases blood flow to help ease aching muscles and is great for helping with tight and sore backs.
Water. Drink more water. It’s what our bodies are designed to drink, all the juices and whatnot are just a tastier version, usually packed with sugar or artificial sweeteners. The bulk of your liquid intake should be made up of water, but I don’t actually have any issue with most sugar-free alternatives if they help you get more liquid in.
Wait. Didn’t I just recommend drinking more? Yes, I did, but now I’m talking about alcohol. Now, like most folks, I enjoy a good beer now and again. But if you are having a glass or 2 every night you might want to think about reducing your intake. The extra calories and reduced sleep quality both take away from your ability to recover and improve your body composition.
We are constantly bombarded with notifications, news, email and more from a myriad of electronic devices. Each little ping or beep can add to your stress levels and impair your recovery and ability to relax. One of the best things I have done for my increase in sleep quality is to block certain apps from my phone in the evenings and I don’t have my work email on my phone.
In addition, switching of the TV and putting down your phones/ tablets during meals not only helps you enjoy your food more, but you actually eat less. Switching off allows you to listen to the cues your body is sending out to say it’s had enough food and you naturally limit your food intake accordingly.
Improved mood, increased creativity, more energy and some fresh air are all benefits of getting outside more. All of these and the many other benefits of the outdoors help to reduce stress and promote recovery. It may be 15-30 minutes walking at lunch, walking part of your daily commute or getting out for a walk after dinner each evening, but make getting outside part of your day.
Improving or maintaining your mobility is more and more important as we age. It really is a case of use it or lose it. Mobility is the ability to take a joint through a range of movement. Day to day living tends to put a lot of us into static positions for large parts of the day. We are supposed to be upright and moving freely. Yet our jobs and lifestyles tend to put us into a seated position for 12+ hours a day. So it becomes inevitable that our hips, shoulders and upper backs all lose their natural ability to move the way they are supposed to.
Here are 3 simple movements you can do daily to get your movement back.
Think about your pre and post workout nutrition
Giving your body the right nutrients on either side of your training session gives you a head start on the recovery process. Making sure you get a little protein and carbs on either side of your workout gives you the fuel to perform well and the nutrients to start recovery. The window to do this is bigger than you may think, 1-2 hours each side of training is enough time to do it. No more need to chug a protein shake the minute your session finishes!
Foam rolling is a simple and effective tool to aid recovery. It is basically a form of self-massage and you can do it in a pretty short amount of time. 3 tips to help you out.
- Go slow
- Keep the pressure to 6/10
- If you just feel pressure, move on to the next area.
Supplements are there to top up what you already get from your diet and a lot are pretty much a waste of time with little research to back up their claims. However, there are a that are worth considering.
Omega 3 fish oil. This helps improve brain function, cardiovascular health and may help reduce post-exercise muscle pain. You don’t need as much if you get fish in your diet 2-3 times per week, but it’s useful to take.
Vitamin D. Linked to improved health markers, decreased mortality, improved mood and a lot more to boot. Normally we synthesise Vit D from exposure to strong sunlight, but if like me, you live in Scotland where strong sunlight is a rarity for 95% of the year, a supplement is a must.
Whey protein. This is an easy way for you to make sure you get enough protein in their diet. Easy to mix into a smoothie or with some Greek yoghurt, you can get an extra 20-50g of protein in on top of your other meals.
Try this smoothie option:
1 handful of spinach
1/2 cupped handful of berries
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
1 cup of milk
Blend up and split between before and after training or as a breakfast shake.