Simple mistakes may be holding you back. Elite Trainer George Toohey reveals the small tweaks for huge progress
The Mistake: Working out on an empty stomach
Fasted cardio is a trending topic. Some research reports a boost to metabolism if you train before breakfast, which promises an easier calorie burn – unfortunately things don’t always work out that way.
A study by the University of Baylor in Texas found that while low intensity exercise can force your body to tap into fat stores for energy – and therefore speeding up weight loss – not everyone working out at 6am is out for a jog. Most will get up and rush to the gym for a HIIT or Spin class or an hour of weights. However, a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that in these cases you need energy. Training fasted means that you can’t lift as heavy or sprint as fast. If you’re working out to build muscle or boost performance, and you only have an hour before work to exercise, it’s important to be training at your peak. No minor metabolic boost from skipping breakfast can outweigh the benefits of exercising at your full potential.
The Fix: Fast the right way. If your aim is to lose weight then by all means train for 90mins at a low intensity. However, if you are coming into the gym for a hardcore workout then make sure you eat a carby breakfast to stock your muscles with energy. This will boost performance and therefore muscle growth. Pancakes, anyone?
The Mistake: Forgetting to hydrate
You may have remembered to knock back an espresso, but the contribution that fluid levels make to athletic performance is too often underestimated. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, water is essential to regulate blood volume, body temperature and muscle contraction.
As a result of dehydration blood volume drops, which means there’s less oxygen able to be carried from your lungs to fuel your muscles, and by increasing the rate at which your muscles use up glycogen, dehydration makes you fatigue more quickly, too. If this sounds slightly extreme for simply forgetting to drink a glass of water, know that dehydration equivalent to just 2.5% of your bodyweight equated to a 45% decrease in performance during intense exercise. There’s no way you’ll end up on the WOD class leaderboard, then.
The Fix: Drink water, duh! But seriously, there are certain times to take your hydration seriously. Sleep with a large glass beside your bed and it’ll be within arm’s reach when you wake up – you won’t have drunk anything for 8 hours and levels will below, especially if you’re planning to lace up and run right away. And secondly, remember to drink 300ml 30minutes before a workout. This will allow enough time for your muscles to hydrate and your chances of a squat rack PB don’t run dry.
The Mistake: Drinking caffeine while you train
The ubiquitous rise of NOCCO cans as a training partner is baffling. Sure, they’re caffeinated and they have BCAA written on them (which basically means gains, right?) but “pre” means before for a reason. Caffeine takes 30 mins to reach its peak effect in your body – crushing the can as you finish your final set won’t help you lift a PB. Worse still, caffeine has a half-life of around 3 hours, so if you’re finishing your evening workout at 7pm you can expect to still have half a can of caffeine speeding around your system at 10pm. Good luck with that recovery sleep.
The Fix: Time it right. Finish your pre-workout 30 mins before you finish your warm up and this will give your body enough time to crank up through the gears naturally and then bask in the sweet, stimulating effects of caffeine. Different research says that a well-timed coffee can improve physical performance by 9% and shave 4.2seconds from your 1500m time in a shot. Pass the espresso.