Looking to maximize your workout session? Dutifully heading into the gym and "doing your time" isn't enough to produce the body you want, unless average if what you're after.
You're already making the time commitment, so be sure to get the most out of it. Don't roll out of bed, slug down an extra-large cup of coffee, jump on the treadmill for 10 minutes, and fit in a few reps at a lackadaisical pace. Instead, head into the gym with a solid game plan, one that can produce amazing results if followed to a T.
Here are a few of the best strategies you can use to kick things up a notch and take your training to the next level.
1. For Mass Gaining, Time Your Nutrients For Maximum Effect
If your main goal is gaining muscle mass, what you eat and drink will make a huge difference. Here's what you should do:
- In the morning, you're coming off of a "fast"—or your sleep period the night before. That's the best time to reach for a simple, quick-digesting protein source, such as whey, to kick-start your day.
- Immediately after your training session, provide your body with an abundance of nutrients to jump-start the process of protein synthesis and repair. This is the best time to pack in the carbs.
- Post-workout, refuel with simple carbohydrates. They'll bump up your insulin levels and ensure your body's muscle cells absorb amino acids from protein. Fuel protein synthesis and limit protein breakdown by consuming a hefty dose of complex carbohydrates 30-60 minutes later. You'll fuel your body for hours to come and aid recovery.
2. For Fat Burning, Consider Fasted Training
On the flip side, if your goal is to burn fat faster, you might want to try fasted training to maximize results. After coming off the fast, your tissues are ultra-sensitive and will achieve a higher growth and fat-burning response. "Training fasted triggers the release of growth hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine in your body, which help you burn fat," says Dr. Sara Solomon, a BSN athlete. She swears by this technique to maintain a year-round six-pack. By fasting, Sara primes her metabolic machinery to be more sensitive to the anabolic effects protein intake and exercise provide for muscle growth.
For anyone wanting to apply this principle, Sara says to wait at least two hours after your workout before breaking your fast with your first meal of the day. Consume BCAAs during the interim to preserve lean muscle mass.
Adjust your program based on your goals. Someone looking to build muscle will want to optimize the anabolic state (or tissue building and repairing state) in their body as much as possible. Someone aiming to burn fat should be primarily concerned with minimizing their catabolic state—which can be brought on by cutting calories and doing cardio to excess. Each diet will place the body in a different hormonal and metabolic state, so taking steps to optimize accordingly is a must.
3. Select Your Pre-Workout Supplements Wisely
The next thing to dial in is your pre-workout supplements. First, make sure you use a pre-workout designed to increase focus and concentration, such as N.O Explode 2.0.
In addition to taking a pre-workout pump product, sip on BCAAs throughout the day. Dr. Solomon, for example, uses AMINOx. "They provide maximal benefits for muscle protein synthesis with minimal caloric load," explains Sara, who uses them religiously while doing her fasts. Sara takes one scoop before her workout, one scoop during her workout, and one scoop after her workout. She has another scoop every two hours before her first meal.
If you're doing intermittent fasting or just dieting intensely to burn fat, BCAAs are more important than ever to preserve muscle.
4. Set One Specific Goal Per Workout
To make sure each and every workout counts, set a specific goal each time you step into the gym. This should be something you can easily accomplish and will move you one step closer toward your end goal. Having a specific objective will help you attack your workout harder. You'll no longer see it as a mere steppingstone on the path toward a larger objective.
Consider writing down your mini goals to keep them grounded and part of the larger picture. BSN athlete Ryan Hughes credits writing down his meal plan as being key to overcoming his ectomorph body type and building lean muscle. "It wasn't until I wrote it down and looked at it that I said, 'Look, I'm not eating enough. I'm not getting what I need to put on the size that I want to put on," he says. "Set realistic goals. Set a 6-month goal or a year goal—something that's achievable but far enough away that you're going to have to work for it."
5. Increase Your Intensity
When it comes to your workout design, focusing on intensity versus duration or volume offers many advantages. There's a pragmatic reason for this. Most folks are busy, and the shorter your workout, the more likely that you'll actually get your butt to the gym and do it.
Shorter workouts also allow you to output max effort. As duration shortens, intensity must increase in order to yield results.
When you're short on time, target areas where you know you're weaker. BSN athlete and IFBB Bikini Pro Amanda Latona uses Bulgarian split squats to correct muscle and strength imbalances in her lower body. Amanda's able to build firm, strong glutes while balancing a hectic schedule.
Cutting back on time spent sweating it out also has added benefits. "Short, yet highly intense training helps boost your calorie expenditure after you have finished exercising," says Dr. Solomon. If you want to keep burning fat all day long, an intense workout is the way to go. You'll steer clear of overuse injuries and mental burnout while yielding great results.
Spending hours on end doing moderate-intensity work often leads to mental burnout, overuse injuries, and lackluster results. Ramping up the intensity can change that.