Work Out Smarter, Not Harder With These Fitness Tips
By Joey Thurman
In this article:
I get a lot of questions about overall health, fitness, and what supplements to take to gain that “extra” edge. There are a lot of wellness trends out there, and it’s hard to know what’s worth the hype and what isn’t.
Technology is a big driver of changes in how we exercise, and as we continue to learn more about the role of diet in athletic performance, some nutrients have proven themselves to be superstars.
Get the most out of your workouts in 2020 with these tips that I think will outlive their statuses as mere trends.
With the popularity of wearable technology continuing to climb, metabolic testing, body fat scanners, and heart rate variability (the beats between beats) have become easily measurable components of health.
As we have more data available, working out is going to become more personalized. The conventional thinking around working out has been to go as hard as you can for as long as you can. This can lead to overtraining, overuse injuries, endocrine disruption (hormonal imbalances), and other negative results. The new thinking is to still work out hard but to do it at the right intensity for your body.
For example, you can track your heart rate variability with lots of different devices. This can help you measure how well your body is recovered from your previous day’s workout. If your body isn’t recovered, your HRV score will be low, telling you that maybe you should have a rest day or do lighter-intensity activities like yoga or lightweight training so that you don’t injure yourself.
All of this data is amazing, but let’s not forget about how you feel! Listen to your body, and give it a rest when it needs it.
We all know the benefits of eating a well-rounded diet that encompasses all of the colors of the rainbow and ensures that we will get everything we need for our bodies. The problem with that is it’s incredibly difficult to actually do this, and quite frankly most people simply don’t have the time or the resources to go hunting for every single thing they need for optimal health (I know I don’t). That’s where supplements come in.
These supplements are gaining recognition for their unique health benefits, including their positive impacts on fitness. My clients are always curious about what I take myself when I’m making recommendations, and these four are at the top of my list.
No, you don’t have to go to Peru to hunt this root down! Maca is grown in the Andes Mountains and is a cruciferous vegetable related to kale, cabbage, and broccoli. It’s used in many Peruvian dishes and has quite a strong flavor profile. I’m not a huge fan of cooking with it, but I will take it in a supplement form such as an extract or capsule.
So, why take this? Glad you asked! Studies have shown that maca may have a positive impact on athletic performance, for one. It has also been shown to boost libido, and may help to relieve feelings of depression and anxiety due to its flavonoid content. Maca has been studied for its effects on lowering blood pressure as well.
Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub that is grown in the Middle East, some parts of Africa, and India. It is often referred to as Indian ginseng. For hundreds of years, it has been used for medicinal purposes and gets its name from its horsey odor. “Ashwa” means horse.
The herb is considered one of the most important in Indian ayurvedic medicine and is used to treat a wide range of illnesses such as arthritis, constipation, insomnia and snake bites. In the United States, it is often used to treat anxiety, but studies have also shown ashwagandha as having benefits for fitness, including helping to increase muscle mass and strength and reduce body fat.
Other benefits of ashwagandha may include anti-inflammatory properties helpful for those with arthritis symptoms, as well as improving memory and helping to lower cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
No need to head to the cold mountains of Europe and Asia for this next one. This adaptogen, a substance that may help your body adapt to stress when consumed, is called Rhodiola Rosea. Rhodiola has a number of uses from lowering stress to providing your body with energy to improve exercise performance and even boosting brain function. Rhodiola can be taken as an extract, tablet or powder.
In one study, Rhodiola was shown to relieve symptoms of chronic stress and fatigue when given to 100 people with chronic fatigue symptoms. Participants took 400mg of Rhodiola once a day for eight weeks and reported improvements in quality of life, stress, fatigue, and concentration.
If you are having problems sleeping and you are already eating well and getting enough exercise, Rhodiola may help you get those zzzs! Several studies have looked at the effects of Rhodiola on sleep quality, and one study done on students showed that the ones who took the adaptogen experienced less mental fatigue, higher performance, increased motivation, and even better test scores over the placebo group.
Want to improve your exercise performance? Rhodiola could help you with that. Several studies have been done on humans showing the benefits of Rhodiola when taken before an event/working out and it is believed that the supplement is promising for limiting the effects of perceived exertion, meaning you can go longer and harder without feeling tired. Bonus!
No, this one isn’t Greek--it’s actually used in Indian cooking as a common household spice. Fenugreek is a plant that has been used to treat a plethora of conditions. It is even sold as a topical cream.
So, why should you take fenugreek? It’s most popular use is for enhancing breast milk production in women, but it may also have benefits for exercise. Studies have shown that it may increase strength and body composition, reduce inflammation, and support recovery.
Have you ever seen those testosterone-boosting pills for men? Well, chances are that one of the ingredients in there is fenugreek. One study in college-aged males taking the herb showed an increase in strength as well as overall testosterone levels. It has also been shown to have potential benefits for controlling blood sugar, increasing carbohydrate tolerance, and even stabilizing cholesterol levels.
There you have it, my list of the technology and supplements to jump on!
Fitness and dietary fads aside, make sure to keep up with the things that have been consistently proven to help with overall health on longevity.
What are those? Make sure to stay active in your everyday life, get 2-3 days of weight training every week, take some brisk walks with your loved ones, get to a yoga or meditation class, make sure to eat a diet free of processed foods and added sugars, and make sure to get proper sleep! If all of these things are consistent, you will feel better, look better, and have the energy to be better.
To your health!