5 surprising ways to optimise your exercise routineMay 08, 2023
Hitting a wall with your fitness routine? Break through with our top five pre- and post-workout exercise hacks.
Whether you’re new to an exercise routine or you’re looking for ways to improve the one you have, a few tweaks can optimise your workout, improve your results and even reduce your recovery time.
Tip #1: Get your morning routine on point
Setting yourself up for a great day begins with your morning routine. What are your first actions when you wake up in the morning? If you’re reaching for your phone, a coffee or worrying about your to-do list, try shaking up your routine by regulating your circadian rhythm. Greet the day with early morning sunlight exposure, a big glass of water instead of a coffee first thing, and change straight into your workout gear before you can think of an excuse not to! These small tweaks can keep you on track with your healthy habits and support a healthy circadian rhythm.
How does your circadian rhythm help with your workouts? Without going too far down the rabbit hole of chronobiology (the study of how circadian rhythm influences biology), if your circadian rhythm is impaired for any number of reasons, your ability to repair and grow skeletal muscle will be impacted.1,2 You’ll also find it more difficult to get a restorative sleep, leaving you prone to energy slumps, a big dip in motivation, as well as increasing cravings for sugar and caffeine.
Tip #2: Coffee as a pre-workout
Although tip #1 talks about not reaching for caffeine first thing, a well-timed coffee later in the morning can actually be beneficial to your workout. Why not just use a pre-workout formula? Well, take a look at the back of any pre-workout formula and you’ll notice almost all of them have one thing in common: caffeine. The problem is, they’re often also full of other concerning ingredients that range from the not great to the downright scary. If you’re looking for an extra energy boost to enhance your workout performance - particularly for aerobic endurance workouts, a simple cup of joe could be all you need.
Of course, there are plenty of ways to biohack your coffee these days but look for ingredients that either slow the release (such as healthy fats, MCT oil) or boost the anti-inflammatory benefits - such as turmeric, ginger and ginseng.
Timing is also key - with one study revealing that most people feel the effects of caffeine within 10 minutes and the greatest concentration in the bloodstream being reached at around 45 minutes.3 Of course, there’s one big caveat - if you prefer a nighttime workout you’ll want to rethink the caffeine-based pre-workout of any kind!
Tip #3: Adaptogens for energy and post-workout recovery
Taking a day in between particularly challenging or new workouts to recover may leave you feeling discouraged and unmotivated to exercise again if you’re feeling extra sore. Get ahead of the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) by adding some recovery tools to your post-workout kit. Exercise is a type of stress on the body – and adaptogens are king when it comes to recovering from stress.
One study found that adaptogens protect the central nervous system - the system responsible for regulating the stress response. The study concluded that adaptogens help to increase endurance in situations of weakness or fatigue and reduce the likelihood of physical impairments from stressful situations.4
Some of the most popular and well-researched adaptogens include Schisandra berries, ashwagandha (a.k.a. Withania), Rhodiola, astragalus and Siberian ginseng.
Tip #4: Magnesium for muscle recovery
Magnesium is essential to over 300 reactions and processes in the body. So when it comes to relieving muscle tension and improving energy production, you can bet magnesium is one supplement that wins out over the rest.
Not all magnesium supplements are created equal, however. Now for a little bit of science… the magnesium element is attached to different molecules such as glycinate, oxide, chelate and citrate. Each molecule has a different rate of absorption and action in the body. Look for magnesium glycinate or citrate for the quickest uptake into the muscle.
Beyond recovery, a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that magnesium citrate improved strength and gains with bench press exercises and improved cardiovascular responses, including reduced resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure.5
Tip #5: Active rest days
While most avid fitness lovers are all over the concept of a rest day, it can be hard to put into practice when you’re on a roll or really loving your workouts. Rest days don’t mean strictly being a couch potato – hence ‘active’ in the title. Movement is very much allowed (and important) every single day. A stroll through the park with your kids, an evening yoga class or a gentle to moderate home mat pilates workout can strike the perfect balance of recovery and movement. Why are rest days so important? Simply put, your body needs time to heal - without them, you’re significantly increasing your risk of more serious injury. Then you’ll truly be making friends with the couch and Netflix!
Remember that even the most intense workout routines require balance, learn to love the slower movements that support your strength or cardio training so that you can enjoy daily movement for life.
Changing up your routine and including some key supplements and rest days into your regimen can be game-changing when you’ve hit a wall with your workouts. A stagnant routine can lead to boredom, reduce results and even increase your risk of injuries. Keep these strategies in mind if you’re ready to shake it up and try something new to support your efforts and even boost your results.
- Gabriel, B.M. & Zierath, J.R. (2019). Circadian rhythms and exercise - re-setting the clock in metabolic disease. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 15: 197-206. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41574-018-0150-x
- Chatterjee, S. & Ma, K. (2016). Circadian clock regulation of skeletal muscle growth and repair. F1000RES, 5: 1549. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4965692/
- Science Daily. Caffeine has greater effect on men and starts only ten minutes after consumption. Written December 2008, accessed March 2023 from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081222113526.htm
- Panossian, A. & Wikman, G. (2010). Effects of adaptogens on the central nervous system and the molecular mechanisms associated with their stress–protective activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel), 3(1): 188-224. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991026/
- Kass, L.S. & Poiera, F. (2015). The effect of acute vs. chronic magnesium supplementation on exercise and recovery on resistance exercise, blood pressure and total peripheral resistance on normotensive adults. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(19). https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-015-0081-z