Best fitness hacks to get in shape for summer
Eat smart on training days
How many great workouts are let down by bad eating habits? And yet, the right diet is the key to burning calories and reaching your fitness goals. If your main motivation is weight loss, skip eating breakfast on a gym morning. A study published in The Journal of Physiology found that switching your breakfast time to after your workout session can help boost fat burning. If you need a little pre-workout snack, eat an apple and a spoonful of peanut butter. Apples are full of quercetin, which helps improve energy metabolism.
The result? Better endurance in the gym. A good mix of fat, protein and fibre, peanut butter encourages slow-release energy. It’s also an excellent source of niacin and folic acid. These aid the body in converting food to energy, intensifying your workout. Add a handful of raisins a few minutes before you start training as well – researchers from the University of California gave study participants either raisins, sports energy sweets or water, then got them to run a 5k. The raisin-eaters ran a minute faster than the others. Post-workout, get stuck into cherries.
According to boffins at the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sport, these juicy, red treats contain anthocyanins, which reduce muscle inflammation and post-workout pain, meaning you’ll be more inclined to go back to the gym the following day.
Make a ‘lean & clean’ coffee an hour before exercising, advises Duigan. ‘Caffeine will give you the motivation to get to the gym and the energy to work out for longer, plus it accelerates fat burning. Add a teaspoon of coconut oil or organic butter instead of milk to increase the effects.’
The American College of Sports Medicine recently found that drinking coffee in this way an hour before exercise increases endurance, while another study from The Australian Institute of Sport revealed that caffeine before a workout triggers the muscles to start using fat as an energy source rather than carbohydrates, leading to accelerated fat loss. Research also shows drinking coffee after a workout boosts levels of glycogen, your muscle’s fuel source.
Visualise the burn
Don’t roll your eyes – it’s a fact: you are what you think. Scientists at Ohio University have discovered that thinking about your muscles before or during exercise can actually make them stronger. ‘Before every training session, I get clients to do a minute of breathing where they set their intentions for the next hour,’ says Duigan. ‘This involves breathing deeply and thinking about what they want to achieve – be it burning calories, feeling stronger or running a faster 10k. I’ve witnessed how this increases the effectiveness of their workout and creates a neural flow between the mind and the muscles.’ Dr Jeff Breckon, a psychologist in exercise and sport from Sheffield Hallam University, adds, ‘Our mindset is incredibly powerful in relation to exercise, from the distraction method, where you use music or stunning scenery to distract you from the pain of exercise, to the enjoyment factor – if you exercise with friends, natural competitiveness will spur you on.
Then there’s wearable technology that gives you a sense of accomplishment by setting small, attainable goals. ‘There’s a saying that goes, “Running is 80 per cent mental”, but I think your mind’s ability to help your body do better could be even higher than that.’