3 Secrets to Enhance Your Training Results Outside the Gym

Did you know that what you do outside of the gym is even more important for your results than what you do inside the gym?

**And just because you eat clean doesn’t mean you’re off the hook!

Today more than ever people are training more often, and with greater intensity.

People are no longer afraid to go after it, and in many realms, like CrossFit, people are priding themselves on consistently pushing their physical limits. As a lifelong athlete and gym rat, nothing makes me happier.

A quick glance on social media at any time can get you direct access to many accomplishments for that day: a new PR (personal record) hit, body fat loss results, 10,000 steps taken, and even results for a personal competition. I love that fitness has become such a focus.

As a high achiever, like most of you, I learned early on that it takes more than a commitment to training hard. I know eating clean can help, and many of you have taken that up as well, but it takes more to really reach your ultimate self! I think Robin Sharma sums it up best with this quote:

“Peak performance without strategic refueling leads to enduring depletion.”

Strategic Refueling

Depletion, otherwise known as fatigue, has begun to haunt many of you, and it is holding you back from looking incredible, having limitless energy, and crushing your PRs! Strategic refueling is your most powerful ally, yet it’s the most common missing element in the lifestyles of 99% of all of the clients I have worked with. Why? It’s simple.

You are constantly bombarded with the message that you simply just to need to sacrifice yourself for better results: exercise more, restrict food, stop eating carbs. These are the current “holy grail” solutions! If you have trained hard enough and long enough you realize training hard and eating clean only gets you so far. Eventually it gets harder and harder to get out of bed. You start to notice your brain’s not as sharp as it used to be. Your drive for life and—let’s be honest—sex are nonexistent.

a man and a woman with their backs to the other in bed, looking upset

Is Fatigue Affecting Your Sex Life and Preventing Weight Loss?

So many of you would rather sleep than have sex. That is not a good sign! When your metabolism is healthy, you should want sex more than anything. Worst of all is how your body fat can quickly turn against you when fatigue kicks in, making you feel like you must try even harder. It’s a self-sabotaging circle that never ends. The only guarantee is that your energy, body fat, sex drive, and results in the gym will suffer.

Eventually you will hit the wall and your body will turn against you, forcing you to shut down and rest.

We’ve all experienced getting sick on vacation, or that chronic joint pain that comes out nowhere.

Some of you will notice your mood dramatically changes until even getting out of bed is a chore.

This is far from peak performance.

So how do we stop this fatigue driven cycle?

Strategic refueling outside of the gym is your answer. Here are 3 secrets you can use to strategically refuel yourself to avoid the fatigue cycle.

Strategic Refueling Secret #1: SLEEP

I know, I know, you have heard all about sleep, but so many of you still suffer from poor sleep or, worse still, believe you must cheat it and outwork your competition to be successful. The bottom line is if you’re not sleeping you’re slowly running out of gas, and you’re guaranteed to fall flat on your face. Sleep is your ultimate refueling option, and the more you exercise the more sleep you need to perform at your best.

We hear 7-9 hours is the ideal sleep amount, and I agree, if you don’t exercise much then 7-9 is ideal, but if you train more than 4 days a week at high intensity your goal should be 8-10 hours.

If you are a competitive athlete your needs jump to 10-12 hours a night.

Stanford has extensively studied the effects sleep has on athletic performance. They have found that when their athletes sleep 10 hours a night there is dramatic improvement in athletic performance. Athletes are quicker, have better reflex response, and are faster when they sleep. The results are due to better brain performance, so even if you’re no longer a competitive athlete, sleep still gives you an advantage in brain performance.

Lack of sleep also dramatically reduces sex hormones. Multiple studies that reported up to a 60% reduction in total testosterone in the morning following 4 hours of sleep versus 8 hours. Gentlemen, some experts I have studied under say a simple sign of optimal sleep and hormones is waking up to a pitched tent under the covers.

Warm Up for Better Sleep

This, in my opinion, is the ultimate sleep solution that everyone at any age should incorporate into his or her lifestyle. Just like you warm up for an intense training session, you should warm up for an intense night of great sleep.

30-60 minutes before bed, unplug from the world.

Turn off all electronics, like the TV, computer, and tablet, and put your phone way.

These radiate blue light, which tells your pineal gland that it’s light outside and you need to wake up. Replace these with activities that will calm you down instead of stimulating you.

Try reading a real book, taking a bath, reading with your kids,meditating, stretching, or getting a massage. Simply having a great conversation with someone you love can be a great way to end the day and prepare for sleep. During this warm up I like to include two powerful musts for everyone.

  1.     60-second brain dump: Sometime during your sleep warm up, take 60 seconds to write down the 3 most important things you must accomplish the next day. Simply writing these things down settles your brain down. It’s amazing how much energy we waste trying to remember important things. Writing important points down allows your brain to settle down, knowing you won’t forget. It’s a simple, yet very powerful,solution.
  2.     Write in a “grateful journal”: The last thing I like all my clients to do before bed is to write in a “grateful journal.” Leave a notebook next to your bed. The last thing you should do each night before sleeping is write down 3-5 things you are grateful for in your life. It’s amazing the power this holds in relaxing and calming your subconscious mind, allowing for more restful sleep.

Strategic Refueling Secret #2: Use Carbohydrates to Your Advantage

Today, so many in the fitness realm have deemed carbs to be the devil. Now, I agree, if you hate exercise and have no stress in your life then carbs can literally kill you.

But what if you are a high achiever who loves to exercise?

Avoiding carbs is one of the worst things you can do.

In reality, the more you exercise, and the leaner you are, the more carbs you actually need to maintain an optimal metabolism and high performance. It’s not the carbs themselves that are the killers- it’s when you eat the carbs that matters most. In this post I am only going to explore carbohydrate timing for performance. I am not going to get into types of carbs. I will save that for another post, but know that I am a supporter of gluten-free carbs (unless someone can prove to me that they are not sensitive).

To get the most out of carbohydrates you want to use them for what they do best: reduce stress and replenish glycogen storage (preferably in the muscles). When it comes to performance, you want cortisol elevated early in the day and before training, so you metabolize fat for energy. For most people, the worst time to intake carbs is first thing in the morning. At night, while you sleep, you’re not active, so you’re not burning muscle glycogen. The carbs trigger a refueling response with muscles that are full, so energy replenishment will most likely end up in fat storage.

Having carbs in the morning will also dampen cortisol and calm the brain down, making you feel lethargic and want to take a nap. These are not great qualities of a high performer.

In our system at Stark, we avoid carbs early in the day and before training, and incorporate carbs into meals after training and in the evening to help reduce stress and calm the brain down to improve sleep. It works wonderfully, and the best part is you can eat a lot of carbs this way! The more training volume you are under, the more carbs you need, period! Avoid carbs as a high achiever and your metabolism will slow down, making all your hard work meaningless.

a buddha bowl topped with purple cabbage, avocado, chickpeas, beets, and more

Strategic Refueling Secret #3: Pre Workout Supplementation to Train Harder

Most people think that eating carbs before training allows for more intense training, but this is actually incorrect. If you are competing in a long endurance event, some slow-burning carbs before can play to your advantage, but it will kill speed, power, and strength. If you are preparing to train Olympic lifts, strength work, or high intensity short duration workouts, it’s all about neural drive. You read that correctly. Your brain drives performance, not carbohydrates.

A lot of you have noticed that if you drink coffee before heavy lifting you perform better, and that is correct. I love coffee before high intensity workouts- the caffeine in coffee enhances arousal and allows for better neurological performance. Here are some other great supplements we have discovered over the years that can enhance high intensity training.

Biotest Power Drive: This product is specifically designed to support neural drive and rev up the brain to train harder. Some studies have shown as much as an 8-12 % increase in strength after one use. I have found Power Drive to work great before Olympic lifting and strength training.

Incite: This product is one of my favorites, as it ramps up the brain without the use of caffeine. So if you are not a fan of caffeine, you can get the benefits of enhanced neural drive without the jitters.

Green Tea: Green tea is a great tool to use before long bouts of lower intensity training. You get the benefits of improved fat burning, which is the optimal fuel source to use for endurance events. Green tea has also been shown to create a greater strength response and reduced inflammation. I also use it before endurance events because it keeps the heart rate lower than coffee, so you can perform longer without risking increased heart rate, leading to early buildup of lactic acid. Include fish oil with your green tea prior to training for a power combo that improves blood flow. Note: make sure to use high quality fish oil or the burping that follows will not be fun during competition or training.

Sleep, strategic carbohydrate intake, and waking your brain up before training are 3 great secrets you can use to enhance your results like in training and in competition. Remember, it’s rarely the person that works the hardest who wins; it’s the person who is most prepared.