5 Tips to Maximize Your Workout Results

athletic woman doing a push up while staring seriously ahead

Many people self-sabotage their own fitness efforts, but it doesn't have to be this way. Correcting common nutrition, recovery, and training mistakes can supercharge gains and set the stage for even bigger goals.

In this article, you will learn:

1. Eat More Protein

There’s little debate as to the importance of protein intake in a serious training program. Adequate protein intake helps us generate muscle mass, and for many of us, a protein supplement like whey or collagen aids in recovery.

A 2012 study on protein timing and its effects on building lean muscle mass through strength training showed that individuals who used protein supplements as part of their natural pre-workout and post-workout routines led to increased lean body mass, strength, and a shorter recovery window.

Consuming whey protein powder post-workout is a fantastic way to work in a serving of easily-digested protein while you’re recovering from a tough training session. Another clean protein option is collagen protein which offers fantastic support for joints and soft tissue, which are critical for training recovery.

Even if you aren’t sold on the idea of protein timing, most exercise scientists agree that increasing overall protein intake is a beneficial strategy for those looking to build lean body mass.

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2. Take More Rest Days

“Eat less, move more.” It’s a simple (and popular!) refrain that leads us to believe that we can out-exercise a sedentary lifestyle.

And while it’s true that we should all strive to be active, overtraining is a terrible workout habit. In fact, rest should be just as much a part of your workout plan as weightlifting or sprinting!

After exercising, your muscles are in a strained state. Resting begins the body’s process of removing metabolic byproducts created during exercise, including lactic acid and hydrogen ions. It also restores blood flow to muscles to promote oxygen delivery and balances electrolytes which are lost when we sweat.

Without adequate rest time, our bodies struggle to perform these important tasks. We may find that we fail to perform at peak levels, making exercise a game of diminishing returns—and potential injury!

Treating rest as a permanent, scheduled portion of your training is a best practice for any serious athlete.

3. Be More Consistent

Training isn’t always convenient or fun.

When life pulls us in a million different directions, it can be difficult to prioritize our training plan. However, consistency is often more important for long-term results than the intensity or success of any one workout.

This “mistake” isn’t about skipping rest days (which you now know are important!) but rather establishing a routine that steadily moves you toward your goal. Scheduling training sessions will help you avoid the training mistake of going hard for a few weeks and “falling off the wagon” for weeks.

Whether you outsource this schedule to a trainer, invest in a well-balanced online program or simply put your workout and rest days into the calendar, create a plan you’ll stick with for the long haul.

These training mistakes are fairly common but could have a noticeable, negative impact on your overall performance. If you’re struggling to meet your fitness goals, try eliminating these pitfalls and blow them out of the water!

4. Be More Focused

A bad workout is better than no workout, right?

When we’re regularly heading into the gym exhausted and overwhelmed, it can be easy to go through the motions. But this can also lead to inattention to form, a training mistake that is not only counterproductive but potentially dangerous.

Using proper form, particularly during weightlifting, helps to ensure that all our muscles are correctly engaged in the workout. It makes it easier to burn calories and increase muscle mass in less time.

Bad form, on the other hand, recruits fewer muscles and increases strain on parts of the body that cannot efficiently handle intense burdens. That can mean muscle strains and tears, and potentially weeks spent healing on the couch.

Paying attention to form—and checking that form with the help of an experienced trainer or reliable online resources—will help us see bigger returns on the hours we put in at the gym.

5. Drink More Water

If we’re only drinking when we’re thirsty or during training, chances are we simply aren’t consuming enough water.

Amanda Carlson, a trainer who works with some of football’s top athletes, observed that some 98% of college players who were preparing for the NFL combine did not drink water before their workouts. As a result, they began their morning evaluations dehydrated, and their performance suffered.

For peak performance, we should aim to maintain hydration levels throughout the day. Many nutrition experts recommend consuming half our body weight in ounces of water throughout the day. Record these numbers in the same way you track your nutrition (and compare your performance on days you’re hydrated to days you’re not) to help prioritize this important goal.

Additionally, water should be consumed at a minimum of 15 minutes before any physical activity begins. Proper hydration is absolutely key when pursuing our goals and gains. 

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted September 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.