It seems everyone is looking for ways to improve performance. You can be a high school, college or professional athlete, it doesn’t matter, we’re all looking to get better. The same holds true when it comes to our diet and working out. There are many ways to optimize performance such as fueling your body with high octane fuel. If nutrition is not your goal, it may come in the form of recovery aids like an ice bath after a workout, mobility work before a workout or simply getting more uninterrupted sleep. The following five methods may lend some insight into this topic.
Improve Performance with Caffeine
A simple yet effective way to elevate performance is having caffeine prior to exercise. A good recommendation is between 3 to 13 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight. For a deeper look at the benefits of caffeine on exercise performance, check out the International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand on caffeine and performance.
Enhanced Mobility is Key
Mobility refers to a joint moving through its full range of motion, unrestricted and without pain. When you’re unable to do this, its dysfunctional movement. The end result is inefficient range of motion which prevents optimal performance. Moreover, the body does not work to its full potential because of this restricted movement. Simply put, improving mobility will make you stronger, run faster and jump higher.
Try Nasal Breathing Over Mouth Breathing
Something top athletes have known when trying to improve their performance, that it’s better to breath through the nose versus the mouth. This may sound trivial but trust me it’s not. There are many scientific research papers and books published on the topic. The book, Breath by James Nestor, talks at length about the importance of nasal breathing. Check it out to learn about the history and additional information on the benefits of nasal breathing.
Nasal breathing, as opposed to mouth breathing, offers a wide range of advantages, especially when it comes to more efficient exercise. It basically allows more oxygen to get to your active tissues when you exercise. Exercise stimulates nitric oxide production just like nasal breathing does. Nitric oxide is also involved in bodily processes like widening blood vessels, known as vasodilation. This, in turn, increases delivery of oxygen to working muscles during exercise. The by-product of all this is enhanced exercise performance.
Avoid Stretching Prior to Exercise. Do a Dynamic Warm-up Instead
Stretching prior to exercise is not beneficial unless you’re looking to decrease power output. Rather, perform a brief (5-10 minute) dynamic warm-up before any running or strength training session. Dynamic warm-up exercises are usually bodyweight exercises like lunges, squats, push-ups, hops, inchworm, shoulder rolls or leg swings, to name a few examples. The research all points to using dynamic warm-up over static-type stretching before athletic competition or exercise in general.
Recovery (More Sleep) Improves Performance
When adequate recovery between workouts, does not occur, the body will invariably have trouble adapting to the demands of training. Shifting mindset, making sleep a top priority, will go well beyond just lifting more weight in the next workout. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed individuals getting less than 5.5 hours of sleep a night, lost 60 percent more lean muscle that those who got adequate sleep. Additional research from the University of Chicago showed subjects who monitored their caloric intake and averaged 5.5 hours of sleep had more body fat compared to subjects who were consistently getting 8.5 hours of sleep.
We know losing lean muscle and gaining body fat is never a good mix, especially if you’re looking to improve the way you do things. The book, Biological Rhythms and Exercise, looks at the relationship between performance and sleep. The author, Thomas Reilly, states, “weight-training exercises may be unaffected by partial sleep loss early on in a training session, but the performance suffers due to lack of drive and concentration as the (exercise) session continues.”
There are many healthy ways that someone can improve performance. Hopefully, one of the ways mentioned will do just that.