If you’ve been following our biohacking blog series, you’ll have gained valuable knowledge on how to make powerful changes to your body’s chemistry and physiology for greater health and wellbeing. Biohacking is all about using self-experimentation to improve energy, longevity, fitness, sleep, metabolism and so much more, through the use of exercise, nutrition, supplementation, and practices like cold exposure and heat therapy. Top biohackers such as Ben Greenfield, Tim Ferriss and Dave Asprey have ensured that these sometimes weird but definitely wonderful self-improvement protocols have grown in popularity since around 2005, and the community of biohackers is now world-wide.
In our biohacking blog series, we’ve already covered the benefits of cold exposure and heat therapy; how to biohack your cortisol to reduce stress; how to improve your sleep and biohack it for more energy and greater overall health. Last week, we began exploring how to biohack exercise for weight loss, muscle strength and longevity, and introduced you to the best workouts to meet your health goals. Read the article here.
Optimising Your Workout
Today, we’re completing our biohacking blog series with a deep dive into how to biohack your exercise for fast fat loss, muscle gain, and quicker recovery after your workouts. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate exerciser or experienced in health and fitness, there are plenty of tips and tricks in this blog to help you get more from your workouts, and improve your health. As always, remember that it’s important to work with a professional to determine whether a supplement, type of exercise or nutrition plan is right for your body – use this blog for inspiration, and seek the advice of a trainer, nutritionist, or one of our very own health coaches and nutritionists for personalised guidance.
The benefits of exercise & choosing the right exercise for you
In our last blog, we explained how important exercise is for heart health, longevity, bone density, metabolism, mental health, supporting weight loss, and preventing metabolic diseases like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Research now also shows that exercise supports gut health too, and that working out can actually change the bacteria in our gut to promote positive effects on health.  Gut health is vital for digestive health, mental health, immune health, and many other aspects of wellbeing, whilst moderate exercise like strength training or cardio can even help reduce inflammation, which is thought to be a common root of many health issues.
As well as understanding the benefits of exercise, it’s important to know the best type of exercise for your body, and your individual needs. We covered this in last week’s blog, where we explored fasted cardio for weight loss and heart health, strength training and weight lifting to build muscle, resistance training and HIIT to help boost your metabolism, and 30 to 40 minutes of moderate exercise like walking, jogging, swimming or cycling outdoors or on a stationary bike every other day to support longevity.
Biohacking Your Workout For Better Results
Now you know the benefits of exercise, the best type of exercise for your needs, and the best exercises to include in your workout plan (check last week’s blog for this!) Let’s look at how to use nutrition, supplementation, and effective lifestyle practices to biohack your workout for faster fat loss, muscle gain, and to help speed up your exercise recovery. There are a host of things you can do before, during and after your workout to see results quickly.
What To Do Before Your Workout
Get A Good Night’s Sleep: Remember that biohacking refers to practices and protocols to make positive changes to your body’s chemistry and physiology to promote greater health and wellbeing. The first step to biohacking your exercise for better results then, starts with your sleep. Sleep is the foundation of health, and the benefits of sleep include everything from improving cognitive function and preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s, to regulating blood sugar and preventing type 2 diabetes. Research shows that good quality sleep improves reaction time, accuracy and endurance performance  and ensures we have enough energy to work out in the first place. To improve your sleep, use our tips from the sleep biohacking blog series.
The best foods to eat before working out
Whilst exercising, stores of glycogen in the liver and muscles are depleted; the longer and more intense your exercise, the more glycogen is depleted. Glycogen is a stored form of glucose (sugar) and is the body’s main source of energy, unless you follow a strict ketogenic diet and are in a state of ketosis, when the body switches to using ketones for energy, which are produced from fat. For most people who don’t follow a keto diet, having enough stored glycogen is important in order to improve exercise performance, and get the most from your workout – without enough stored energy in your muscles, they’re unlikely to work as well! For this reason, it’s wise to consume healthy carbohydrates before a workout. Some of the best carbohydrates to eat before exercise include:
- Fruit: Bananas, apples, mango, oranges
- Whole-wheat toast
- Brown rice
- Dried fruit such as dates
Remember that the longer and more intense your exercise session is, the more carbohydrates your body needs.
Consuming enough protein before exercise can also be beneficial, as studies show it helps increase muscle protein synthesis. If you enjoy weight lifting and strength training, it’s useful to know that a serving of protein powder or collagen protein before a workout can enhance muscle growth.  Good sources of protein to eat before a workout include:
- Greek yoghurt
- Collagen peptides
- Whey protein
- Nuts or nut butter
What should I eat before working out?
Now you know it’s beneficial to consume carbohydrates and protein before exercise to help boost your energy, improve performance and support muscle growth, here are some of the best pre-workout snacks and meals. Remember that the amount you need to eat will depend upon your goals, the type of exercise, and how long and intense your workout session is. Some of the best pre-workout snacks and meals include:
- A banana and tablespoon of nut butter
- Piece of toast with two eggs
- Greek yoghurt, fruit and nuts
- A smoothie with fruit and collagen peptides
- Porridge with fruit and milk
- Chicken, rice and vegetables
How long before working out should I eat?
If you’re planning on an endurance or intense strength-training type of exercise, eat a meal of lean meat with rice and vegetables or a generous serving of porridge with protein and collagen peptides around two hours beforehand. If you need a snack before a HIIT session or shorter workout, an easily digestible smoothie or banana and nuts can be eaten 1 hour to 30 minutes beforehand.
The Best Pre-Workout Supplements
When it comes to pre-workout blends, you’ll often find blends filled with stimulants and additives, and tonnes of sugar. Whilst these may make you feel fired up and ready to burn some calories, they can often be loaded with unhealthy ingredients, and some pre-workout powders can even raise blood pressure and heart rate, resulting in jitters, anxiety, and insomnia. This is why optimising your nutrition before exercising is important, and why choosing the best supplements for exercise requires special consideration.
Start by considering your exercise goals; do you want to build muscle? Lose fat? Improve your speed or strength? Or enhance your mood? Once you’re clear on your workout goal, here are some of the best supplements for exercise that could benefit your work out:
Creatine: Creatine plays a crucial role in the body’s energy and metabolism; every day, around 1-2% of the body’s own creatine is broken down and excreted, and must be replaced. Whilst the body does produce some creatine, it takes a significant amount of food to obtain optimal amounts, which is why supplements like Creapure may be beneficial in order to maximise creatine levels and reap the benefits of creatine. Now becoming one of the most popular exercise supplements in the health and fitness world, creatine is one of the best supplements for resistance training, weight lifting and HIIT workouts. The benefits of creatine may include:
- Greater strength
- More lean muscle mass
- Faster muscle recovery during exercise
- May help in achieving more powerful bursts of speed and energy
- Helps muscle cells produce more energy
- Can improve HIIT performance
- Helps speed up muscle growth
How to take Creatine: Take 3–5 grams of Creapure® creatine monohydrate daily to replace what your body uses every day. You can personalise the rate within the range provided based on your size, muscle mass and activity level. Creapure® can be used at any time of day, but you may benefit from taking the product immediately after exercise or in the morning. A loading phase is not required.
EAAS: ‘Essential amino acids’ are the building blocks of protein, and protein is found in our muscles, bones, skin, hair, nails, connective tissue, and virtually every other tissue and limb. EAAS are absolutely essential for muscle repair and growth, and critical for a healthy functioning body. The benefits of EAAS may include:
- Improving mitochondrial health
- Enhanced muscle tissue growth
- Greater energy before a workout
- Preserves lean muscle
- Aids exercise performance
- Promote weight loss
- Help protein synthesis
- May improve exercise recovery
When to take EAAS: As an exercise aid take 5 to 10 tablets of Love Life Supplements Essential Aminos 30 mins prior to physical activity, depending on intensity. If choosing the Essential Aminos drink, take 1 to 2 scoops mixed with 250-500ml of water 30 minutes prior to physical activity.
Matcha green tea: Matcha can help boost metabolism and aid fat loss, and is also high in beneficial antioxidants. Matcha green tea contains high levels of EGCG, which has a thermogenic effect in the body and can help in reducing obesity, as well as potentially being a great supplement to speed up fat loss too. One of biohacker Ben Greenfield’s tips for boosting fat loss includes engaging in fasted moderate cardio exercise in the morning, after consuming something that contains caffeine, such as a black coffee or matcha green tea, which both contain minimal calories.
Does Coffee Improve Performance?
If the caffeine in matcha green tea can improve fat loss, does coffee have an effect on exercise? Caffeine is one of the most studied supplements in the world, and research correlates its use to increased exercise performance in endurance activities, as well as cardio workouts and strength training.  Studies also show that consuming coffee 30 to 60 minutes before exercise can help delay fatigue and increase muscle strength and power.  Beware that too much caffeine however, can have negative effects on exercise and cause jitters and increased heart rate; many coffee chains have extremely varied levels of caffeine in the same style of drinks, so ensure you choose the amount of caffeine that is right for your body.
If you don’t enjoy caffeine, beetroot juice or beetroot extract is a great way to boost energy levels and enhance performance, without being a stimulant. Beetroot helps raise nitric oxide levels, which can help the body work more efficiently, especially during high intensity exercise. The increased levels of nitric oxide can help increase blood flow and gas exchange, mitochondrial health, and can even strengthen muscle contractions. 
Biohack Your Hydration For Better Exercise Performance
Staying hydrated on a day-to-day basis is essential for every function of the body, but is especially critical when it comes to exercising. Two early signs of dehydration include thirst and dark-coloured urine, and other symptoms may include dizziness and light-headedness.  Despite our best intentions however, simply trying to hydrate with plain water doesn’t necessarily lead to optimal hydration, which is one of the key ways to improve your exercise performance and get the most from your workout. Electrolytes are made up of sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphate and magnesium, and having the right balance of these minerals is essential for improving hydration and optimising your workout.
The key to improving hydration lies in consuming enough electrolytes. The body uses electrolytes to conduct electrical charges, which is how muscles contract. These same electrical charges also help chemical neurons, and maintain the proper balance of fluids inside and outside of cells. Some of the key benefits of electrolytes may include:
- Maintain healthy muscles
- Balance fluid levels
- Maintain a healthy nervous system
- Enhanced exercise performance
- Improved immune health
- Enhanced exercise recovery
- Reductions in brain fog and fatigue
- Better sleep
- More stable blood sugar
- Less sugar cravings
- Supports heart health
- Improved cognitive health
How To Speed Up Exercise Recovery
Now you know what to do before your workout to optimise performance, and how to choose the best exercises for your goals (check our previous blog for this), here’s how to biohack your exercise recovery.
Consuming Protein & Carbs After Your Workout
Consuming easily digestible carbohydrates and protein within 60 minutes after your workout can support muscle growth and repair, and speed up your muscle recovery. Carbohydrates will help replenish the depleted glycogen we mentioned before, and the amino acids in protein can help increase muscle gain.  Some of the best post-workout snacks include:
- Post-workout recovery smoothie (or post-workout smoothie made with low-fat milk and fruit) Try our ultimate post-workout smoothie recipe here!
- Low-fat chocolate milk
- Turkey on a whole-grain wrap with veggies
- Low-fat yogurt with berries
How much protein do I need after working out?
Post-exercise intake of about 0.2–0.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (g/kg) has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis, whilst a basic recommendation is to consume around 10g to 20g of protein post workout. 10g protein roughly looks like 2 eggs, 2 ½ tbsp peanut butter, ¾ cup cooked black beans, or ½ cup Greek yoghurt; double the amount or combine protein sources for 20g protein. Be sure to pair this with a source of carbohydrates too.
The best post-workout supplements
For the same reasons we mentioned above, consuming EAAs (essential amino acids) after your workout can provide big benefits too. Remember that amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and your body needs them in order to repair and grow muscles. Mix EAAs into your post-workout smoothie, or with water. Foods high in amino acids include beef, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, quinoa and buckwheat. 
Collagen peptides can also speed up exercise recovery, whilst supporting the health of joints and connective tissue, thus preventing and potentially helping heal injuries too. Studies have shown that, due to its high amino acid content, taking collagen after exercising can actually help to regenerate proteins that get broken down during your workout, allowing you to rebuild muscle mass as well as increasing muscle strength, making collagen another beneficial post-workout supplement.  You’ll also want to boost your hydration post-workout by consuming plenty of water, or you may choose to use electrolytes during or after your workout instead of beforehand. If you opt to use the LLS Electrolyte Capsules after your workout, take 2 capsules of the Love Life Supplements Electrolyte Balance with 250 - 500ml of water.
Magnesium For Post-Workout Recovery
Magnesium supports relaxation and restoration after a tough workout, and can also improve sleep, which is vital for speeding up recovery after exercise. Magnesium can help prevent muscle soreness and cramping, as well as replenishing red blood cells, and can even reduce inflammation and help injuries heal faster. A post-workout Epsom salts bath can provide the body with easily absorbable magnesium and help reduce mental stress, whilst including magnesium bisglycinate in your regular supplement routine can give you a steady supply of this beneficial mineral to support sleep and recovery for an active lifestyle, as well as intense workouts.
To support your post-workout recovery and overall health and wellbeing, take up to 4 capsules of the Love Life Supplements Magnesium Bisglycinate daily.
How To Biohack Your Exercise Recovery With Heat Therapy
Relaxing in a sauna can help improve blood flow, decrease muscle soreness and promote exercise recovery, but did you know that you can improve your cardiovascular health without even moving? Yep, spending time in a sauna has huge benefits for heart health that mimic exercise. Studies show that frequent sauna visits improve cardiovascular function, reduce inflammation and can improve lipid profiles too. For optimal results, choose a temperature between 175-195F (80-90C) with 10-20% humidity for 30-minutes at least three times a week. If your goal is to build more muscle, you’ll want to focus on optimising your growth hormone, which sauna use can also help with. General sauna use can help enhance growth hormone, but to see the biggest benefits, you’ll need to use heat exposure very specifically: Research shows that four 30-minute-long sauna sessions with a cool down period in between over the course of a day can increase growth hormone by 16-fold! The first time the study participants did this protocol, they received this marked rise in growth hormone, but doing this type of practice several times a week shows less and less benefit due to the body adapting to the heat. If you want to significantly boost your levels of growth hormone, practice those longer sessions a maximum of once per week to prevent adaptation, and without eating food for 2 to 3 hours beforehand for even greater benefits.
Why You May Want To Avoid Ice Baths After A Strength Training Workout
When we exercise, this places a certain type of positive ‘stress’ on the body; we create tiny muscle tears, and a healthy amount of inflammation. All of this ‘damage’ is actually what helps the body adapt, and allows us to get stronger and fitter. Because of this, it’s important to allow the natural inflammatory process to occur after a strength training workout; otherwise, your recovery process may be hampered, and you may not get the benefits you want from your chosen exercise, especially if you want to grow bigger muscles. Because of this, it’s wise to avoid jumping into a cold plunge or ice bath for roughly 4 hours after your weight lifting workout, because the low temperature can halt the beneficial inflammatory response and vital blood flow to the muscles you just worked – save the cold plunge for your rest days instead. That said, cold immersion has been shown to be highly beneficial following HIIT, cardio and endurance workouts however, and can be used as a form of active recovery.
Improve Your Sleep To Speed Up Exercise Recovery
In our sleep biohacking blogs, we explored how sleep is the foundation of health, and how it can impact our exercise performance, and our recovery from exercise. If you want to lose weight, it’s vital to optimise your sleep, as disrupted sleep can cause blood sugar swings, cravings, appetite disturbances and is a leading cause of obesity. Research shows that sleep issues are associated with insulin resistance, and multiple studies confirm that disrupted sleep for multiple nights in a row can drastically increase the risk of prediabetes, and worsen the symptoms of those who currently suffer with the condition. Wildly swinging blood sugar levels often lead to sugar cravings, and the lack of sleep also changes our appetite and satiety signals; increasing ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and suppressing leptin (the ‘fullness’ hormone) so we’re more likely to over-eat too.
If you want to build muscle, it’s important to optimise your deep sleep, as our biggest pulse of growth hormone (which supports muscle recovery and growth) occurs during this sleep phase. Growth hormone also helps the body recover from injury. Try our healthy dessert recipe to improve your sleep HERE, and our magnesium-rich chocolate pudding recipe to improve exercise recovery HERE.
For all-round exercise recovery, remember that during the deeper stages of sleep, the flow of blood and oxygen is increased to the muscles, improving exercise and injury recovery. Sleep helps reduce excessive inflammation which may damage tissues, and helps improve athletic performance and reaction time too. Poor sleep is associated with slow muscle recovery, increased stress levels, decreased glycogen synthesis, and increased ratings of perceived exertion. If exercise is a central aspect of your life, improving sleep is absolutely vital.
So, now you know how to choose the best type of exercise for your needs, how to optimise your pre-workout nutrition and supplementation, the best exercises to include in your workout plan, and how to speed up your exercise recovery! Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, improve longevity, enhance mental health, or simply get more from your exercise and prevent injuries, we hope this series on how to biohack your exercise has been useful for you!
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