If money was no object, just how lean, fast or strong could you actually get? We mined the secrets of the world’s most high-priced facilities to get you top-dollar results… On a budget.


1. Performance critique

High-end performance takes some top-flight analysis. Behind every Novak Djokovic or Mat Fraser, there’s a Marián Vajda or Ben Bergeron (even if you don’t know their name). Elite athletes don’t just keep track of sets, reps, rest and recovery, they analyze their movement patterns and look for ways to improve their technique and efficiency. Obviously, hiring high-end coaches is one way to go about it, but it gets pricey.

The budget version

Ever-improving tech means it’s never been more possible to critique your performance on the cheap. One option is the advanced workout tracker, formlifting.com, that offers barbell speed sensors that attach to the lifting collars on your bar, while the Beast Sensor offers a wrist-mount to track tempo and your strength curve. Video your own performance and visit reddit.com/r/weightroom, where others will offer advice on your technique



2. Diet management

The low end is a quick consultation, get a printout saying ‘eat fewer carbs’ and then it’s back to the chicken thighs and broccoli. The high end? A diet plan calibrated to your needs and nutritional profile, taking into account the way your body responds to different macros and providing gourmet, pre-packaged dishes. It doesn’t come cheap: UFC fighter BJ Penn paid Dolce Diet creator a reported $1000 a day to provide three weeks of nutritional management.

The budget version

If you’re prepared to do the macro math yourself, having every meal made for you isn’t prohibitively expensive. Seek out meal delivery services in your area or visit Bodybuilding.com to get frozen muscle meals that are delivered so that you can keep them at work or at home for when you need a quick feed. To do it on the ultra-cheap, download the My Macros+ app to plan meals linked to your workout and fitness goals, then track them throughout the day yourself.



3. Measuring your muscle mass

Generally speaking, increased accuracy comes at a cost. Caliper testing and electrical impedance scales are the entry options, but DEXA scanning (which uses different strengths of x-ray to measure bone density and fat) and hydrostatic weighing (where you’re dunked in water) come with a higher price tag. Looking to splash out? The ultimate home option is the Naked scanner – a full-length mirror embedded with sensors that use infrared light to give you a 3D image, with full-fat analysis. It’s expected to retail for $699 when it goes on sale in November.

The budget version

Though it’s a bit lower-tech, the mPort app (mport.com) does the job almost as well by using circumference measurements to estimate the size of your fat and muscle mass, and comes with a month’s free trial. Alternatively, the Skulpt Scanner gives you a slightly more accurate reading via a handheld device for $120.



4. A good night’s sleep

When you’re the world’s best-funded cycling team (2015 budget: $30 million), you can afford to focus on the little things. That’s why, as well as hiring some of the world’s best climbers and sprinters, Team Sky have made a winning habit of focusing on marginal gains. The tiny details make fractional differences that, when they’re all added up, mean winning the Tour De France. Take mattresses, for instance: Sky take their own from stage to stage so that they can consistently get a good night’s sleep in strange hotels. Even hand-gels help. The team make sure they’re everywhere, minimizing the chances of infections that might affect training or racing.

The budget version

Sleep coach Nick Littlehales recommends getting a cheap mattress and replacing it semi-regularly, stripping back to a single pillow, as propping your neck up on two invites postural problems. Also buy man-made sheets, which are more breathable and quicker to dry. Make sure the standby lights are off in your bedroom to prompt your body’s production of melatonin, and stay clear of bright screens in the hour before bed. Your sleep quality – and morning-after performance – should skyrocket. 2000 thread-count Egyptian cotton? Expensive and unnecessary.



5. Ketones fuelling

Ketone drinks have been used in cycling’s professional peloton for years, despite making their debut at around $2500. They top up the body’s reserves of a naturally occurring array of chemicals that help the body fuel with fat, preserving glucose stores. With prices dropping, they’re now available for around $95 for a course of servings. CrossFit Games athletes are already using them, claiming that they aid competition and recovery.

The budget version

You can shunt your own body into ketosis the hard way by adopting a high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet. A couple of weeks on 20-50g of carbs a day should cause a shift in your body’s metabolism into using fat, rather than blood glucose, as fuel.



6. Altitude training

For endurance athletes hoping to stay competitive, training at altitude is essential. Team GB’s most successful athletes clock up the miles in the thin air around Iten in Kenya, while US runners head to the Olympic training centre on Colorado or the trail-running Mecca of Flagstaff , Arizona.

The budget version

If your diary/family won’t allow a month-long trip to Mexico City, there’s always the hypoxic chamber: a sealed room where the oxygen content of the air is reduced to simulate being at altitude. Several gyms are offering them these days.



7. Below freezing showers

If cold showers aren’t hardcore enough, this is the obvious next step: spending time in a chamber that’s chilled to -90 degrees. The theory is that it forces your body’s fight/flight to kick in, providing endorphins for every need from pain relief to recovery. A single session at London’s 111Cryo costs £95 ($120); the experts there recommend from eight to 10 freezes for the full effect.

The budget option

The jury’s still out on the simpler forms of ice therapy. Sitting in an ice bath, long part of the post-training plan for endurance athletes, is now thought to interfere with the inflammation that’s a part of the body’s natural recovery process, but there are alternatives. Post-workout foam rolling is the simplest option. Get a Pro-Tone trigger point roller and spend 10 minutes on it in front of your television.



8. High priced water

Manchester City’s £200m City Football Academy, one of the most high-tech in the world, is also home to one of the globe’s most expensive hydrotherapy setups. It includes a cold plunge pool that’s kept at four degrees, a hot plunge pool at a toasty 36, a resistance pool where players can walk against a current to aid their recovery from injury, and a three-lane main swimming pool with water pressure jets to aid player recovery. It’s not just showing off as, according to a review of studies published in 2014, hydrotherapy has beneficial effects on everything from blood pressure to metabolism.

The budget version

There’s some evidence hydrotherapy benefits are linked to rapid temperature shifts. In hot water, your nervous system adjusts your circulation and lymphatic system by dilating the blood vessels, opening the pores, relaxing the muscles and relieving stress. Cold water reverses the process, increasing circulation and flushing out excess fluids. To get it done on the cheap by changing the temperature in the shower.