Nik Naidoo is a full time sports marketer, freelance fitness contributor and avid CrossFitter. On his personal blog, The Amateur Athlete, Nik shares his passions for health and fitness, as well as his own tips on training and nutrition, with a particular emphasis on improving athletic performance.
Have you ever started a workout and already felt fatigued? Your body is tired, your mind unfocused and you quickly begin to dread your planned workout. You continue to push through your half-hearted training session with no signs of progression. There's a good chance that this is due to a lack of recovery - a protocol that is so crucial for the development of any athlete, yet one that is easy to neglect. Building recovery time into your training program is just as important as training itself, as it is the time where the body can adapt to the stress of exercise that you have put it under (1). Failure to recover efficiently can lead to decreased sports performance, injury and even depression.
As an athlete, it is important to understand how recovery works and how to implement it into your daily routine for both short and long term benefits to your performance. Some lack a recovery plan simply due to a lack of knowledge or time, but then wonder why they don’t see noticeable progression in their training.
Recovery is the techniques and actions taken to maximize your body’s repair. These actions can be implemented in and amongst a busy lifestyle and not just when you are resting at home. While it is equally as important to plan those rest days and really listen to when your mind and body needs to switch off, there are various recovery elements you can start incorporating immediately. These will enable you to recover efficiently, maintain balance and notice those hard earned training effects. Wondering what helps muscle recovery? Here are some tips to get you started.
Best Practices for Muscle Recovery
Drinking adequate amounts of water is critical to health, energy, recovery and performance (2). During intense exercise your body will sweat, which causes you to lose electrolytes. Rehydrating and supplementing your body with the correct nutrients post-workout is therefore key in order to help regulate your body’s fluid levels. By staying hydrated, you will also allow for more efficient nutrient uptake within the body when it comes to consuming your supplements and food. Sports drinks can have high amounts of sugar so stick to water or coconut water, which is also extremely rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium and facilitates digestion due to its high concentration of fiber (3).
Exercise also causes your muscle tissues to break down which leads to muscle soreness and inflammation. You need to provide your muscles with the right building blocks for repair. Some of these building blocks include taking supplements. Some of the best supplements for muscle recovery are fish oil,to decrease inflammation, and magnesium ,to speed recovery and relax your muscles. It's advantageous to get enough protein after a training session to help muscles begin the recovery process. Many choose a protein shake because of the convenience, but you want to make sure that you find one with quality ingredients. A protein such as PR3, is a great combination for rehydration and muscle building, with 24 grams of rice protein, dried coconut water and collagen to help repair muscle tissue.
While taking the right supplements will help kick start the recovery process, it is only just the beginning. It amazes me how so many people think one shake will help repair their body and suddenly transform them! The reality is, the best post-workout recovery meal is real food. So, the next step is getting a quality meal of fast acting carbohydrates and protein in you. At whatever time of day you train, make sure your post-workout meal is dense in nutrients. The meal should place a little more emphasis on protein and carbohydrates to aid protein synthesis and replace muscle glycogen (4). Look for good quality protein sources such as eggs, chicken or fish and a good serving of starchy carbs from rice or sweet potatoes.
"Adding in active recovery days around your harder workouts keeps the body nimble and the blood flowing."
4. Active Recovery
Seriously, more exercise? Yes! The key is being able to listen to your body; knowing when you need to train hard and when you need to implement active recovery. This is simply exercise of a low-intensity. Adding in active recovery days around your harder workouts keeps the body nimble and the blood flowing. While it is extremely beneficial to have days completely off, don’t be afraid to engage in active rest when you see fit, such as a light jog, rowing or even a good mobility session. This depends on you, your schedule and your body. After hard workouts it can be hard to get out of bed, but an hour spent doing yoga helps mobilize joints and speeds up the removal of lactic acid from your muscles. Use your rest days wisely with active rest and plan alternative exercises to keep the body fresh and your training schedules varied.
What more needs to be said? Sleep is the most important time to recover and it costs nothing! Make sure you’re clocking enough hours every night to not only aid muscle recovery, but also improve your hormone balance. There is nothing worse than training when the body is tired and unable to function in its optimum state due to a lack of energy. Anything between seven to ten hours is a good guideline to work with. A great way of sticking to a good sleeping pattern is establishing a pre-bed routine. It could be in the form of stretching, reading a book or even meditating for 10-15 minutes. Look for ways to wind down rather than things that occupy your mind, such as using your phones or watching TV. Check out other ways to get a good night's sleep here.
If you want to perform to the best of your athletic ability and speed up muscle recovery, you need to invest in your recovery time. Don't be a couch potato and expect your body to find a way out of its broken down state that it’s been left in after exercise. Give your body and mind the right elements to recover effectively and efficiently so you can improve your performance in the long run.
This blog was originally published on www.purepharma.com by Nik Naidoo.