The Best Recovery Methods for Athletes
One of the most commonly overlooked factors when it comes to advancing as an athlete is rest and recovery. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort you are putting into your training; if you’re not setting aside ample time and creating an environment in which your body can repair and rebuild itself, then all your doing is walking straight on to injury and illness.
Having a handful of the best recovery methods in your post-workout arsenal will help to keep overtraining at bay. Exercise is taxing on your musculoskeletal system, your central nervous system, and your immune system. Everything you can do to aid workout recovery will not only help you to keep crushing those PRs, but it will help maintain health and well being.
Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at some of the most effective recovery methods to help keep you on top of your game.
The Best Recovery Methods for Athletes
Any type of training, when done correctly, puts the body under stress. When you are at rest the body has a chance to adapt to this stress and allows you to come back stronger the next time you train. During recovery the body replenishes energy stores, repairs damaged tissues, and resets the central nervous system.
Neglecting recovery means that the body will continue to breakdown more and more after each session and can eventually lead to illness and injury, commonly known as overtraining syndrome.
We’re going to take a look at recovery methods that you should include as part of your day to day lifestyle and shorter-term recovery methods that should be employed immediately after exercise.
What you take in nutritionally is directly linked to how you perform athletically. Not only does your body need the right food to fuel your workouts, but it also needs the right foods at the right times after your workout in order to recover.
Your breakfast should be healthy and designed around your athletic goals. Make sure you combine a balanced supply of healthy protein, fats, and complex carbohydrates to help trigger your metabolism, prevent muscle protein breakdown, and fuel your muscles.
If you’re working out after breakfast, then it’s important not to eat too heavy as it can leave you feeling sluggish as a lot of energy ends up being used for digestion.
Post-Workout Recovery Eating
After your workout its important to supply the body with fast-digesting carbohydrates and protein. We recommend 20-40g of protein and 40-80g of carbohydrates. Consuming meals such as oatmeal with whey protein, or lean protein and sweet potato is a great way to give your body what it needs to recover adequately.
Rehydrating after exercise is not just about swallowing down as much water as you possibly can. When you sweat you lose electrolytes such as sodium and chloride. Electrolytes are responsible for regulating nerve and muscle function, hydrating the body, balancing blood pressure and acidity, and helping to rebuild damaged tissue.
Just drinking water after exercise can even flush more electrolytes out of your system, having a detrimental effect. Adding electrolytes to your water is a must, especially if you’re training in a warm environment.
In addition to quality nutrition and adequate hydration, there are a number of supplements available to help with recovery. The supplement market is huge, and not all supplements are made equal, far from it. So let’s take a closer look at the top supplements for recovery.
Branch Chain Amino Acids consist of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The body can not produce these by itself so they need to source from food or supplementation. Taking BCAAs can help to reduce muscle soreness after exercise and speed up muscle recovery. They also increase protein synthesis, which means your body is able to get the most from the protein you consume before and after a workout.
The great thing about BCAAs is that they’re light on the stomach and come in a number of great-tasting flavors so you can add them to water and sip them throughout the day.
Creatine is the number one go-to supplement for people looking to develop muscle and increase their recovery time.
Creatine is naturally found in the body, and when you exercise your muscle’s store of creatine is depleted. Creatine is used by the body to create a high-energy molecule called ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). ATP is responsible for providing the energy that drives a number of processes within living cells.
Studies have shown that by supplementing creatine athletes can regain full muscle function quicker as well as reducing muscle damage sustained during workouts.
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in a number of different processes in the body. These include energy production, DNA and amino acid synthesis, blood cell formation, and brain and nerve cell function.
B12 is sourced from animal products including meat and dairy, so vegan’s are most susceptible to deficiencies. It plays an important role in providing the body adequate energy to recover, so if meat’s not your thing, then supplementation is a must.
L-Glutamine is a cell volumizer, meaning that it helps muscles hold water, which is necessary for growth and repair. In addition to this, it plays a key role in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Supplementing 5-10 grams of this amino acid can significantly help to increase muscle strength recovery and reduce soreness following exercise
Of all the recovery techniques you can apply, getting a good amount of sleep should be at the top of your list. Sleep is divided into REM sleep and Non-REM sleep.
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep occurs in cycles of about 90-120 minutes throughout the night, making up for about 20-25% of your total sleep time. It provides energy to the brain that supports it during waking hours and is necessary for restoring the mind, making it essential for resetting your central nervous system after grueling workouts.
Non-REM is deep sleep, during which your blood pressure drops and your breathing becomes deeper and slower. Your brain is resting with very little activity, so the blood supply available to your muscles increases, delivering extra amounts of oxygen and nutrients which facilitate their healing and growth.
During Non-REM sleep your pituitary gland releases growth hormone which stimulates muscle repair and growth. Not getting adequate sleep means your body produces less growth hormone, which results in impaired recovery. There is no definite preferred amount of sleep, but 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is a good ball-park figure to aim for.
Exercising at a constantly increasing intensity will eventually catch up with you, even if your recovery game is on point. If your serious about training in any sport, then its important to schedule deloading periods.
Deloading means that you decrease your working intensity for a short period of time (usually a week) to give your body and nervous system a chance to recover. It’s important to use deloading periods to concentrate on form and mobility, and not just take a week off.
Cryotherapy basically means ‘cold therapy.’ Studies show that exposing your body to cold temperatures can increase blood flow to certain areas helping to boost recovery and reduce inflammation. There are a number of ways to do this.
Full Body Cryotherapy
The most recent form of cryotherapy involves standing in a cryogenic chamber for up to 3 minutes. The enclosure will drop to a temperature between -200 and -300ºF, and when this happens your blood flow is redirected from extremities to your core.
When you leave the chamber and your body warms up, the surge in recirculation to the extremities delivers a surge of nutrient-rich blood to your muscles and joints. It especially effective immediately after exercise and will even help reduce inflammation.
An ice bath works in much the same way as full-body cryotherapy. The main difference is the level of nerve you need to actually get in one! It can be quite a shock to the system, so getting in when your core temperature is already high will help reduce the intensity.
This takes getting used to, and it’s not as simple as just taking a cold shower. The aim is to actually fluctuate the water temperature between as cold as you can stand and warm. This causes the muscle to contract and relax, which helps to reduce inflammation, flush out any build up inflammatory cells, aid mobility, and reduce stiffness.
Cold showers also help to drain the lymphatic system thus flushing toxins from the body, which will help to support the immune system. The best time to try a cold shower is immediately after exercise when your core temperature is warmest.
Make Recovery as Important as Your Training
While recovery might not demand the same laser focus and determination as to your training, it should definitely receive equal attention. Using the best recovery methods and ensuring that your recovery regimen is as rock-solid as your workout ethic will help you to train harder, smash your personal goals, and remain injury-free for longer.
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