Athletes spend most of their time recovering rather than working out. However, more attention is given to training rather than to recovery. What many athletes don’t realize is that recovery is key to athletic performance.
After intense exercise, the body’s muscles actually experience micro-trauma, which are tiny tears in muscle fibers. These muscle tears have been linked to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which occurs 24 to 72 hours after exercise. When these micro-tears are repaired, the body experiences hypertrophy (increase in muscle size).
You want to recover faster because the faster you recover, the faster you can get back to training at 100%.
In this article I will talk about 5 ways that you can ensure better and faster recovery.
When consuming protein, timing is everything. Eating a combination of carbs and protein (4:1 ratio) within 30 minutes post-workout helps maximize muscle synthesis, muscle function, and reduces muscle breakdown. (1)
Protein shakes are probably the most convenient way to get the protein that you need. Some shakes already have the 4:1 ratio that you need, but with some shakes you will have to add the carbs yourself.
Your body can consume up to 20g of protein at one time, but your body will benefit from as little as 8 grams. (1) Here is a great tasting protein powder that I personally love: MusclePharm
If you do not like the taste of protein shakes you can also get this ratio from the food that you eat.
Here are just a few combination examples with the correct carb-protein ratio:
Epsom Salt Baths
Epsom salt is made of the minerals Magnesium (regulates the activity of enzymes in the body) and Sulfate (helps to flush toxins), both of which your body need for recovery. Add 2 cups of Epsom salt to your bath tub and soak in water as hot as you can stand it for 15 to 20 minutes
Epsom salt baths help alleviate stress and relax the body, relieve pain and muscle cramps, and also help muscles and nerves work properly. The heat will increase blood flow to the muscles which will help protein, nutrients, and oxygen reach the muscles faster and promote healing. Give Epsom salt baths a try with this product from Amazom: EPSOAK
This formula of Epsom salt will also help you sleep which is the next way to help you recover faster and more efficiently.
Sleep is fundamental to optimal recovery, and both the quantity and quality of sleep are vital.
Athletes specifically need greater quantity and quality of sleep than non-athletes because of the stress their bodies endure. Besides recovery, sleep helps improve reaction time, increases cardiovascular performance, improves emotional stability, and helps with processing information.
Here are some tips on how to improve your sleep (2):
-Develop a consistent pattern of sleeping and waking times.
-Practice relaxation techniques before going to bed. If you do not fall asleep within 30 minutes get up and perform more techniques.
-Make the room as dark as possible, using a mask if needed.
-Make the room as quiet as possible, using ear plugs/muffs if needed.
-Avoid eating high-protein meals or caffeine a few hours before bed.
-Maintain a cool temperature in the bedroom.
-Sleep on a large bed.
-Identify the amount of sleep you need—everyone is different.
Traditional recovery (passive recovery) usually entails the athlete taking time off from any activity to let the muscles recover. During active recovery, however, you perform light exercise on the days between workouts. It might sound contradictory to exercise on your days off but there are many benefits.
One of the main goals for any type of recovery method is to increase blood flow to the muscles that are sore and active recovery does just that. Different types of active recovery exercises include: massage, walking, light weight lifting, swimming, yoga, and cycling. As long as you keep the intensity and volume low, you will benefit from active recovery.
Water helps you recover by assisting in transporting nutrients to the muscles. Caffeinated beverages such as such as coffee, tea, or soft drinks act as a diuretic and can therefore increase your chances of becoming dehydrated.
Make sure to drink water even when you are not thirsty--usually when your body tells you you’re thirsty, it is already in a dehydrated state.(3) The amount of water it takes to get rid of thirst is not enough to become hydrated(3), so drinking water even when not thirsty will help you to stay hydrated. Keeping a water bottle at on you at all times is a great way to make sure you get the amount of water that you need. Get this great water bottle here: Camelbak Chute
Most of the methods that I have listed in this article are inexpensive or free and convenient. Optimum recovery strategies will vary between athletes; what works well for one person might not work well for another.
Athletes should be active in their recovery efforts and should follow the saying “train smart, train hard, recover well.”
1). Debra Wein, Whey Protein vs. Casein Protein and Optimal Recovery, NSCA Performance Training Journal, 2012
2). Ian Jeffreys, A Multidimensional Approach to Enhancing Recovery, NSCA Volume 27, Number 5, pages 78-85, 2005
3). Armstrong LE. Assessing hydration status: The elusive gold standard. J Am Coll Nutr 26: 575s-584s, 2006.