How tempted are you to crawl into the shower and sprawl on a couch after an exhausting exercise? Very, right? However, as heavenly as that exercise-induced slumber might feel, as soon as that foot hits the ground, you can say hello to pain for the next two days. Learn why proper recovery is so important and what you can do to help your body recuperate fast and best.
No matter if you are a seasoned spinner or a casual bootcamper, taking some time to stretch and recover after exercise is as important as the workout itself. Our natural state is to be athletic, to be capable and to move. We should challenge our bodies in some way every day. Training, especially resistance training, is a stress on our body. The harder you train, the more scientific you have to be about your recovery.
Is recovery really that important?
Even though feeling sore the next day can be a satisfying reminder of your hard work, this can also hinder your overall result. And here comes the science part. Your muscles produce lactic acid from glucose which is absorbed by mitochondria (an organelle where it comes to the biochemical process of respiration and energy production). The fitter you are, the better your muscles are at using it. Delayed onset muscles soreness (DOMS) is brought on by microscopic tears in muscle fibres, releasing chemical irritants that trigger inflammation.
Training is the stimulus for the body to make a change (create more muscle) and recovery is when that change or adaptation occurs. Without decent recovery through proper diet, quality and sufficient sleep, and optimal hydration, your body will struggle to respond to the demands of training and your progress and results will stall.
Opt for healthy nutrient and protein-rich diet
Even though it might be inviting to pop some Ibuprofen and call it a day, muscle recovery isn’t something you can cut corners on. There are a number of quick-fixes available but in reality, sleep and a healthy nutrient and protein-rich diet makes more of a difference.
Talking of diet, what you eat before you go the gym can also have a lasting impact long after you return home. Pre-training nutrition strategies make a great difference to how you feel afterwards. Try beetroot juice (nitrate oxide) and some protein beforehand because the protein takes hours to assimilate making it an excellent recovery tool as well. That sounds simple enough right?
But what about protein and carbs, how do we know which is best? A proper balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrate from whole food sources one to two hours before a workout and another healthy, well-considered meal within an hour or two after a workout is best. For example, try chicken breast with mixed green vegetables, couscous and a small amount of nuts as protein will repair the muscle fibres. Even though it’s widely believed you have a small window to eat after exercise, long-term studies have proven that there is no need to be in a hurry – preparing a wholesome meal up to two hours after working out can be just as effective.
This along with good hydration (two to three liters of water a day) and seven to eight hours of quality sleep a night will allow your physique to recover optimally. So, delicious meals and quality sleep – you can’t argue with that.
Foam rolling speeds up recovery
Yes, of course. Presuming that workouts are done correctly and the body recovers properly using the techniques above, there’s less chance you’ll pick up an injury. You can also decrease the risk by helping your muscles recuperate with self-massage techniques like foam rolling or going to see a massage therapist.
Never forget to stretch before and after exercise
Even though there’s been a lot of debate concerning the role of stretching before and after workout, it’s worth covering all bases just in case. The most important areas in the body that demand good levels of mobility are the ankles, hips, and the upper back. It’s important to give attention to these areas both before and after exercise with various dynamic and static stretches.