Exercise Recovery: What are you doing to give your body a helping hand?

Posted: April 4, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Its all well and good to turn up every day and bust your ass in the weight room, track or field but if you don’t recover well enough between sessions then you will eventually fall victim to a bad case of accumulative fatigue. Niggly injuries plague most people undertaking exercise and their ability to get over these minor injuries can sometimes come down to a few daily changes in their routine or eating habits.

Its the holy grail for trainers and coaches the world wide; to have their clients and athletes continually progressing without injury or pain. Some fall short of this whilst others manage this with ease thanks to understanding the best techniques to aid with recovery.

Here are a few of the most important things that will make a difference on your recovery time in between training sessions:

Eating well (pre and post exercise nutrition plays a huge part in the recovery process)
Sleeping Well
Foam Rolling
Correct programming and de-loading
Sports Massage
Cold Water Immersion (CWI)

Some of the above will apply to everyone, others to the more advanced lifter/athlete. But in essence, the better you react to how your body reacts to exercise, the more efficiently you will recover.

Food and drink! These are the first and most important things you should be thinking about when planning exercise. Pre and Post exercise nutrition is one of the most overlooked area’s of exercise. If you don’t fuel your body before exercise, your training sessions will be average. If you don’t correctly refuel after exercise then the body’s recovery process is stunted dramatically.

Some of my clients ask me what is more important, eating directly before or after exercise and my answer is always – post exercise. If you only have enough protein for one shake then save it for after you have trained. The reason for this? Exercise causes micro fascial tears within muscles and in order to repair them we need the correct nutrients. Protein is the big boy here. The first 20-60 minutes after a training session are crucial in the recovery process. Nicknamed ‘the golden hour’ by many in the profession, this brief time after you have worked out is the best time to ingest protein. At least 20-50g of the stuff directly after your workout is the standard. Depending on your training type and physique goals then some non sugary carbs (as low on the GI index as poss to prevent high insulin spikes) somewhere between 40-60g mixed in with your shake is also very useful in helping the body uptake protein more efficiently. For triathletes and other endurance athletes I would always recommend a carb/protein mix alongside a drink high in electrolytes to replenish those lost during a long hard workout.

This initial uptake of nutrients is most easily found in the form of protein shakes. For those people maybe new to exercise that think that drinking protein shakes will turn you into some massive steroid taking looking beast then stop! Unfortunately branding of protein shakes showing huge muscley men has caused people not in the know to associate them with steroid type effects. If this were the case, then surely no one would need to take steroids? Protein powders are made from all sources of proteins so can be fitted into all diets, even vegans.

Ensuring that you eat well long after a training session is what separates those that recover quickly and those that don’t. Make food a priority and don’t just eat crap after a workout because you think you’ve ‘earnt it’. Foods and supplements particularly useful to help with recovery are:

Green tea (or green tea extract)
Dark choc (at least 70% choc solids, don’t eat a whole load tho)
Acai berries
BCAA’s (Branch chain amino acids)
Flax seed
Omega Oil’s

A combination of the above with the core nutrients protein, good fats, carbohydrates (so long as they aren’t sugary) and the all important vitamins and minerals is a sure fire way to give your body a nice helping hand to remove free radicals floating around in your body, mend fascial tears and ultimately recover super fast!

Sleep! It’s simple really, rest is the best cure for recovery. If you get plenty of rest and good sleep your body can concentrate on recovering from a hardcore bout of exercise rather than being awake.

Foam Rolling and Sports Massage. Don’t ever underestimate the importance of foam rolling and sports massage on helping with the speed and ease of recovery. Another side effect of exercise is the muscle tightness. Foam rolling and other forms of deep tissue massage are wonderful at releasing the muscle tension so commonly found in lifters and athletes the world over. My advice: Buy a foam roller and use it at least 3 times a week, before and after exercise, rolling out the major muscles in your body. For a fuller massage, find a good sports massage therapist and see them regularly. If you are a competitive athlete, endurance athlete or advanced weight lifter then regular massage will do wonders for your recovery time.

Cold Water Immersion (CWI). Or better known as ‘ice baths’, CWI are a method of helping to reduce inflammation of muscles and joints after a particularly hard workout. Immersion can be anything from 3-15 minutes depending on the severity of the workout and an individual’s needs for a fast recovery. CWI is an extreme method to aid recovery and as such is only something I recommend to my advanced lifters or triathletes/endurance athletes. Studies in CWI have also been found to increase an individual’s hunger after a workout, therefore aiding with the recovery process. Another study also found that the micro shivers that your muscles undertake whilst submerged aid with our body’s ability to breakdown body fat ultimately aiding with helping to get you lean.

Correct programming and de-loading. This is often the most overlooked tool when aiming to combat recovery in an individual. Smart training programming will help to prevent any injuries from the offset. One of the reasons that so many professional athletes and weekend warriors these days get injured isn’t down to their nutrition, poor technique (this should be taught correct from the off) sleep patterns or even genetics. It’s from lousy coaching. Proportionate loading through different phases of work depending on goals, time frames and client/athlete abilities is what will effect how well someone recovers or not. Training very hard and heavy every single session is going to lead to extreme accumulative fatigue and chronic and acute bouts of injury. This is what separates a good trainer/coach from a bad one.

If you follow most or all of the steps above then you will find that your recovery time will decrease and you will adapt to working hard quicker than the less than average guy who finishes his workout and heads straight out for a curry.

Work Hard
Eat Well
Sleep Well



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