Rest and recovery should be given as much value as training for an athlete. It is during our rest periods that our bodies adapt and adjust to all the stresses incurred during intense training. Rest is also extremely important for mental preparation and reflection. In order to recuperate properly and to restore normal function we need to eat properly, sleep properly and introduce certain lifestyle habits to ensure our bodies recover. Correct rest and recovery implies much more than simply taking a day off!
When coming up with your training plan it is very important to include recovery as an organised activity. Including recovery in your training plan will not only allow your muscles and connective tissues to repair themselves, but it will also lead to improvements in your overall level of fitness.
What exactly is recovery?
Simply put, it is the time needed for your body to heal any damage caused by training.
To achieve the most from each and every workout, you need to give precedence to post-workout recovery. Check out these tips to boost recovery and stay on top of your game!
1. Nutrition! Eat Right!!
Proper nutrition is key for recovery. Our muscles need two main things to recover: proteins, to rebuild muscle tissues, and carbohydrates which provide our muscles with their main source of energy during training. The recommendations for exact amounts vary wildly based on your body type and the type of training you are doing. There is also a lot of literature on the ‘post-workout window,’ the time frame within which we should consume a certain amount of both carbs and protein in order to optimise gains, but the research is often conflicting. It is advised to keep a gap of no more than three to four hours between pre and post workout meals, therefore allowing your body to constantly maintain a healthy supply of nutrients. We always make sure to eat at least an hour before training and like to try and eat again within the hour following training. This always ensures that our energy levels are optimal and it helps with recovery. For more information on the types of food that can accelerate recovery, this is a great list!
2. Don’t Forget to Stretch and Foam Roll
Foam rolling, also known self-myofascial release, is a fantastic way to warm up but it can also be extremely effective immediately after training, and on rest days. Foam rolling can improve our range of motion by releasing any tightness and boosting blood flow. This can in turn help to prevent injuries, and can aid in decreasing overall recovery time. To get started on foam rolling this is a great video with tips for a full body roll!
Follow up the rolling with stretching to further benefit from the increased range of motion that the rolling provides.
After an intense workout we often just want to head home! Neglecting a post workout stretch can lead to increased muscle soreness and stiffness. Focus on the main muscles used during your workout to best enhance recovery.
Sleep gives your body (and brain!) the opportunity to restore and recover. Long term lack of sleep can have a series of negative repercussions on our bodies production of hormones and sensitivity to insulin. Translation: you’ll get weaker and fatter. Sacrificing sleep for long periods of time can also lead to increased stress and can even negatively impact your drive in training sessions. For some tips on how to get as much sleep as you can and set up your bat cave properly this is a great little infographic.
4. Active Recovery
Rest days don’t have to be spent on the sofa! Adding some light sessions in between heavy workout days can help to drive blood into the muscles most in need of recovery, this provides nutrients and can carry any waste out. Active recovery, as opposed to passive, can be a great way to spend a rest day and can assist massively with any achy muscles! Active recovery can range from foam rolling, to going for a gentle hike or swim.
As a rule, we try to get all of our nutrients from real food and avoid any supplementation, however we have both found that BCAAs have helped us to recover from particularly gruelling workouts. BCAAs or Branched Chain Amino Acids can be crucial in maximising post workout recovery as they can help to encourage muscle growth and repair and decrease muscle soreness after working out.
BCAAs are made up of three of the essential amino acids that our bodies are unable to produce alone, but are found in foods that are high in protein. Studies have shown that athletes who take BCAAs post workout showed markedly less muscle damage. While we do not endorse supplements, and we still try and get the necessary BCAAs from our food, they can be a useful supplement to promote post workout recovery. We have tried a number of different BCAAs and definitely recommend the Xtend Scivation BCAAs!
Make recovery a part of your routine, come up with some fun and creative ways to practise active recovery and always focus on good nutrition! Keep us posted on any new ways you come up with to keep your active recovery fresh and fun! 😊