Eat, Sleep, Stretch, Repeat : The Golden Rules of Recovery

The long and winding road to your fitness dreams comes at a bit of a price…

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We have all been there: waking up the morning after cracking out your best session yet, only to come to the sickening realisation that walking up and down the stairs is going to be harder than Frodo & Sam’s journey through Mordor…

What you are feeling is what the experts refer to as DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness). When we undergo strenuous exercise, be it cardio or weight training, the individual fibres that make up our muscles breakdown and subsequently resynthesise to form stronger, more robust muscles.

Now, although DOMS are an indicator that you have been putting a decent effort in at the gym, it is important to give our bodies some TLC after hitting the weights so as to optimise our recovery. Use these Golden Rules to help you gain the most benefit from all your hard work…

Rule #1 : Fuel & Re-Fuel the Tank

Nutrition is one of, if not the, biggest factor influencing our ability to recover from exercise.
I know what image you have in your head right now: that jacked dude/dudette at your gym aggressively guzzling some funky-looking concoction from a protein shaker. Although there is evidence to suggest that protein powder and post-workout shakes do benefit recovery, the real focus should be on overall nutritional intake. Having protein-rich, whole foods in the hours after exercise will help maintain muscle mass and help rebuild the tissues within each muscle in order to optimise the adaptations your body makes to regular exertion. In a nutshell,

Source: https://blog.csiro.au/new-calculator-helps-you-personalise-your-protein-needs-to-support-weight-loss/

Protein is all the hype in popular media, but people often neglect the importance of carbohydrates in a healthy diet, not least in the 2-hour period after a heavy workout. After lifting weights, hitting the treadmill, or going to a high-intensity circuits class, our muscle’s glycogen stores are low or, if you worked extra-hard, completely depleted.

This means that when we ingest carbohydrate after exercise, it is shuttled straight back into the muscles’ fuel stores, thus quickening your recovery. Make smart choices when it comes to post-workout carbs, with the best picks being sweet potatoes, oats, dark leafy green vegetables, and wholegrains.

Make sure you have a sound nutrition plan in place to help you push your boundaries and ramp up your gym performance to the next level…

Rule #2 : Get Your 8 Hours

Image result for sleeping exerciseSleep is the regular gym-goer’s best mate when it comes to recovery. 
Only 30% of us get the required amount of sleep per night; this is largely due to an increase in working hours, exposure to blue light, and mental stress that comes with 21st century living. You may not have thought so, but depriving your body of sleep means you miss out on the wealth of benefits sleep has on performance…
Chowing down on some Zs allows the systems of the body to press the Reset button and prepare for the next day of fun and games. Therefore, lack of rest means we aren’t physiologically ready to achieve our maximum potential. Think of it as our own personal MOT.
Image result for sleeping exerciseFurthermore, research has found that sleep is when our bodies release the highest amounts of growth hormone. This stimulates the growth and repair of muscles used throughout the day, particularly those used during a workout. So next time you think about purchasing the latest super-duper recovery shake, take a step back and assess whether your current sleeping patterns correlate with your workout routine.
For some tips on getting a quality night of shut-eye, check out this infographic from examine.com

Rule #3 : Stretch, Rattle & Roll…

Minus the rattle..,
The final golden rule of recovery is one often overlooked. It is common practice to prepare for a workout with a stretching routine so as to prime the muscles for physical activity, but people often forget the importance of stretching after a session…
Allowing time at the end of a big session to passively stretch out your tired muscles will do you the world of good, helping to maintain bloodflow when your muscle fibres need it most. A good post-workout stretching routine will increase the flexibility and mobility of your joints and muscles, enabling you to work through larger ranges of motion during future weight training sessions. Plus, I am sure there are other walks of your life where being flexible might come in handy…

If you want to push the boat out, grab yourself a foam roller and learn some self-massage movements for some deep-tissue release. It can get painful, and sometimes you have to psych up before you stop, drop and roll out, but it will no doubt remove any niggling knots deep down in the depths of your muscles.

For more information about stretching, flexibility and other recovery strategies, please drop us an email!

The Final Word

Everyone loves the feeling of dripping, sweaty satisfaction of a weights session or a run. With the heart-rate through the roof and the endorphins pumping through the system, people often forget to go through the right motions in order to help their body come back to reality…
Follow these 3 Golden Rules as a starting point for your own personal recovery strategy. From experience, I would definitely argue that a sound plan as to how you compliment a workout plan with nutrition and rest is as important, if not even more, than the workouts themselves.
So remember: Eat, Sleep, Stretch & Repeat!

Sources

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