8 Tips for Recovery
When an athlete, whether a competitive athlete, recreational athlete or everyday athlete is looking to further their health, performance and/or looks, the most common question is, “What else can I add to my training?”
Or they may make a statement such as, “I just need to work harder!”
While I would not argue that there are some of us that do need an additional stimulus, or to simply get after our current program with a bit more savagery, I would say that for the majority of us it is not a fact of working harder, but actually the opposite that will help us get even closer to our goals.
For most of us, we do not need to work harder (although we still have to work hard), but we have to recover better.
A simple statement that has become very popular in the performance enhancement world is…
“IT IS NOT HOW HARD YOU TRAIN, BUT HOW WELL YOU RECOVER”
This statement is spot on as it doesn’t matter how much you can squat, deadlift, bench, etc. if come practice or game day you are overly sore, fatigued or so broken down that you would be more likely to catch a cold than the ball.
Or if you are an everyday athlete who has the goal of feeling and looking better, if you are not recovering well it will be hard to consistently put in the effort it takes to lose fat, gain muscle and feel great.
When recovery is lacking, energy stores are not optimal for intense training or activity (required for success in sport and to lose fat and gain muscle).
Your cognition is sub par making it difficult to react quickly or solve issues at work/school.
Hormonal levels make it difficult to build muscle and lose fat.
You are more likely to be, for lack of a better word, a complete A-hole…and no one wants to be around an A-hole!
So with that in mind, and the fact that many pre-seasons have or are about to begin, lets cover some quick points to help you better recover from the rigor of sports and life.
1.Go to friggin’ sleep!
The one thing that most of us can do better (much better) is get enough quality sleep.
Notice the two words, enough and quality.
The first part is to get enough. This may be stating the obvious, but you have to go to bed sooner!
Thanks to Netflix and DVR, you don’t have to watch an entire marathon of your favorite show in one night…so turn off the TV.
You also don’t have to chase Pokemon past 8pm, especially if you are over the age of 9 and would like to have someone actually be interested to be more than just a friend someday…so turn it off and rack out for the night.
So simply, plan on getting to bed earlier. Select a time and stick to it, shooting for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
When it comes to quality, a few things you can do to help you fall and stay asleep is to:
- Turn of electronics and lights an hour before bed.
- Make the room as dark as possible.
- Keep the temperature around 67 degrees fahrenheit (give or take a couple of degrees).
- Reduce noise as much as possible and/or use white noise such as a fan or a white noise machine/app.
This is by no means a extensive list, but it gives you a few key points to consider.
2. Eat adequate amounts of protein!
In order to repair and build bodily systems, including your skeletal, hormonal and muscular systems (pretty damn important for those of us who are placing a demand on our bodies), you need supply your body with the nutrients necessary for repair.
The key nutrient is protein.
Protein plays a major role in repair, maintenance and growth of nearly every system in the body, so having a plentiful supply is key for recovery.
While the RDA recommends .8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, my suggestion is closer to 2g of protein per kilogram, or 1g per pound of bodyweight.
So make sure to pay attention to the amount of protein you are consuming as for many of us we are likely not consuming enough.
3. Make sure you are also getting your quality carbs, veggies and fruit, and fats.
While adequate protein is the first key to promoting greater recovery, we can’t forget about quality carbs, veggies and fruit, as well as healthy fats.
The quality carbs will help to replenish energy stores as well as help increase satiety. Potatoes (regular and sweet), rice, quinoa, oatmeal, 100% whole grains, etc. are all good options along with veggies and fruits.
And like protein, healthy fats play a major role in the production, transport and absorption of certain structures and nutrients within the body. Consuming fish, nuts, olive/coconut and other oils, etc. help to achieve levels of healthy fats that are conducive to recovery.
4. Limit processed “poopy” foods.
As an adult male who has a little bit lot of pride and likes to be thought of as a pretty manly dude, I find it hard to use the word poopy. Unfortunately my wife uses the word a lot, and I have now found myself considering certain things, well, poopy.
And when it comes to the processed food that many Americans find themselves inundated with (breads, cereals, baked goods, crackers, flavor additives, etc.), poopy is best way describe them.
The artificial ingredients result in a less than optimal environment for the body to recover. Systemic inflammation and hormonal imbalances are only a couple of ways the body is affected, and both decrease our ability to recover.
Limiting the amount of processed foods is key when trying to promote the greatest recovery possible…so try to say no friggin way no thank you.
5. Monitor stimulants.
In todays world we are constantly busy and on the run. And we need to be alert and have energy to complete our days. For this reason many of us turn to stimulants to help us do so.
Caffeine and other stimulants found in energy drinks can help us to “rev up”, but when over consumed and/or consumed too late in the day, they can have a detrimental effect on our sleep and overall recovery.
By consuming them we are putting ourselves in a state of “fight or flight” which is good for training, but when we are done we want our body to transition to a state of “rest and digest” in order to recover.
Unfortunately for many of us, we consume too much stimulant and can not transition to our “rest and digest” system. We stay wired for far too long, many times late into the night when we should be sleeping.
Monitor your consumption of stimulants and try to stick to 1-2 cups of coffee/tea early in the day if you feel like you can’t “shut it down” at night.
Also, try to stop the consumption of stimulants by 1-2pm at the latest.
Lastly, consider decaf options to replace some of the fully caffeinated options.
One of the best things you can do to promote recovery is to relax, or whoosah!
I know this is another “Well, duh!” statement, but it is astonishing how many of us do not relax at all during the day.
We are busy professionals, moms, dads, students, athletes, etc. and we don’t have to time relax.
Every second of every day we are on the go. And when we are constantly on the go, we don’t give our body a chance to simply “chill out” during the day.
When you invest a short amount of time (15-30 minutes) during the day to relax, you assist your body in recuperating the systems which will inevitably allow you to “go hard” once again, and with greater effectiveness.
I suggest trying to catch some shuteye by taking a quick nap, but even if you can’t actually fall asleep, simply staying still, being quiet and just breathing in a calm manner will help.
Block out a period of time to decompress and recover with a nap, reading fiction, meditation (or just sitting still), taking a bath, etc.
During the middle of the day is best, but if you really can’t find that time then, doing it at night works too…just dedicate that time, no matter when it is.
7. Get someone to touch you…or touch yourself.
Having some soft tissue work done by a professional (massage, ART, Graston, etc.) can help the muscles and other tissues of the body to recover more efficiently.
If you don’t have the ability to get the work done professionally, using a foam roller, lacrosse ball, tiger tail, etc. is a good way to do it yourself.
Although doing it yourself is not as effective, self myofascial work (self soft tissue work) will aid in recovery and is a good supplement to professional work.
Using both a professional and self myofascial release is ideal.
8. Use ice and elevation.
Acute inflammation is a natural process that will help us recover, but when inflammation is chronic or excessive, recovery will be compromised.
To reduce chronic/excessive inflammation you can use ice as well as elevation of the extremities.
Use ice accordingly, making sure not to apply it for too long or directly to the skin.
Use the tips above to create a more favorable environment for recovery. Without recovery, you will not only be compromising progress with your performance, but your overall health and fitness as well.
If this information helped you out, be that good dude / dudette we all want to be and send this article along to your friends and family…and always remember to ask any questions or leave comments below!
To your health, fitness and performance.