Let's get one thing out of the way before we start: no one is above recovery. We don't care whether you're a top level athlete or an average mom of 2 - you have to incorporate adequate recovery into your fitness plan. Sure, it will look different for different people, but the principles are the same. So these are our top four suggestions for ensuring adequate recovery to ensure you'll reach your long term goals.
1. Take a break
You can't lift heavy or run far forever; therefore, you need to incorporate breaks in your workout programming to ensure you don't risk injury or overtraining. If you lift heavy, this means including high rep low weight cycles in your programming. If you run far, this means dialling down the kilometres every once in a while.
What we recommend: Every 3 - 5 weeks, or at the end of every cycle of your training program, plan a recovery week. This doesn't mean you take a break from the gym completely, but you do lower your reps, weights, and/or distance (if you're a runner) substantially. We also recommend during your recovery week to do the exercises you enjoy most and get in and out of the gym in less than an hour. Don't worry, this won't stall your long-term progress - on the contrary. By giving your body (and mind) a well deserved rest, you help avoid overdoing it and can come back from a low key week feeling refreshed and re-energized to tackle your next cycle of training.
If you're expending energy at the gym but then not eating enough to restore those energy reserves, how do you expect to make progress? Hence the importance of refuelling! Protein and carbohydrates are especially important when it comes to pre- and post-workout meals to ensure that your body can perform the way you want it to.
Protein is not only required to rebuild muscle tissue (especially after a bro session at the gym), but also to be the building blocks for cells, tissues, and hormones. Hence, protein is vital all day every day, but especially in ensuring proper recovery after a workout. And since most people don't get enough protein in their daily diets to start, you should focus on it even more if you're extra active. Carbohydrates are your main energy source and are broken down for your body to utilize during your workouts and daily tasks. It's especially important to remember that no, carbs do not make you fat, and under consumption of complex carbohydrates are the most common cause people feel too tired or run down after too much cardio.
What we recommend: The way we see it, the simplest recommendation is to fuel yourself before and after your workouts. Before your workout, have half a protein shake and around 40g of carbohydrates, mainly from sugar (think fruit to go bars, energy drinks, juices, etc.). Then after your meal, drink the other half of your protein shake, and have your next meal within one hour of your workout and make it your meal with the highest amount of complex carbohydrates of the day. This is essentially known as nutrient timing, but ensuring adequate amounts of your macronutrients is important all day every day.
3. Get some sleep
Sleep has never been so strongly linked to the importance of recovery than today. New studies are coming out every day showing that without adequate sleep, our diets nor exercise programs can work properly. Because sleep is when your body recovers, without adequate amounts of it, your goals are bound to suffer.
What we recommend: Get. Enough. Sleep! Shut off Netflix and just go to bed! Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night and prioritize it above other late-night activities. Believe it or not but your body does it's most changing and recovering as you rest. Also, read one of our blog posts about the importance of sleep for fat loss and learn about sleep dept.
While ensuring you have a balanced workout routine and a well-rounded diet are the best ways to ensure recovery and a healthy fitness journey, sometimes it's more difficult to top up our bodies in all micronutrients, minerals and vitamins. We've already discussed in other blog posts the major supplements like protein powder, omega 3s, BCAAs, and creatine and whether they're necessary in your everyone in an every day diet, it's a bit different when you're talking about recovery.
What we recommend: Make sure you have all the previous options checked off in your recovery plan. If you're still feeling less than optimal, think about incorporating a supplement. Our friends over at HVMN recommend taking BCAAs for maintaining muscle mass, glucosamine, a natural anti-inflammatory to help synthesize proteins and fats and form fluids that lubricates joints (basically acts as a body's WD-40) and vitamin D to improve bone health that works in conjunction with calcium.
And let's not forget there's tons of other things that can be done in between your workouts to ensure proper short term recover. This includes things like stretching, yoga, myofascial release, and spending some time in a sauna/hot tub/epson salt bath. And of course, for the higher level athlete (or baller who can afford it on the regular), you can step it up a notch and opt for a massage, cooling bath and/or cryogenic chambers. But these smaller things are likely to have a smaller impact if you're not mastering the bigger things we discussed above.
Remember, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take care and happy recovery!