Eat better to improve recovery? To boost energy? To cut soreness? To improve strength? To reduce inflammation? To reinforce immune protection? You bet!
If you’re having problems recovering from an addiction, this article will help you troubleshoot the most common issues.
The Training–Recovery Cycle
We need to work out harder than our bodies are used to in order to see fitness results. Only with intense training does the body grow stronger.
But training itself doesn’t make the magic. The time we spend not training is actually what improves our fitness.
The only time our body can adapt to the stress we’ve put on it is when we’re resting. In other words, recover.
Recovery is what enables fitness and strength.
Thus, training and rest-recovery periods are complementary. You need both.
The more quickly and effectively you recover from your workouts, the more often and intensely you can train.
Your body’s bank account
Think of training as making withdrawals from a “body bank account.” The more intense the training, the more you withdraw from the account.
In addition to the demands of training, other stresses in life can have an impact, such as work, relationships, family, or financial obligations.
Rest and recovery are essential in order to maintain one’s health and well-being. You should be regularly taking time off and engaging in activities that help you recover physically and mentally.
Otherwise, you risk overtraining and overreaching, i.e. “deficit spending.”
Overtraining & over-reaching
If we don’t take the time to rest and recover, we might overtrain or over-reach.
The money in our body’s “bank account” is running out, and we may soon be in serious debt, or even go bankrupt.
The symptoms are similar and mostly differ by how severe they are.
Overtraining is the most severe form of “body debt,” which often happens to bodybuilders and other athletes who reduce their calorie intake too much while training heavily and frequently.
Overtraining can involve:
- serious loss of strength and fitness
- significant and chronic joint and muscle pain
- serious changes in mood, such as major depression or other psychiatric issues
- significant sleep disruption
- major immunity problems — frequent and serious illnesses (e.g. bacterial/viral infections, etc.)
- hormonal suppression (e.g. low thyroid, low sex hormones, amenorrhea or irregular periods in women, etc.)
Overtraining is a problem for many recreational exercisers because they often over-reach or push themselves too hard. This can lead to fatigue, injuries, and other health problems.
Over-reaching can involve:
- low energy and mojo
- persistently “meh” workouts; not really feeling into training
- feeling sore and achy all the time
- feeling mildly irritable, moody, or anxious
- minor, nagging injuries
- not feeling 100% — catching minor bugs, feeling run-down
Basically, in both cases, you feel like crap.
Most Common Recovery Problems
Problem #1: I’m exhausted and can’t bring myself to work out!
Take a break
First, take it easy for a few days. Really easy.
You should build a bedtime routine to help you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Make sure you are getting enough deep sleep by following a routine and keeping a regular sleep schedule. (See Hacking sleep: Engineering a high quality, restful night.)
Take an extra day off from the gym.
When you return to the gym, you should either keep the number of reps and sets you do low, or keep the amount of weight you use low. Or both.
Stimulate your “calm down” system
Do things that make the part of the nervous system that controls relaxation work better, like yoga, meditation, and massage. You don’t have to go very hard to get the benefits of exercise; even low-intensity activities like walking or hiking will help.
Cut the stress
Reducing stress in your life can help improve your overall health.
This might require some problem-solving. You might have to ask for help.
Anything you can do to reduce stress will help improve your energy levels.
Problem #2: I just don’t feel very strong in the gym!
After a workout, it’s normal to feel tired and a bit weaker.
Although it may take a few days, eventually, you will be doing just as well as, if not better than, you were previously. If not, something’s wrong with your recovery process.
Eat more – Especially Carbs.
To alleviate persistent weakness, attempt to consume more calories, particularly before or during a time when you will be exercising.
If you have been avoiding carbohydrates, this may be a good time to start consuming them again.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you should eat your carbs just before or after your workout. Eating healthy carbs in reasonable portions is not likely to interfere with your weight loss goals.
Go lighter at the gym for a few days. Change your workout routine by doing fewer reps with lighter weights for a couple of days, then increasing the number of reps you do. You should give your body enough time to rejuvenate.
If you are a woman who menstruates, get to know how your body’s strength varies throughout your cycle. The majority of women will notice that their energy levels and strength fluctuate throughout the month due to hormonal changes. Schedule your lighter workouts for days when you know you won’t have as much energy.
Check your meds
. Many drugs can cause muscle weakness as a side effect, such as statin drugs or corticosteroids.
Recovery: what you can do
1. Prioritize comprehensive recovery
As PN (Performance Nutrition) recommends, making recovery a priority is key to sustaining long-term health and performance.
- Get enough (and high-quality) sleep. Establish and follow a bedtime routine.
- Balance and vary your fitness program.
- Take it easier in the gym for a few days.
- Get enough calories and replenish nutrients. If you’re training hard, feed the machine. Don’t drastically restrict your food intake.
- Tune into your body’s signals. Track these in your workout journal if you can. Notice trends.
- Reduce your overall stress load as much as you can.
2. Supplement appropriately
If you have been following these guidelines for a few weeks and do not feel as if you have recovered, you may want to try using a supplement for a short period of time.
3. Get help if you need it
If you don’t see any results from taking supplements, you should talk to your doctor. Chronic fatigue, pain, and weakness may be indicative of a more serious health issue.
Other Methods to Enhance Recovery
Some popular methods used by athletes to enhance recovery are foam rolling, stretching, and using a massage ball. The type of activity, the amount of time until the next training session or event, and the equipment and personnel available will all affect when someone uses a recovery method.
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence for hydrotherapy’s effectiveness in post-exercise recovery but not a lot of scientific evidence. When someone is immersed in water, their heart rate, the resistance of their blood vessels, and the flow of their blood all change in response, as well as the temperature of their skin, their core temperature, and the temperature of their muscles. The changes in blood flow and temperature may affect inflammation, immune function, muscle soreness, and perception of fatigue.
2. Endurance Exercise
There are many different techniques that athletes use to help them recover from their workouts, and immersion in water is becoming increasingly popular. Although athletes have been using hydrotherapy for a time, studies assessing the impacts of water immersion on recuperation and performance are only now being published. There are three primary types of water immersion therapy: cold water immersion (CWI), hot water immersion (HWI), and contrast water therapy (CWT). CWI and HWI are self-explanatory, while CWT alternates between hot and cold water immersion.
Coffey et al. (2004) investigated the effects of three different recovery interventions on a person’s ability to do repeated treadmill running performance separated by 4 hours. The three interventions were active, low-intensity exercise; passive, seated rest; and CWT. In contrast water therapy was found to improve people’s perceptions of their recovery. Recovery interventions had no effect on high-intensity treadmill performance 4 hours after the initial exercise task. Also, Hamlin (2007) found that CWT had no effect on performance during repeated sprinting. In this study, 20 rugby players performed two repeated sprint tests separated by 1 hour. They completed either CWT or active recovery between trials. An active recovery generally consists of aerobic exercise that can be performed using different modes such as cycling, jogging, aqua jogging or swimming. Active recovery is a great way to help your body recover from a workout while still getting some cardiovascular benefits. Active recovery, which involves moving around or doing light exercises, is often thought to be better for recovery than passive recovery, which involves resting or doing nothing. Active recovery is believed to be more effective because it helps to enhance blood flow to the exercised area and clear lactate and other metabolic waste products from the body via increased oxygen delivery and oxidation.
Even though there were substantial decreases in blood lactate concentration and heart rate following CWT when compared to active recovery, performance in the second exercise bout was decreased compared with the first exercise bout, regardless of the intervention.
Compared to control, the study found that 6 minutes of CWT substantially improved cycling time trial and sprint performance. The cyclists had a two-hour break between each 75-minute cycling session. There was no improvement in repeat performance after 18 minutes of CWT, meaning that there is no dose-response relationship under these conditions. You’ll be able to run faster and with more power if you do twelve minutes of CWI. The research group repeated the study with trained runners, using the same water immersion times and temperatures and the same amount of time between exercise bouts (2 h). The first round of the competition was a 3,000 m time trial, followed by 8 x 400 m intervals. The second part of the exercise was a 3,000 m time trial. This study found that running performance improved after 6 minutes of cold water therapy but did not improve after 12 or 18 minutes. This suggests that there is no relationship between the amount of time spent in cold water therapy and running performance. The study was performed outdoors at 14.9°C, which may have reduced the potential benefits of longer water immersion durations.
The authors of the study found that both cold water immersion (CWI) and cold water therapy (CWT) were effective in helping subjects recover from a simulated team sport performance (running) across a 48-hour period. For each subject, three different types of trials lasting three days were conducted, with either cold water immersion, cold water therapy, or passive recovery happening immediately after the initial exercise bout, and again 24 hours after the exercise. The performance (time taken to complete 10 x 20 m sprints and leg extension/flexion isometric force) was assessed before the exercise and 48 h after the exercise. Cold water immersion is significantly better than both cold water therapy and passive recovery in reducing ratings of muscle soreness and reducing decrements in isometric leg extension, flexion force, and sprint performance from the baseline value. Wood (2014) found that contrast water therapy improved muscle soreness at 24 h when compared with a passive recovery.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of three hydrotherapy interventions on performance recovery the day after strenuous training. The study was conducted on 12 male cyclists who completed four experimental trials that differed only in the type of recovery intervention used: CWI, HWI, CWT, or passive recovery (Vaile et al., 2008b). -Each trial consisted of five consecutive exercise days (105 min duration, including 66 maximal effort sprints) followed by a day of recovery. -This pattern continued for five trials in total. The participants completed an exercise session and were then randomly assigned to one of four recovery interventions. Sprint and time trial performance was better after 5 days when compared to those who did not engage in active recovery.
The effects of different water temperatures on the body were examined by Vaile et al. in 2008. The study involved intermittent immersion in 10° C, 15° C, and 20° C water for 15 minutes, continuous immersion in 20° C water, and active recovery. Two exercises that took 30 minutes each were done one after the other with a 60-minute interval in between. One of the five strategies for recovering was used immediately after the first exercise was completed. Each trial was separated by seven days. Water immersion significantly improved cycling performance compared to active recovery.
Based on the information, hydrotherapy seems to be helpful for athletes who are trained to do long-distance events, especially if they are trying to do a lot of activity. According to the text, CWI (cold water immersion) and CWT (cold water therapy) is more beneficial than HWI (hot water immersion) for recovery from endurance exercise.
Eat, move, and live… better.
The health and fitness world can be confusing at times. But it doesn’t have to be. It is important to identify the recovery options that work best for each individual! This allows people to take control of their own health and improve their quality of life.