Do you rush straight home after your workout, instead of taking time to cool down and stretch? Is your exercise recovery routine non-existent, instead of non-negotiable?
In order to achieve optimal exercise recovery, you should:
- Do something therapeutic such as massage or stretching
- Consume 25-40g of protein, 25-40g of carbs, and 10g of fat
- Rehydrate with more water than you lost in sweat
- Get 7 – 9 hours of high-quality sleep
Today, we’ll be exploring how these 4 small changes will ensure you get maximal adaptation from the work you’ve put in.
Let’s dive right in.
Optimal Exercise Recovery – Key Takeaways
⇒ Do something therapeutic. This may include stretch, massage, light exercises or heat and cold therapies. Pick something you find comforting.
⇒ Get adequate nutrition. Eat something with 25-40g of protein, 25-40g of carbs, and 10g of fat – flavored milk is a great option!
⇒ Hydration. Imagine your body is a series of pipes. With water, they flow freely, but without they get clogged and things move a lot slower. Rehydrate to combat this!
⇒ Sleep. This seems obvious, but just like any business, the cleaners typically come in after-hours and tidy the place up. Your body is no different – give your body a chance to recover, adapt, and grow by giving it ample time to heal.
Your Gains Aren’t Made in the Gym
Like the neglected middle children the warm-up and cool-down are often the ‘left behind’ components of our workout.
But what if I told you that cooling down and recovering effectively could be the difference between you staying the same and you hitting those goals that seem so unattainable?
In fact, your gains aren’t made in the gym, they’re made by everything you do in between – your recovery.
Here are four simple steps you can take to ensure you optimally adapt to your workout and take your training to the next level by prioritizing your exercise recovery.
The Four Steps to Optimal Exercise Recovery
Do Something Therapeutic
Everyone wants to know what therapeutic modality offers the greatest recovery benefits.
But to this day, there is still a lot of debate around which method is truly ‘optimal’.
Is static stretching best before or after a workout?
Does foam rolling improves or hinder performance?
Hot showers or cold showers?
Ice baths? It’s a no from me…
In saying this, picking at least one form of therapeutic treatment can provide a profoundly positive impact on your physical and mental state.
Leading to decreased feelings of stress, as well as the perception of pain during the recovery over the following hours and days.
So rather than trying to do each and every therapeutic modality, pick something you’ll enjoy and that feels best for you to start off with.
Instead of trying to half-ass every possible recovery modality, whole-ass one!
It might be a short walk while listening to music, a 10-minute stretching session, or a massage from your partner the next day when your muscles are starting to feel a little tender.
Do something to bring about feelings of relaxation and a positive mental state to boost exercise recovery.
Ground-breaking! We know…
But you would be surprised to know how many people skip this step.
Now before you dive face-first into a pile of cake. The simple guidelines we follow are:
Consume something with 25-40 grams of protein, 25-40 grams of carbs and ~10 grams of fat.
Did you know that after working out you have a 30-minute window to consume vital nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats?
During this window, our bodies are crying out for nutrients.
Missing this window will exponentially increase our time to recovery.
But I’m exercising to burn fat, why would I want to eat more? Won’t that undo all the work I just did?
These macronutrients are not the enemy.
They are essential to human life.
It’s the excess we consume in our day to day lives that make them an issue.
Imagine something has broken in your house. Say there is a hole in the roof.
Do you just leave the hole open, allowing cold air to fill the house and rain to pour in freely?
No, you call the repair company immediately and fix the leak.
During exercise, we damage our muscle tissue, allowing it to grow and become more effective at handling stressful situations.
To facilitate the repair and allow our muscle tissue to grow effectively we must supply our body with the tools and workers to rebuild and restructure our muscle tissue.
Protein provides the building blocks, carbohydrates provide the energy, and fats boost our fat-burning, muscle-building hormones.
Resulting in the house being stronger than ever.
Consuming water or water-based drinks during and post-workout is an essential part of effective exercise recovery.
Imagine your blood vessel are the pipes that supply water to your entire house.
When you are hydrated before your workout, blood moves freely throughout your body.
As you workout and water continue to leave your body in your breath and sweat, you become dehydrated.
Meaning there is less water in your blood making it thicker.
Your vessels much like pipes in a house can get clogged and your heart has to work harder to supply blood to your body.
Why is this important?
Your body requires a certain balance of water to survive.
Your blood is responsible for providing your working muscles with essential nutrients such as oxygen, fats, sugars and proteins.
The more efficiently blood flows through your body, the more efficiently that sites receive vital nutrients to grow and heal.
Drink something that aids this process, and yes you guessed it, water is best.
Unless you are completing a strenuous workout for more than 45 minutes, replacing electrolytes isn’t overly necessary, so avoid sugary electrolyte drinks where you can.
Keep those pipes flowing freely to optimize your exercise recovery.
Get some quality sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for taking your training to the next level.
You have probably heard this before. But we are going to say it again!
After a long day at work, all you want to do is stay up and watch Netflix and delay going back to work tomorrow for as long as possible. Or maybe you want to have a night on the town, living it up alongside 10 rounds of your favourite drink.
But you are doing yourself a great disservice.
Sleep is a vital part of the healing and growth process.
It boosts the hormones responsible for adapting both physically and mentally.
Like any business. There are open hours and closing hours.
During business hours, things move fast in order to get the job done, often leaving a mess that can be cleaned up later.
After hours when all the workers have gone home, the cleaners come in and restore the little things that need tidying up before the next day.
They empty the garbage, vacuum the floors, and clean the toilets.
They make sure there are no screws loose in the computers.
If we do not give the workers enough time to do their job, then there is a good chance that they will miss a few things. And operations for the next day or even several days to come will not run as smoothly.
Our body is no different, we need to prioritize sleep so the systems within our body can allow us to recover and adapt optimally.
Staying up watching Netflix, or drinking alcohol excessively, will severely affect our ability to sleep and recover.
The downside of a bad cool down
A bad cool down can’t be that bad for you?
Training damages your body. If we continue to train and don’t give it ample time to recover and prepare for stress of training and day to day life…
We can continue to damage our bodies, pushing it further and further away from 100% working capacity.
This can cause serious issues both physically and mentally, leading to overtraining, burnout, and even injury.
Example: You have set yourself a weekly goal to workout 4 times. You are going away this weekend so need to get your sessions in during the week.
You have planned to train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
On Monday you complete a long intense workout. You are in a rush and forget to do your cool-down routine. Leaving you feeling sore and drained.
You are so sore and fatigued that you have to skip training on Tuesday. When Thursday comes around, you’re feeling unmotivated and out of routine, as exercise is usually what helps you stay in a good mental state. Thursday’s workout isn’t the greatest.
Luckily on Friday, you’re starting to feel a little better and get a solid workout in.
What does this tell you?
Poor recovery from Monday’s session cost you almost 2 session’s worth of muscle growth and calories burnt.
You can push through the pain and exhaustion but excessive training will lead to missed sessions, and lack lustre training.
A good cool down and exercise recovery routine can make sure that you bounce back from training and ready for the next session ASAP.
Getting you closer to your goals faster!
The Next Steps – Summing Up Exercise Recovery
Learning how to recover from exercise effectively and incorporating it consistently into your routine is vital.
You’ll get the most out of your workouts and streamline the healing and recovery process
You’ll ensure that you are always at or as close as possible to your mental and physical peak.
But we can’t change everything in a day. So let’s start small.
Step 1. Ask yourself, what does my cool down routine look like? What are the key good and bad parts of this routine?
Step 2. What steps from this article can I implement into my routine?
Step 3. Add one step at a time. Allow that one to become a strong part of your routine. Then add another layer.