Whether you train 2 or 6 days weekly, recovery is key to your performance and health. Of course, the more you train the more important recovery becomes to prepare for your next training session.
If your body does not recovery properly, you may become overtrained, compromise your immune system, heal less quickly, be moody, feel stressed or depressed etcetera.
As a teenager, I never thought about recovery very much.
Only once I started road racing and spending anywhere from 12-20 hours on the road bike weekly (yes your tush hurts and yes you get used to it), it became clear how important recovery is.
Ever since, recovery protocols are engrained into my habits and have been one of the main reasons why my body keeps performing day after day.
Being able to recover better and quicker will ensure that you:
are ready for another session
can train harder and longer
do not compromise your health and immune system
see more results
have more fun training
avoid higher risk of injury
prevent overtraining or entering a catabolic state (when your body breaks down instead of building up)
are a more enjoyable person to be around (seriously being in pain, tired and with lack of energy does not make you that fun)
As our FitGuana coaching team believes in a holistic approach to nutrition and training and recommends science backed methods, we do not recommend buying a product which will:
“Cut your recovery time in half!”
“Gain 20lbs of mass!”
“Typical results are 10lbs weigh loss in 4 weeks!”
*Insert eye roll*
Instead, we promote healthy habits which are simple to implement yet carry a big punch:
Sleep and recovery
This is one of the simplest yet most beneficial actions you can undertake. Rest and recovery. How hard is that? Actually incredibly so if you have too much going on. However, make it a point to sleep at least 7 hours a day and find other ways to rest your body as well.
Put your legs up while you do work on the laptop, get a massaging chair or take a cat nap. This will greatly vary based on your lifestyle (physically demanding job vs a desk job for example) so determine for yourself or talk to your coach to find ways to improve your rest and recovery.
Hydrating your body is an important factor in recovery. When your are dehydrated, your blood thickens which makes your heart work harder and this makes it harder to replenish the cells in your body as well as removing waste products. Use this hand in had with the paragraph about electrolytes below.
A few tips:
Hydrate before your training session but don’t over drink which may cause nausea.
Keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times.
Keep an eye on your urine color. A soft yellow color or less is good, darker than gold indicates a level of dehydration. Who knew pee has a story to tell?
For regular individuals, 2 liters of water daily is recommended. However as an athlete, no matter what level, you will require more. Keep in mind that 0.5% of body water loss increases strain on the heart and 1-2% decreases performance.
One of the main things you can do for your overall health as well as your recovery is eating well balanced, whole food based nutrition. We have talked about this many times and will continue to promote this. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Don’t demonize any food group or macronutrients. Everything is about balance and common sense. More on this in the protein paragraph or schedule a nutrition consultation
with one of our coaches.
When you train hard, you tend to sweat a lot which causes loss of electrolytes. Electrolytes are micronutrients which serve many purposes. Some of which are important regulation of muscle contraction, nerve impulses and fluid balance. Loss of electrolytes will lead to dehydration, poor recovery, brain fogginess and cramping among other things.
Some energy or sports drinks contain various electrolytes, however also carry many sugars. My personal preference is adding electrolyte tablets (such as Nuun tablets) to water during or after a strenuous training session.
When training with moderate intensity for longer than 2 hours or high intensity training for longer than 1 hour, it’s advised to drink 30-45 grams of carbs in combination with 15 grams of protein and electrolytes in 600ml of water every hour of training as well as after the training session. This will aid recovery, hydration and performance.
Keep in mind everyone reacts differently and has different needs based on experience, tolerance and energy requirements. I personally am not a fan of drinking carbs but am also used to working out in fasted states and prefer to eat my (complex) carbs rather than drink them. That is why you might see me eat something in between training sessions or will carry gels or bars with me during endurance training.
Adding electrolytes is also important to avoid hyponatremia, which is caused by drinking too much plain water in combination with lack of electrolytes. This can lead to severe sickness or death yet is caused by very high quantities of water after very long or strenuous activity.
Do not overuse electrolytes either (although most excess will be excreted).
We preach protein intake constantly and believe most individuals out there are simply not taking in enough protein. After all, protein has a higher thermic effect (burns more while digesting), keeps satiety high (keeps you full) and is key to many processes in your body.
Proteins are heavily related to hormone regulation and provide your body with the building blocks it needs to recover and build: amino acids.
We will not get into the science of amino acids right now. See other blog articles or come to one of our nutrition seminars for that. However, here are a few key actionable points:
Opinions vary on how much protein an individual needs vs an athlete and while this is also highly individual, we recommend 1.6 - 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight for recovery and overall body composition improvements. The old myth of “Too much protein is bad for your kidneys and liver” is complete nonsense as the body has no problem metabolizing 3.5-4.5 grams of protein per kg daily.
Even though protein intake should be spread out throughout the day to keep our body as much as possible in an anabolic state, we are firm supporters of having a protein shake right after your training session, followed by a nutritious balanced meal within 90-120 minutes afterwards. This ensures a jump in protein intake and gives your body exactly what it needs when it needs it. Ask your coaches about protein supplementation. If you drank water with carbs, protein & electrolytes during your extended workout, you can do so right after your session as well. Have your protein shake a little while later. If you don’t have access to a protein shake or don’t like them, have a chocolate milk. The carb to protein ration is quite excellent for replenishment and recovery.
As protein shakes go, whey protein is king for quick absorption and ratio of crucial amino acids but some people do prefer plant based protein or have an intolerance.
Continue eating protein throughout the day during each meal. No meal should be without some source of protein if you want to reach your protein intake along with enough variety, optimal digesting and results. It’s not recommended eating 50% of your protein requirements in one meal.
If you struggle with recovery or energy levels, think about adding BCAA's to your drink before and during training. This will help prevent muscle breakdown, help with the energy transfer during training as well as recovery.
A good starting point for daily nutrition for most people would look like this: Active men likely need a total daily intake of (spread out over 4-5 meals):
6-8 palms of protein-dense foods
6-8 fists of vegetables
6-8 cupped handfuls of carb-dense foods
6-8 thumbs of fat-dense foods
And most active women likely need a total daily intake of (spread out over 4-5 meals):
4-6 palms of protein-dense foods
4-6 fists of vegetables
4-6 cupped handfuls of carb-dense foods
4-6 thumbs of fat-dense foods
This is solely a starting point and modifications are likely needed for your individual needs and athletic goals.
Vitamins and minerals
Having a multi vitamin is another contested idea however it’s our belief that, if you source a proper food based multivitamin and not a synthetic one, it is worth taking along with a meal to ensure you don’t have any deficiencies.
After all, when you train your body needs more of everything. That includes micronutrients. Sometimes someone’s eating habits lack a certain something. Something as simple as taking a multivitamin may prevent a deficiency, which in turn will aid your recovery.
If you are vegetarian or eat limited animal based foods, having a multivitamin & mineral supplement may also aid in preventing specific deficiencies of vitamins & something called zoochemicals which are only found in animal products.
As supplements are not regulated by the FDA and per usual, the wellness industry loves to make money sometimes without much integrity, you have to proceed with caution. Speak to your doctor and do your own research before purchasing and taking any supplements.
However, this is a small list of notable supplements as found in literature:
Spirulina (as also used by Nasa)
Anti inflammatory: Curcumin / Omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil capsules / Zinc / Cat’s Claw / CBD
Additional Vitamin D if not present in your food based multivitamins (depends on location & sunshine exposure)
We spoke about sleep and recovery but this one really deserves it’s own paragraph: REST DAYS!
As recovery is so crucial, it is important to give our body time to heal. A complete rest day is highly recommended. Giving your body a full day of rest will have tremendous benefits and will absolutely pay off.
In addition, you can also add active recovery days. This means you can still work out but at a lower intensity or modified. You still get your heart pumping, activate the muscles but at a much lower level. This speeds up recovery by increasing blood flow and it also helps your body to “remember” the activities and motions. Yoga is a fantastic option for an active recovery day. I find this truly helps and even though intensity is lower, it feels good to move and stay on track.
If you are able, get a massage or spend extra time with the foam roller (one may be a lot more enjoyable than the other, I’ll admit). Yoga is an option here as well.
Stretching after your training session (static stretching should occur afterwards and not during warm up) is also beneficial for your recovery. It improves blood flow which removes waste products as well as replenishes nutrients and building blocks to your muscles.
Stretching to full range of motion also reduces muscle soreness. Therefore, next time you leave without stretching I will jump on your back!
By Sander V.
Owner & Head Coach at FitGuana