How To Recover After Training
Recovery is, in the opinion of many experts, as important as training itself when working towards your exercise goals. Though this is particularly so in the case of competitive athletes, it also applies to beginners and those aiming to lose weight or simply improve their fitness levels.
What you'll need:
Access to a wide variety of foods
Post-training recovery is the easiest part of the training process yet its importance is often underestimated. Fuelling your body with the right foods as soon as possible after exercise will speed your recovery, making your training more effective and ensuring you are in the best possible condition for your next session.
Put simply, exercise depletes your body's energy reserves and breaks down muscle fibres. As a result, energy is needed to repair the muscles and refill the reserves. Eating a balanced meal as soon as possible after exercise will ensure that energy-starved muscles are able to do just that.
What constitutes an appropriate post-training meal is sport, goal and individual-specific. However, it should generally be composed primarily of carbohydrate as the body is particularly open to repair and storage of carbohydrate during a two hour 'window of opportunity' after exercise.
It is a commonly held belief that an increased intake of protein is necessary directly after exercise. While this may be so in the case of power-lifters and athletes training 2-3 times a day, a standard balanced diet provides sufficient protein for muscle repair. Supplement protein with foods such as legumes and nuts if necessary.
Replacing lost fluids is vital after exercise. While it is good to replace lost salts, avoid excessive amounts of sports drinks as they can contain excessive sugar and salt as well as a large number of additives and sweeteners. Water is perfect for rehydration and a pinch of both sugar and salt can be added if required. Fresh fruit juice can be included alongside water for post-exercise rehydration.
Effective training is based on the principle of overload: the body is pushed beyond what is normally demanded of it. After overload, rest becomes an essential element of the recovery mix. Though individual needs vary, at least eight hours of high quality sleep a night are generally considered necessary.
Listen to your body. If you start to feel ill, are excessively sore or constantly tired, take your training down a notch or two and increase your rest. 'Pushing through the pain' can be damaging and counter-productive. This is equally applicable to competitive sportsmen and those just starting out on an exercise programme.
Stretching can be highly effective in speeding up recovery and minimising stiffness and soreness. A routine of light stretching directly after exercise and as an isolated exercise can be useful in reducing muscular soreness.
Massage can make a great difference in recovery as it increases blood flow to stiff, sore areas thereby speeding up the repair process.
Alternate between hot and cold water when showering after exercise. This causes the blood vessels to swell and contract, thereby speeding the healing process.
By pairing progressive training with informed post-exercise recovery you will speed up the process of achieving your exercise goals.
Experiment with various foods as keeping your diet interesting and varied is extremely important.
Good sources of protein include red and white meat, fish, eggs, legumes and nuts.
Supplementing your diet with a basic multivitamin can be useful.
Some simple sugars straight after exercise can be useful as they will be quickly absorbed.
Limit your intake of red meat as it can contain a high proportion of saturated animal fats.