Optimising Recovery

"Recovery". The part that we've all missed out at some point or another. We've all neglected our stretching or hydration. However, to maximise our performance we have to maximise our recovery, no matter how 'boring' we might find it.

To get the most out of our bodies every day we need to do more than stretch and drink enough water, so here are our top tips for optimising recovery:

  1. Sleep: Many studies show that sleep deprivation can be detrimental to recovery for a number of reasons including slower muscle recovery, increased levels of stress hormones and decreased glycogen synthesis. It's important to remember that it's not just about how long we sleep for but the quality of our sleep. When we sleep we need to be promoting REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and deep sleep. REM sleep is required to enable critical cognitive abilities and move information from our short to long term memory, whilst deep sleep is essential for muscle repair and recovery. Hence, promoting better quality of sleep is often more important than increasing the total amount of time we are asleep for.

  2. Nutrition: prioritising protein and carbohydrates post-workout is essential for better recovery. Carbohydrates are necessary to refuel muscle glycogen stores whilst sufficient protein is important to promote muscle repair. The best way to do this is to consume a mixed meal containing carbohydrates, protein and some fats, rich with vegetables and fibre. Examples include porridge topped with fruit and nut butter, tuna pasta salad or tofu stir fry with wholegrain rice.

  3. Hydration: ideally, post-workout, we want to aim to replace 150% of fluids lost. However, for the everyday person it's easier to just focus on the colour of our urine as a scale for hydration and drink water consistently throughout the day. Don't wait to be thirsty because we are already dehydrated at this point, have a bottle of water with you at all times and keep sipping regularly.

  4. Active Recovery: although rest is essential, active recovery is also important to promote recovery and reduce muscle soreness. Active recovery promotes lymphatic drainage and is advisable when we are feeling particularly sore. This would include walking, swimming or cycling at a much lower intensity.

  5. Reducing Stress: researchers at Yale Stress Centre found that those suffering with chronic mental stress take longer to recover their strength after workouts. Stress triggers a response from our sympathetic nervous system. Add training stressors into the mix and we can overload this part of our autonomic nervous system. Prioritising recovery methods that trigger our parasympathetic nervous system (and help to reduce stress) are essential here e.g. meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques.


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