Recovering from a tough workout doesn’t have to be rocket science. With a little bit of forethought and intention, you can bounce back after tough workouts faster and have the energy you need to tackle your day to day tasks.
Like most aspects of health, there are a handful of key elements that are going to make the biggest difference, and the rest is just noise.
THE BIG THREE: Hydration, Nutrition, and Sleep
For the vast majority of everyday athletes, improving in any of these three areas will yield huge results in your recovery & energy.
Proper hydration is vital for our bodies. It helps our body process and flush out waste products from our workout. It helps our cells rebuild and function. It also helps keep us feeling mentally fresh. A good place to start is making sure you’re drinking at least half your bodyweight in ounces daily. When it’s especially hot and humid, that may increase to one ounce per pound of bodyweight. Everybody is different, and it will take some fine tuning to find the best rate for you. The bottom line is, if you don’t drink much water these days, start drinking more. It’ll help!
The importance of proper nutrition is impossible to understate. It affects EVERY aspect of your health & well-being. We won’t get into specifics about macros right now. A good place to start is to make sure you’re eating enough food to support your fitness regimen.
If you feel extra lethargic, extremely sore, and mentally foggy the day after a hard workout, take a look at your overall food intake. See what happens if you add an extra snack on workout days — perhaps a smoothie with some good quality protein & carbohydrates. If you’re not eating enough food, your body doesn’t have the energy reserves it needs to rebuild. Working out stresses our body! We need sufficient fuel to keep ourselves going.
Sleep can absolutely make or break recovery time too. All our actual physical recovery happens while we’re sleeping. You can eat all the protein in the world, but if you’re only sleeping 4 hours a night, it’s not going to help. Your cells rebuild during deep sleep. Most people need between 7-9 hours per night, especially those who participate in high intensity workouts and strength training.
THE NEXT TIER: Movement
It may seem counterintuitive, but movement can help us feel better. Low intensity movement like walking, yoga, stretching, or foam rolling are all good examples.
Taking the time to implement these low intensity activities, especially in the form of a cool down after a workout, is especially helpful in reducing muscle soreness. These activities keep us from getting stiff, and promote blood flow to sore areas.
Remember to look at the fundamentals first. Five minutes of foam rolling isn’t a substitute for getting a good night’s sleep!
There’s a million other products and supplements out there that claim to help with recovery. But they’re called supplements for a reason — they should be in addition to, NOT in place of, the main pieces of your recovery.
Start with the basics. If you’ve got them absolutely nailed, or you’re an elite athlete who needs every extra 1% of performance, then sure! Try some cryotherapy, or get a Compex unit, or those fancy leg compression units. However, if you don’t have the fundamentals sorted out, these products are just going to be a band-aid and not actually fix the root cause.
There’s a lot of shiny objects out there. Resist the urge! Hydration, Sleep, and Nutrition may not be sexy, but they work wonders!
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