Friday, March 1, 2019

The Art and Science of Recovery


It’s not the most fun, exciting, or sexy part of achieving your fitness goals but recovery is an absolute necessity if you want to see results. Recovery is like an art form in that what you may prefer or what works best for you may not be what someone else prefers. More importantly, the best recovery methods are based firmly in science. I want to share with you the most scientifically effective and proven recovery methods that I personally use and share with my own clients.
Nutrition, Diet, and Supplements
It all begins with what you decide to put into your body. You may have heard how seventy percent of the results that you see in the mirror come from nutrition and this should not be taken lightly. Recovery all starts with nutrition because fatigued muscle tissue requires nutrients. 

Think of nutrients as the building blocks to repair damaged areas of the foundation of a building. If you aren’t using the right tools, the building foundation will continue to become weaker and eventually fall over. I want to make sure that you’re arming yourself with the right nutrients to maximize recovery so let’s first talk about diet.

Diet for Recovery

One of the best diets for recovery is going to focus on natural, whole food choices. Your macronutrient breakdown should be rich in protein and healthy fats and moderate in carbohydrate consumption.


For protein, you should be mixing both animal and plant-based sources. Lean chicken breasts, wild seafood, and grass-fed beef are all excellent animal-based options. As for plant sources, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, and quinoa are high in protein and rich in phytonutrients.

For healthy fats, it’s important to look at the nutrition label. Just because something contains fat doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. If you see that a product contains trans-fat, do not consume it. Focus on mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats as well as natural sources of saturated fats such as coconut oil.

For carbohydrates, I’d recommend limiting your overall consumption but when you do eat them you should be focusing on complex sources. Complex carbohydrates contain more fiber and are slower to digest or break down. For example, processed white bread is a simple carbohydrate that rapidly turns to sugar in the body. This will spike blood sugar levels and leave you feeling fatigued. Complex carbohydrates such as natural, whole wheat bread is slower to break down and it provides a slow-release form of energy. Great carbohydrate choices include dark leafy green vegetables, quinoa, and brown rice.

One of my favorite meals is turkey or chicken slices with butter lettuce drizzled with olive oil.

Hydration


Keeping yourself hydrated is essential for proper health even if you aren’t physically active. Why? The body requires water to perform dozens of processes that you may not even think about such as flushing waste and hydrating cells.

For active individuals, the need for proper hydration can become the difference between achieving your fitness goal and risking over-training. When you push your muscular and nervous systems beyond their point of recovery, you may suffer from over-training. Symptoms for over-training include extreme fatigue, muscle loss, and injury.

If you are listening to your body and responding appropriately to your thirst, you shouldn’t have to worry about dehydration but for those who tend to ignore the tell-tale signs, it’s worth talking about. Your body can last weeks without food but only a few days without water. This should illustrate the essential importance of proper hydration for the body. 

Dehydration is a dangerous slippery slope because the worse it gets, the less you become aware of the actions you need to take due to the confusion and absent-mindedness that sets in. Dehydration will eventually lead to death so I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep yourself properly hydrated.

Be sure to drink half of your bodyweight in ounces every day. It’s not enough to only drink fresh water; however, you want to make sure you’re drinking a mineral water so that you don’t flush out all of your electrolytes. You can also use an electrolyte supplement. If you want to improve the taste of your water and get the necessary electrolytes throughout the day, use a few squirts of Trace Mineral’s Endure.

 Vitamin D3


If you’re eating a well-balanced diet as I discussed above then you should be getting all of your essential macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. However, there is one vitamin in particular that can significantly help with proper recovery: vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be obtained from animal food sources and sunshine. It is a sex-steroid vitamin and it plays a number of important roles throughout the body, especially in the formation of hormones and mood regulation. 

During winter months, many people develop what is known as seasonal depression. One of the main reasons for this is because a lack of vitamin D in the body. During colder months, you tend to stay inside more and there isn’t as much sunshine. This will dramatically plummet your vitamin D production, which then impacts hormones, mood, and even libido.

There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: First, you can consume animal sources such as milk, yogurt, salmon, and eggs. Next is to get outside more. Your body can create vitamin D with the help of sunlight. Lastly, you can take a supplement

Let’s say you aren’t a meat eater or that it’s winter and the sunshine isn’t as common as it usually is. In this case, I’d recommend taking a vitamin D3 supplement. Vitamin D3 is considered the most bioavailable form, which means your body is able to recognize it, digest it, and assimilate it better than other forms.

Lifestyle



Small and consistent changes are an effective way to better your lifestyle and when it comes to recovery, this couldn’t be truer. I’m not going to tell you that you need to over haul the way you live your life but I do have three very simple recommendations that will improve how you feel each day and benefit your body’s recovery post-workout.

Get Enough Sleep




Studies have demonstrated time and time again that adults in the United States are not getting adequate sleep. What’s more, for those sleeping less than six hours per night, which is 1 in 3 adults in the U.S., you are more likely to make mistakes, have a weak immune system, and succumb to over-training.

Proper sleep is going to benefit your entire body but it plays a special role in recovery. Sleep is the time when your body is busy getting rid of waste and toxins from physical activity and exercise while recharging your mind and muscle. Sleep is also when your body releases growth hormone, which is extremely important for your recovery. Insufficient sleep means a lack of growth hormone and in turn, this is going to result in poor recovery and a higher risk for injury.

It is recommended that you get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. The best way to do this is to start getting ready one hour before you plan to fall asleep. Power down all electronics, get a warm shower, read a physical copy of a book, and slip into bed. You can even try meditation to help relax you before you drift off.

Epsom Salt Baths




If you want to improve your rate of recovery, it doesn’t get much easier than taking a bath. While a normal hot-water bath is great, I recommend using Epsom salts in your bath water.

The Epsom salt bath is going to feel great, help you relax, and soothe tension in your muscles. It may also help to flush out cellular waste that formed during exercise.

I recommend soaking in an Epsom salt bath one to three times every week for 30 to 45 minutes.

Visit a Sauna



If your gym provides access to a sauna, then you have one of the best tools for recovery post-workout. Recent scientific studies have demonstrated that saunas can make a significant and positive impact on your health.

Saunas can improve brain function by promoting the development of new brain cells while strengthening and reinforcing existing cells. Using a sauna has also been shown to extend your life. From a fitness standpoint, using a sauna can benefit performance, results, and recovery.

Spending time in a sauna can improve your overall tolerance to heat, which will come in handy if you work or train outside during summer months. If you’re trying to lose weight, consistent sauna usage has been shown to provide an immediate boost in your metabolic rate and it also supports long term weight loss.

Using a sauna also helps to flush out the waste produced during exercise, which will improve recovery. The increased blood flow will help to deliver nutrients such as amino acids and glucose to fatigued muscles. These are just a few of the benefits that you can expect by using a sauna. Overall, a sauna will be a great health tool no matter what your fitness goal.

I recommend spending thirty minutes in a sauna for at least three days per week. Ideally, you’ll be able to spend five days a week in a sauna. It’s extremely important that you stay hydrated before, during, and after sauna usage.

Professional Assistance

Naturally, we can do as much as we possible can to ensure proper recovery but sometimes it’s essential to look for professional assistance. The three methods listed below have been used by athletes for many years and these techniques are thought to be the best way to promote post-workout recovery.

Massage Therapy

Getting a massage can be relaxing but if you are an active person or athlete, massage isn’t as much of a luxury as it is a necessity for recovery.

Consistent physical activity and exercise leads to tight muscles. The tighter your muscles become and the more adhesions or knots that are present, the worse you’re going to feel and the greater your chance for injury.

Massage, specifically Active Release Technique massage, is an effective way to alleviate tension, break up adhesions, correct length tension relationships, and decrease your risk of injury. If you’re new to massage, you may find corrective massage to be painful at times but not unbearable. You can request that the massage therapist go lighter on you if it’s your first session but unfortunately in the case of corrective massage, no pain equals no gain.

It may hurt a bit during but you’re going to feel completely different afterwards. As with all massages, be sure to drink plenty of water afterwards.

Graston Technique



Using a specialized medical instrument that usually looks like a small steel bar, professionals will apply the Graston technique. This is where troublesome areas are manipulated and corrected using the instrument mentioned above. 

Similar to the corrective massages I mentioned above, the Gratson technique may be extremely uncomfortable and painful. There’s also a chance that it may cause bruising for several days after treatment. It may feel especially tender in places that have been injured, such as broken bones. 

However, it is completely worth it, especially if you’ve been having issues with your tight muscles and over compensation. Personally, I cannot recommend this enough. The first few sessions will probably be uncomfortable but you feel amazing afterward.

Finding a professional who is highly experienced in the Graston technique isn’t as easy as finding a good massage therapist. For this reason, I highly recommend using the Graston technique website to find a provider near you.

Cupping




If you watched the last Olympics, you may have wondered why so many athletes had big purple circular marks on them. The answer is that they were using cupping therapy. Athletes have recently discovered its rumored potential at correcting muscular ailments and biomechanical issues.

Cupping is an ancient Chinese practice that dates back thousands of years. There are several forms of cupping with the most popular involving the process of heating up glass cups that are then applied to the skin specifically along energy pathways or meridians. Alternative medicine gurus claim that cupping gets the blocked energy moving in the body.

Many practitioners admit that cupping alone isn’t the answer and that it should be used in conjunction with other alternative methods such as massage, Graston technique, and acupuncture. 


Cryotherapy



Embracing the cold has become the new thing in the world of sports recovery, but its benefits aren’t restricted to athletes. Everyday men and women who are active can experience a variety of benefits from incorporating cryotherapy or cold therapy into their recovery routine.

Originally developed for those suffering from arthritis, cryotherapy was shown to have a dramatic effect on inflammation. What does the soreness you feel after a workout and the origin of many illnesses have in common? Inflammation. Arthritis, for example, is an inflammation-based disease. Cryotherapy has been shown to reduce the soreness and inflammation post-workout.

How does it work? A chamber is filled with harmless and completely safe nitrogen gas, which cools the surrounding area to around -300°F. In just a few minutes, the temperature of your skin drops to around 35°F. Don’t worry! Sessions are short so you won’t risk any adverse effects; however, what does happen is pretty incredible. Endorphins are released so you get an instant boost in your mood, circulation increases, white blood cell count skyrockets, and you’ll feel a surge in energy. 

If you have access to cryotherapy – even if it’s just once a month – I’d highly recommend it!

My Personal Recovery Program

What I’ve provided for you are several options that have been scientifically shown to improve your recovery but you may be wondering how to use these methods each day. Below, I’m going to provide my personal blueprint for what I do each week.

Daily and Post-Workout

Throughout my day, I focus on quality nutrition from natural food sources. I also make sure to bring a water container around with me. During winter months, I take a Vitamin D3 supplement because Boston can get quite cold and cloudy.

After a workout, I immediately jump into the sauna and spend 30 minutes there. I make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after.

Before bed, I soak in Epsom Salts or right after a Graston Session to reduce swelling and enhance a speedy recovery. I highly recommended doing this before bed as it will improve the quality of your sleep.

Monthly

As your budget allows, try to visit the following professionals:

First, visit a professional to perform the Graston technique one to two times per month in troublesome areas. I go twice a month and have the professional specifically work on my tightest and most sore areas.

After Graston bruises resides, get cupped in those places as an added benefit, along with other parts of the body that are tight.

Finally, find a masseuse that you love who is passionate about helping you achieve your fitness goals. A knowledgeable massage therapist will be able to hear your goals and apply the proper bodywork to alleviate tension and improve recovery so you will see improved performance or results. I get bodywork done one to two times a week. 

Conclusion

Recovery never sounds like fun but it is the one thing that will ensure you’re able to get back into the gym, in the pool, or on the field. Making a small daily effort for recovery is going to pay you back tenfold when you realize how great you feel. What’s more, your risk of injury will be low, allowing you to continue doing what you love.

Have you used any of the methods or techniques listed above? What benefits did you notice? Let me know in the comments below!

References

1. Dahlquist DT, Dieter BP, Koehle MS. Plausible ergogenic effects of vitamin D on athletic performance and recovery. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2015;12:33. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0093-8.

2. Dattilo M, Antunes HK, Medeiros A, Mônico Neto M, Souza HS, Tufik S, de Mello MT. Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2011 Aug;77(2):220-2. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2011.04.017. Epub 2011 May 7.

3. Mero A, Tornberg J, Mäntykoski M, Puurtinen R. Effects of far-infrared sauna bathing on recovery from strength and endurance training sessions in men. SpringerPlus. 2015;4:321. doi:10.1186/s40064-015-1093-5.



4. Zainuddin Z, Newton M, Sacco P, Nosaka K. Effects of Massage on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, Swelling, and Recovery of Muscle Function. Journal of Athletic Training. 2005;40(3):174-180.

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