How you can recover optimally
February 8th, 2022
How you can recover optimally
In order to understand why recovery is so important, we need to investigate what exercise, thus training actually does to the body.
Firstly, you need to know, that there is always a balance between your training load and the adaption reaction of your body – so you can handle the load better next time. That balance is called homeostasis. If you wouldn’t be training, your body would not adapt, thus not get any fitter. The training stimulus brings the homeostasis out of balance and your level of performance decreases for a short period of time. After that, your body recovers and wants to restore the level of performance from before the training. Additionally, it even increases your level of performance through certain adaptions of functions and structures. This is the phase that’s called supercompensation. If there won’t be another training stimulus, this improvement of performance level goes back to normal, thus you must keep training in order to increase steadily.
Presumed you don’t recover properly; your body won’t be able to implement adequate adaptions and will therefore not increase its performance level. A training is practically an injury, a damage the body heals from. The muscles are damaged in its microstructures, the energy reserves are weakened (especially the carbohydrate storages), the inner milieu of the organism as well as the nervous and hormonal balance are disrupted and need to recover.
A good way to start your recovery after training is an easy cool-down. These 10 minutes of loose running for example stimulate the blood circulation and help the elimination of metabolic end products such as lactate.
Because exercising empties your energy storages, filling them up afterwards is the logical consequence. In doing so, you should focus on the 45 minutes right after training, because glycogen synthesis is the fastest in this time frame. Pay special attention to not only carbohydrates, but also proteins, as they support muscle rebuild, as well as healthy fat that supports absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. These three should be consumed balanced and in the right doses.
Sleep is extremely powerful for recovery and, despite its importance, it's something we’re all guilty of neglecting from time to time.
It’s a fundamentally important process that is necessary for maintaining our body’s cognitive, physical, and metabolic processes, which includes immune-system function, energy balance (glucose metabolism) and hormone regulation (e.g. cortisol, testosterone, and human growth hormone - which is important for tissue repair).
How much sleep an individual needs will vary. For instance, during periods of heavy training an athlete would benefit from having a little more. The standard suggestion for adults aged between 18 and 60 is a good 8+ hours of sleep a night.
In our current society it’s common to be sleep-deprived. Everyone can think of someone who says with pride that they’re able to function just fine off of 5-6 hours of sleep. In reality, these individuals have only become accustomed to the impairments induced by lack of sleep.
It’s not all about sleep duration, it’s also the quality of sleep you’re getting. Only quality sleep instigates proper recovery. These days you’re able to purchase sleep trackers or download an app on your phone, but the easiest way of getting higher quality sleep is to make it a priority. If you’re an athlete, getting enough sleep should be as big a part of your training program as your exercise sessions.
To facilitate quality sleep, you should aim to create a dark, quiet, and cool sleeping environment, while you should also switch off electronics and screens (especially blue-light emitting screens) at least 30-minutes beforehand. Having a regular bed and waking time is also encouraged.