Benefits of Recovery
Before you say that recovery methods have been covered time and time again and you know everything there is to know about having your recovery shake right after a tough session you will read some stuff here that is ‘street smart advice’ that you have never heard before. We will be going over every trick you can pull out the bag to aid recovery and tools to monitor your recovery.
There are multiple reasons why recovery is important:
- The main reason is that your adrenal glands are asked by your body during tough sessions to pump out adrenalins and make adrenal steroids which stress out your body in the ‘fight or flight’ state. You can’t ask your body to tear them out 24/7 and you need to refill your stores and give those glands a break. If you don’t recover you are going to deplete you body’s testosterone levels and produce a massive amount of cortisol which is inhibits your body in recovery and producing growth hormone decreasing the ability to recovery as quickly as you would like to.
- During intense training when muscle fibres tear you get calcium leakage and produce prostaglandins which makes your body send white blood cells and fluid to the damaged area to start the healing process. You can’t throw in another workout until the inflammatory process has taken place and gone away. A chronic injury is this process never going away (i.e. a lack of recovery). There may be underlying biomechanical issues that cause the issue but a lack of recovery makes it chronic.
- Your body has a finite storage of fuel (carbs for example) and you need to give it the opportunity to refill these or you are will be sub-par in training due to this lack of recovery. Also, there is a mental motivational component to consider. You need a break to allow yourself to come back and perform to the best of your ability in your sessions.
There are so many things that recovery gives you that a lot of people miss out on. Mark Allen said that “you are better to be 10% undertrained than 1% over trained”. It is discipline in itself.
Markers for Recovery
Use one, some or all of the below markers which provide you with indicators which will allow you to make an informed assessment of your state of recovery before undertaking your days training:
- Resting HR – elevated morning pulse is from an overworked nervous system which is a good indication that you are over trained. But, if your heart rate is over low you will have other symptoms if it is due to overtraining and it is probably being a result of becoming fitter. Many people find this difficult (especially after being woken up by an alarm clock), You can iPhone apps for tracking your heart rate or something like a fitbit.
- Body Mass – If you are losing weight (2% in one day) is usually a sign that you have a loss of hydration combined with a loss of body mass is a warning sign that you could not be recovered.
- Quality of sleep – when you are not recovered properly you testosterone is down and you’re not recovered. Waking up but not needing a big wee is a sign that you are not recovered. Waking up early or not falling to sleep early can be signs of not being recovered. You could be just hungry so have a banana dipped in peanut butter and if you are still struggling to sleep it will be probably due to lack of recovery
- Performance – Having dead legs often, noticing that you are not getting faster (if already doing interval training), performance in your sessions is down on the previous days performance (pace, speed, watts) are sure fire ways of your body telling you to take a rest and recover.
- Oxygen Saturation – 96-99% is the banding you are looking for. A Finger Pulse Oximeter & Heart Rate Monitor will allow you to determine this to assess your recovery.
- DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) – this is a normal reaction to training (especially following interval training) but if persistent it is a good indicator that you are not recovering properly.
- Hydration – the colour of your pee is a great and easy way of reviewing your hydration. If you are peeing yellow you are dehydrated and hydration is key to recovery
- Appetite – your appetite goes down if you are not fully recovered or not recovering properly.
- PAMS (Profile Of Mood States) – score you mood, when this is low and you are anxious etc. it can be indicative of lack of recovery or overreaching in training. Well-being and happiness is a good sign of decent job of recovering.
You want to give the body more of the tools it needs to naturally speed up the recovery process. When you take Ibuprofen, or the like, that can stop the body sending white blood cells to the area and shuts down the recovery process. If you treat the area with ice and little bit of heat to get better blood flow to the area gives the body what it needs to speed up the recovery rather than covering the issue up with drugs.
Supplements, Diet and Recovery Aids.
An anti-inflammatory diet includes foods that naturally contain flavonoids and polyphenols. Foods that have those compounds are dark fruits (e.g. pomegranate), dark leafy green (e.g. bok choy, kale) and cumin, turmeric’s and other Indian type spices. Thai and Indian food with curries in your diet help your body shut down inflammation naturally.
Night Shades; potatoes, tomatoes and peppers are high in alkaloids which can inhibit recovery. If you eat a ton of these they will hinder your recovery. However, the Night Shades pale into insignificance compared to sugars and starches (high carbs, fruit juice, scones, crackers, pizza, pasta, biscuits, and bagels based diets) is are one of the worse things you can do to stop your body being set up to repair and recover as it poses natural anti-inflammatory potential.
Sugar and Starchy foods should be replaced with less starchy foods and a high fat food diet (e.g. avocado, oily fish). Don’t be concerned about your energy levels as although pasta is energy, you could take the white pasta and replace with quinoa or rice pasta or substitute with squash, cauliflower, beans lentils, sweet potato etc. which will still give you fuel and energy and glycogen to burn but are not as inflammatory as wheat based starches.
Recovery Shake; It seems to be a general consensus that after training you need to have a protein and carb rich meal with 30 minutes! However, most of the studies that have been done to underpin this claim were done on athletes in a fasted state with low blood sugar levels. If you are training in this state (i.e. before breakfast) it is applicable to use the “30 minutes window”. Otherwise what you are eating during the day is enough to keep your body fuelled. You need to ask yourself whether you fuelled before your session, if so, there is no need to rush to find a banana and protein powder. If you are eating when you are hungry and eating healthily your body will restore its glycogen stores within 8 hours so if you plan on working out again within this time frame fill up your body stores within the 30 minutes window, if not just eat your normal diet.
Eating before you go to sleep; if you are trying to lose weight, you may be better served by going to bed hungry without pumped up insulin levels which will store the energy as fat. If weight loss is not an issue you will get a bit of a release of growth hormone to aide recovery if you eat before bed. If you do not want to eat but still want the increase growth hormone you can try gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) before bed. Deep sleep also aides repair and recovery during sleep which can be aided by using magnesium.
Free radicals are produced during exercise which hold back the recovery process and your body needs help after training with anti-oxidants. You need different anti-oxidants to do this. You want to combine eating a healthy diet with taking anti-oxidant that is as full a spectrum of anti-oxidants you can find meal replacement from Living Fuel (Super Berry or Super Greens) assuming you are eating plenty of nuts and seeds and fruits and veg in your diet. Mt. Capra Solar Synergy Sports Drink or Synergy Natural Organic Super Greens Powder are also good alternatives.
Calcium leakage occurs during exercise. Magnesium displaces calcium which rapidly alleviates post workout soreness. Oral use of magnesium is good for sleep but spray on magnesium is far superior for post race / workouts. You can find a number of option at amazon but my favourite is Better You Magnesium Oil Original Spray.
Protolithic enzymes, which are a blend of extract from meat, pineapple and papayle, such as Quest Enzyme and Health Plus Digest Plus Digestive Enzyme Supplement. Also, taking amino acids before your workout can stave off the use of amino acids from your muscles during exercise. Eat steamed chicken, yoghurt or take an amino acid powder .
Protein – Protein powder should be considered as a real food which can be mixed with coconut milk, oatmeal or quinoa in the morning for example. Protein powders are very very good at giving your body what it needs for repair and recovery but it’s importance seems to have been blown out of proportion which is maybe crossover from body building to the world of endurance and triathlon. Most people eat more protein than they actually need which can cause problems for the liver and kidneys with the production of additional ammonia and toxic bi-products. Best way is to take on a bunch of protein is right after your workout as this is good way to send a big recovery message to your body. Eat just enough protein to give your body what it needs to repair and recover (about 0.8-1.0 grams/lb per day or 1.8-2.2 grams/kg per day) but no more … meat or protein powders during the day, amino acids before a workout and most of the rest of what you eat should come from high amounts of fat and a smart amount of carbs injected when appropriate. Total percentage of your daily calorie intake should be 25-30% protein.
During training sessions it is also a good option to choose gels / liquids that offer Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) in them (Gu Roctane). BCAA can decrease levels of post workout soreness, help you to recovery faster and go harder in the session.
Compression Gear – allows your body to milk fluid and inflammatory bi-products up out of an area much easier as it pulls blood from the area you have inflammation and shovels it up towards your heart. With 110 Compression Wear you can put ice packs in which compresses the blood vessels a little bit which dilates and increase blood flow and secretes post workout soreness and recovery. Good for increasing recovery but don’t get too excited as they won’t increase performance. However, if you wear them during an Ironman (for example) it will help with your muscles being constantly jarred especially towards the end of a marathon. You won’t go any faster but you’ll be less sore during and the next day.
Electro stimulation – a component you attach to the muscle with a pad that simulates massage and forces the muscles to contract and get the blood flowing and increase recovery and reduce soreness, especially if you are going to be sitting down pretty quickly after finishing.
Massage or foam roller or muscle stick – can be used to reduce muscular adhesion after exercising. This allows the muscle to move more freely and to increase blood flow. Compression wear and a foam roller are massive for recovery. If you are getting a massage don’t time it right before or right after a tough session or race.
A Bath – A cold bath after exercise can be used it no compression/ice is not available. Magnesium / Salt baths the day after exercise (but not right after) can really help absorb some of the calcium and soreness.
Ice baths – they can help with soreness after a long run or bike. Fill the bath with ice before you set off and jump in for 20 minutes (grit your teeth and stick with it). Most professional sports teams now use ice baths so that alone speaks for itself.
Swimming for recovery – is good the day after hard workout days and races and is really good as it is non weight bearing and increases blood flow (Just don’t over do it!). Active recovery is good if it isn’t weight bearing and increases blood flow; walking, riding bike, swimming etc.
How do you track your Recovery?
Of the markers for recovery above the favoured ones are morning resting heart rate / oxygen saturation, a comparison of how your legs feel against the previous days session and your pee colour. Also, make sure to pay close attention to sleep (8 hours a night optimal like a log). Pay attention to appetite (if not hungry you are not recovered). Additionally, pay attention to sex drive; if it is down in the hole you are probably be down on your recovery.
Restwise – is an online software programme were you answer questions online which will assess your recovery.
You do not want to be tracking recovery intensely so much so that you are not enjoying training. Just pick a couple of parameters above and monitor how you progress. It can’t be stressed enough how important recovery is and 90% of athletes are not recovered on the start line of any race and they are pretty much screwed before the race has begun.
You invest so much time on your training you also need to spend a huge amount of time on your recovery.
If you have read previous posts you will know that I am using the site as a memory jogger and dumping ground for articles, pics, advice etc and my own feedback as I progress to IMUK p2014. This post is exactly that…
You must read this here about on the Ironman UK 2014 new bike course.
Also here about incorporating your build into your training.
And finally here for some great ironman training progress and tips