Don’t underestimate the importance of recovery if you want to get the best from your training

energyWithout that R&R you could easily open the door to a host of issues you don’t want, such as a plateau, loss of muscle mass, reduced power and performance, and potential injury risk. All of these outcomes can be avoided if you ensure you optimise your recovery!

CALORIES

How much you eat and the type of calories you eat are key to promoting recovery. Firstly, if your calories are insufficient then the repair, growth and adaption processes in your body will happen at a drastically reduced rate.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you low on energy before, during and after your workouts?
  • Are you frequently feeling fatigued?
  • Are your workouts enjoyable and do they feel like quality sessions?
  •  Are you constantly thinking about food?

You’re on-point if:

  • You recover quickly, even after highintensity sessions.
  • You can’t remember the last time you got sick, or injured.
  • You feel satiated, energetic and light in all your workouts, no matter what the time of day
  • Your performance consistently improves.

If you need to make changes then it’s important to find out what you’re currently eating and to have an idea of the number of calories you’re consuming. The best way to do this is to get yourself a calorie tracker app and just input all the food you eat over the day and at the end of the week you can see exactly how many calories you’re taking in.

UntitledWe can use this information to see how your current food intake looks and make changes accordingly. An example: if we take an 80kg male cyclist training four times a week for two hours a time. At the end of his tracked week it’s noted that he is consuming 2,500 calories a day but he feels his recovery is not good enough.

In endurance sports we know we should be having around 1.6g/Kg bodyweight of protein (128g or 512Kcals for our 80kg man) and 0.9g/Kg bodyweight of fat (72g or 648Kcals) leaving the rest of our example’s calories to come from carbs (335g or 1340Kcals). Now, if our example cyclist is still not recovering sufficiently he can slowly increase his carb intake each week by around 40gs a time untill he feels epic (using the You’re on-point criteria for assessment).

Windows of opportunity There are also windows of opportunity that should be taken advantage of that increase the speed of recovery. Taking carbohydrates and some protein immediately or at least within 30 minutes of finishing a training session will maximise recovery. Note: this becomes very, very important if you are training again that day or within 8-24 hours. A great way to make use of this window is to have milk, specifically chocolate milk with its added sugars, because it has been found to be one of the best things for recovery and rehydration.

SLEEP

Sleep is well-known as the doorway to recovery – most of the repair that needs to happen to your body takes place whilst your eyes are shut, so it’s important to make sure that your kip is top-notch. The most important part of sleep is known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep; this is when the nervous system is suppressed and is able to recover and repair (it’s the deepest period of the sleep pattern). The quality of your sleep is therefore determined by how much REM you get. Sometimes drifting off can be hard or maybe you wake up frequently. Well, here are a few supplements you could take to help.

  • Zinc and Magnesium The minerals Zinc & Magnesium aid in muscular repair and improve recovery by extending deep sleep thus enhancing sleep quality. They also help you drift off quicker by reducing the stress hormone cortisol. These are also minerals that are lost through sweating and should be regularly replaced. Try taking either a magnesium salt bath or a ZMA (zinc, magnesium and B6) tablet at least 90 minutes prior to sleep.
  • Tulsi Tea is another name for Holy Basil – a herbal adaptogen which is able to naturally reduce cortisol levels in the body. Try taking it before bedtime and around the time of intense training.
  • Vitamin C with its cortisol and inflammatory reducing effects is also great to take alongside zinc and magnesium supplementation prior to bed.

PERIODISATION & TRAINING (P&T)

protein 1I’ll only make brief mention of this as I’m here really to talk about food, supplements, recovery and sleep but getting P&T right is also essential to optimal performance.

P&T should be based on your training goals and what you’re aiming to achieve; tailored to your level (whether beginner or advanced); with the sessions you’re doing rotated to make sure you’re never being overworked (too much); and allow adequate time between the type of sessions you do to allow for recovery to happen.

An example: if you were training for a marathon, you wouldn’t want to do a heavy series of intervals two days in a row, as the second session would likely be subpar compared to the first.

So you need to periodise and incorporate easy, medium and hard workouts and weeks into your training plan to maximise your recovery and any event performance.