It was only recently I began to fully understand the necessity for sufficient recovery. Most believe the real “work” of working out happens in the gym, during hard, sweat-drenched sets. However it is the time outside the gym when the real work happens. The imperative recovery period that follows any workout is often a factor misunderstood and overlooked, causing many to plateau and struggle to really reach their desired fitness goals.
Amongst scientific research, most empirical studies have found that the time spent working out must be no more than an hour. What research has struggled to decipher is how much recovery is necessary to elicit the full effects of training.
I went through a period of my life often getting colds and flus, which were always unexpected. I eat plenty of vegetables, nutritious protein, healthy fats and exercise often so friends would ask “How are you ill? You eat so well!” It honestly made no sense – not until I read something written by strength coach and guru, Charles Poliquin.
Poliquin examined the evidence surrounding excessively long consistent workouts and that they can be immune-suppressive. This basically means that long workouts everyday can lower the power of your immune system, and that’s why athletes, particularly swimmers and triathletes are always catching colds. I was by no means an ‘athlete’, but I was training in some instances for over 2 hours at a time, day after day. Perhaps it was the length of my workouts and the consistency that was causing illness, had I been suppressing my own immune system? After shortening my sessions to around the hour mark, I have seen a notable improvement to my health, it has become clear that monitoring the length of my sessions has paid dividends.
Recovery: The Key To Your Success
Whether your goal is to lose fat or gain muscle, if you expect your body to change then recovery is key. It is an essential part of any training program and should be thought of as a friend. Muscles adapt particularly quickly, becoming stronger during bouts of rest and not exercise, it is during rest that the muscle tissue will repair and protein synthesis will occur.
5 Steps To Recovery Success
Too many make the mistake of thinking it is all about training. Obviously without consistency you will not look the way you want, but your body needs time to rest! Without rest you will place too much stress on your immune system, can make yourself ill and ultimately grind to a halt. My 5 steps to recovery success will help anyone on their journey of health and wellbeing; some of them cost money and some are free, but they all have one thing in common, they’re indispensable.
The most important part of recovery is sleep. You should aim to be getting at least 8 hours a night and not count on your body to catch up on it; your body will struggle to do so. The effort you are putting in during your training sessions is completely irrelevant if you do not put the time in under the sheets.
My second key to recovery success is creatine. Creatine supplements were made popular in the early 1990s and many athletes have thrived through its use. Creatine will speed up recovery and also enhance maximum power and performance during high-intensity exercise. There is also scientific evidence that has proven creatine to have positive effects on brain function, including cognitive performance (our ability to acquire knowledge). Beware of both cheap, hyped and over priced creatine. The most popular form of creatine is creatine monohydrate, and if that bothers your stomach try a more water-soluble creatine, such as Tri Creatine Malate. I have found I respond best to 10g a day of Creapure® Creatine Monohydrate, I take one 5g serving in my water bottle for my workouts and another in my post-workout shake.
Much has been researched and written about the positive effects stretching can have on recovery. Do not static stretch a cold muscle before training as this can cause injury, instead stretch after your workout as this has been known to not only increase flexibility but aid recovery and hypertrophy. Anywhere between 20 seconds to a minute for each muscle, has shown to have positive effects.
Due to its cortisol lowering properties, Vitamin C is a supplement that when taken can have fantastic effects on recovery. Cortisol is a hormone released from the adrenal gland during stress and high levels can decrease muscle tissue and increase visceral fat. There is a lot of research indicating that increasing Vitamin C consumption can reduce cortisol levels, preventing the hormones catabolic activity and fat storing behaviours. A high intake of Vitamin C will enhance your general health, if you are sick you will be unable to train – so keeping healthy is the secret to continuing your journey of health and wellbeing. I like to add one scoop of BULK POWDERS™ Vitamin C Powder to my post-workout shake.
Much deliberation has been put into the effectiveness and timing of immediate post-workout nutrition. It has been found that the most important time to produce positive training recovery and adaption in the muscle is straight after training, literally while you are still sweating. After a workout, muscle fibers have been microscopically torn and so immediate nutrition will ensure they can repair efficiently and be stronger for the next session.
My current favourite post-workout shake is BULK POWDERS™ Pure Whey Isolate 90, mixed with 5g of Creapure® Creatine Monohydrate, 1g of Vitamin C Powder and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. As our immune systems become weaker while we train, the antibacterial and antiviral properties within coconut oil, aids recovery and helps fight against illness.
About The Authors
Dejan and Jonny are both fitness professionals stemming from a vast sporting background. Based in London they are the founders of ‘LetsTrain‘ – an online, forward-thinking, fitness and nutrition resource.