As folks move back into the gym or start adventuring outside you may find yourself feeling worn out and sore. To help improve recovery there are 4 basic steps you can take. These steps also happen to be at the base of the human needs pyramid and are always great to check back in on when recovering from any form of stress
Water is one of the most essential components of the human body. Water composes 75% of all muscle tissue and about 10% of fatty tissue, it also acts within each cell to transport nutrients and dispel waste. Even the slightest bit of dehydration can cause muscle fatigue and loss of performance!
The average adult needs about a gallon of water a day. This water does not need to come from pure water; It can also be coffee, tea, watery foods or any other beverages you consume. When we exercise (especially in this hot weather) we lose water through sweat and that needs to be replaced. While water loss will vary greatly from person to person a good rule of thumb is to drink an extra 8 fluid ounces per 15 minutes of exercise. Our body will work to replace fluids for up to 10 hours after activity. Finally, water absorbs more efficiently in the presence of sodium. You can do this by consuming sports drinks or making sure you are consuming food every few hours.
We can get real scientific and specific or we can keep it simple. If you are not a performance athlete you are best off keeping this simple. We need nutrients to survive! When we exert energy, such as in the case of exercise, we need to refuel our energy stores with carbohydrates and fats, and consume proteins for rebuilding cells. To maximize recovery make sure you are consuming carbohydrates and protein every time you eat and from a variety of sources. Carbohydrates can come from fruit, vegetables and grains. Protein can come from meat, eggs, legumes, vegetables, dairy, and nuts. When you consume a large variety of food you will also naturally get a variety of nutrients and vitamins. Finally, eat when you are hungry! Sometimes hunger from exercise is delayed and that’s ok. I recommend getting familiar with the principles of intuitive eating; as you get good at these principles you will start to be in tune with your cravings, hunger and fullness to optimize your nutrition and recovery.
Sleep is extremely important for helping the body recover. During deep sleep our body releases growth hormones to help with rebuilding tissue and other hormones that interfere with recovery such as cortisol decrease. Many studies have been done showing decreased recovery and performance in athletes from lack of sleep.
The average human needs 7-9 hours of sleep and some elite athletes are known to sleep 10-12 hours a night while training and nap throughout the day to maintain their endurance.
Each person is different. Just like your diet, you need to evaluate your sleep needs based on how you feel. If you’re falling asleep as soon as you crawl into bed and struggling to wake up with your alarm, you are probably sleep deprived. Not only is lack of sleep detrimental to your health; increased sleep can improve performance. One study found that increasing athlete sleep from 8 to 10 hours a night improved sprint speeds and improved hitting accuracy and serving speeds in tennis players.
Light movement can help your muscles recover and increase brain function by circulating oxygen, hormones and blood throughout the body. When using movement to promote recovery you should be aiming for low effort activities such as walking, swimming, cycling, stretching, foam rolling or other body weight movement such as our ground flow we do at Ascent fitness. Getting in the habit of adding movement to your day regardless of your plans to do intentional exercise has been shown to improve health in many ways from better sleep, to improved mental health and decreased pain.