Do you ever have one of those days where you hit the gym and you try lifting the weights that you normally do, but just can’t? For some reason, your strength levels are off, your stamina is off and you feel weak. If this sounds familiar, then one of the most likely causes is failure to recover properly. As you progress from a novice trainer to more advanced, you’re obviously going to be training harder, with greater intensity and with heavier weights. This is also going to mean more muscle damage and muscle soreness. Just as your workouts need to change to avoid the dreaded plateau, so too does your recovery routine. Here are 7 quick and easy tips to reinvigorate your recovery and recuperation.
1. More Protein & Better Distribution
The majority of trainers tend to skew their protein intake towards the later hours of the day centred around dinnertime. It tends to have a distribution pattern of 15% breakfast, 25% lunch and 55% dinner, with a smattering of other protein hits throughout the day making up the rest such as a protein shake. However, more and more studies are showing that an even distribution of protein throughout the day is much better for muscle protein synthesis than a skewed intake. If you’re training hard, aim for at least 4-6 hits of 20-30g of protein per day and at intervals of 2-3 hours.
2. Pre & Post Workout Supplementation
While most trainers have their post workout supplementation down pat, once you’re stepped over the line of being a novice/intermediate trainer, you’re going to need more to help you recover and boost gains. Within 2 hours before and 2 hours after your training sessions, you want to have:
- 40-60g of protein
- Up to 50% of your carbohydrate intake
By doing so, you’re ensuring adequate fuel replenishment as well as maximising muscle growth and minimising muscle breakdown.
3. Train Hard, Eat Hard
One of the best tips to getting more from both your workouts as well your recovery ability is to match your intake with your level of activity. So if you’ve got a particularly intense session planned, make sure you have a few hundred extra calories. Now this isn’t an excuse to eat poorly, all it means is giving yourself some extra fuel throughout the day to support your body’s needs.
4. More than Just Protein
Eating 20-30g of protein five times a day isn’t easy, especially if you’ve got a busy day job. While protein shakes are great in this circumstance, it can get tiresome drinking the same milky substance every day. Amino acid supplements on the other hand make for a great complement to your dietary protein and also your protein powders as another way to provide your body with the essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids it needs to grow and recover. As most of them are fruit flavoured, they’re extremely easy to drink. While many trainers like to take these amino acid supplements during their workouts, taking them first thing in the morning and last thing at night is a sure fire way to prime your body around the clock. Pick one with plenty of leucine; the most anabolic of all amino acids.
5. Foam Rolling
Deserving of a ‘best thing since sliced bread’ title, foam rollers are a lifeline for any serious trainer. If you haven’t tried one of these before or if your gym doesn’t have one of these, go grab yourself one from the shops, it’ll be as useful as the supplements you buy. Foam rollers for the uninitiated are cylinders of foam, which can be grooved or smooth, which are useful for self-myofascial release. In other words, it’s a great way to iron out kinks and knots developed during training. It’s not comfortable, but it will help support better recovery. If certain muscles are tight, or you’re simply sore, apply the foam roller to the area for 20-30 seconds, breathing deeply as you do so and let your muscles relax.
6. Hot & Cold
Underutilised as a recovery tool, heat and cold therapy is one of the best methods to recuperate from a heavy, intense session of exercise, reduce delayed onset muscle soreness and to protect strength declines. It’s often used in professional settings where you see heat packs, ice baths, ocean swimming and the like. In fact, research has shown that cold and heat therapy was able to reduce deficits in strength by an extra 20% compared to controls as well as prevent elastic tissue damage and reduce pain. Cold therapy both immediately after and 24 hours post training session is generally better than heat therapy, but both are still better than nothing.
7. Sleep 1 More Hour
It may sound logical, but rarely do people alter their sleeping hours to help support recovery. We’re often such creatures of habit that the thought of going to bed earlier just results in excuses of not being able to fall asleep. However, sleep is one of the most restorative processes that we can possibly do, even more so than nutrition and supplementation. While this might not be feasible for many people, you’d be surprised how much time we spend doing nothing significant after dinner. So give it a go, and sleep 1 hour early after more intense sessions. Not only will your recovery be boosted, your training will benefit as well as other everyday activities.
1. Mamerow MM, Mettler JA, English KL, Casperson SL, Arentson-Lantz E, Sheffield-Moore M, Layman DK, Paddon-Jones D. ‘Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults.’ J Nutr. 2014 Jun;144(6):876-80.
2. Petrofsky J, Khowailed IA, Lee H, Berk L, Bains G, Akerkar S, Shah J, Al-Dabbak F, Laymon M. ‘COLD VRS HEAT AFTER EXERCISE- IS THERE A CLEAR WINNER FOR MUSCLE SORENESS.’ J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Aug 14.