Recovery matters more than you think when it comes to your training. The topic about recovery isn’t talked about as much, because it’s not a sexy topic. For real, it’s not as exciting as getting that new PR on a lift. Though it’s not exciting, it’s probably one of the most important aspects of your training that you are not focusing on. I once fell in this trap of working hard in the gym, so hard that I wouldn’t be able to walk the next day. My rest day consisted of sitting all day to let the muscle heal, and destroy another body part that day. I was not the only one and many others have this mindset about training. Recovery was just not working that muscle for the day and waiting for the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) to go away. This mindset is actually hurting your gains in the gym and could even make you lose progress. Training breaks the body down, recovery builds your body and adapts to the training. Let’s dive in what recovery is and how it can help you.
WHAT IS RECOVERY?
Recovery from training is the process of healing from the stresses you afflicted on the body. Training is a form of stress on the body, you create micro-tears in the muscles that need time to heal. Another stress on the body is the nervous system, especially when you are doing compound movements under load. The nervous system and your muscles are connected, that’s how the muscles contract, they are given a signal by motor neurons. The louder the signal, the more muscle fibers are turned on by the neurons to complete a task like lifting weights. Your body needs time to recover from this stress on the body. Time is not the only thing that the body needs in order for it to recover.
Your recovery day shouldn’t be just laying around, you actually need to be active with your movement, sleep, nutrition,hydration, and stress to maximize the recovery benefits. Change your mindset on what recovery day is, instead of thinking off/rest day, think of it as growth day. Remember, more work does not mean results. Training 6-7 days a week tends to progress at a slower pace.
BENEFITS OF RECOVERY
I mentioned already that your recovery day is a day of growth. When you take a day to recover, you are allocating resources for growth and repair in the body. When you train daily, those resources are limited for growth and repair, making your progress much slower than it needs to be.
Here is a short list of benefits that you can expect from proper recovery days:
- Build more muscle
- Glycogen replenishment in muscles
- Nervous system back to optimal
- Better performance
- Immunal & Hormonal systems back to optimal state
So what do some of these benefits actually mean? Building more muscle is obvious, but what about the glycogen replenishment and performance? Glycogen is stored glucose(sugar) in the muscles. This stored energy is used during activities such as resistance training, running, etc. When your muscles are depleted of this storage of energy, the level of your performance declines. Performance in the gym is the load you use, the volume, and your effort. When your performance declines, that training session is less effective than a full recovered body that can put more effort into their session. More effort and overall better performance overtime leads to results in a timely manner.
WHAT TO DO ON RECOVERY DAY
Like I mentioned before, recovery day is not about doing nothing on your day off. You can and should be active, just not stressing your body. Recovery is about getting the body back to homeostasis, which means back to baseline from the stresses from training. Think of rejuvenating the body with activities that help you feel good and calm.
- walk outside
- a hike at your favorite park
- mobility drills
- Zone 2 cardio
Really anything that is low intensity and doesn’t push your body. These movements are low stress on the body and your mental health can benefit as well. Factors that have a great influence on the body and its road to recovery are sleep, nutrition, and hydration.
NUTRITION & HYDRATION
Nutrition and hydration go hand in hand, so we will talk about them together. Whatever the goals are, protein should be a priority for your recovery. Protein has essential amino acids that our body needs. It is the building blocks for muscle, and if you want to reduce DOMS and increase recovery time, you need an adequate amount of protein. A good range to be in for any goal is around 0.8-1.2g per lb of body weight. So take your bodyweight and times it with 0.8 & 1.2, and that should be the range of protein that you hit for the day. I also recommend pairing nutrient dense carbohydrates to help replenish the muscles glycogen stores, think of it this way, a full muscle is a strong muscle.
I shouldn’t have to talk too much about hydration, we all know how important water is for the body. The body is about 70% water, but did you know the muscle is 80% water? Lacking in your hydration game can dampen your performance, which results in less than optimal training sessions. A great recommendation for water intake is ½ of your weight in oz, so if you weigh 200lbs drink 100 oz of water. Personally, my water cup is 64oz , it helps me keep track of the amount of water I take in and less time having to refill it throughout the day.
Quality sleep is highly underrated. Most of your recovery, whether it is from training or injury, happens when you sleep. The lack of sleep is dampening the recovery process, even if you have great nutrition, hydration, movement, without quality sleep you are limiting yourself. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep, and create a night routine to ensure you get quality sleep. Here are some things to work on to help get quality sleep:
- Cooler temperature
- Dark room (blackout curtains, tape over lights)
- Sound machine
- No food couple hours before sleep
- Cut water an hour before sleep
- Dim lights an hour before sleep
- No phone/tv an hour before sleep
These are recommendations, definitely try these and play with what works best for you to be consistent.
Recovery days as you can see should be a priority, not just a second thought. This might mean you change your old training routine of 6 days a week to less to optimize your training and recovery. Watch your strength progress quicker, better muscle gains, and overall just feel better when you recover properly.