No matter what your reason is for training — intense workouts are hard on your muscles. Injuries, fatigue, slow recovery, and overtraining can cause setbacks that prevent you from performing your best, or even being able to compete. You need the ability to adapt and continue to make gains when your training is constantly varied – the way that you do that is by improving your recovery.
As an athlete, focus on these 4 areas to improve your recovery:
1. Training Variables
The volume and intensity of training dictate the body’s ability to recover from the given training workload. Thus, if an athlete is not recovering from the current combination of volume and intensity, then he or she must decrease either volume or intensity or both. Then, as training maturity and work capacity increase over time, volume and intensity can be gradually added back into the training regimen. Two other points must be considered. First, all muscle groups do not have the same recovery capacity. Thus, different movements tax the body’s ability to recover in different ways. For example, if one considers a powerlifter, typically the body can recover from the most volume in the bench press, then the squat, and last the deadlift. Secondly, one must consider the duration of each training block. A deficiency in recovery may not indicate that the lifter needs to decrease volume and/or intensity indefinitely, but rather that he or she needs to take a deload period. This is typically one to four weeks where the volume and intensity are lowered. After this period the lifter can resume volume and intensity levels as before the deload.
2. Importance of Sleep
Sleep is by far the greatest recovery modality that the lifter has at their disposal. Typically, eight hours of sleep per night are recommended for normal individuals. However, a competitive lifter who is training with very high levels of volume and intensity may need more like 9-10 hours of sleep per night in order to recover adequately.
3. Nutrition and Supplementation
Although all of the macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein) are important in the recovery process, most often recovery is hampered by a deficiency in protein intake. For a competitive lifter, I would recommend consuming bodyweight (lbs.) in protein (grams). For example, a 200-pound lifter would consumer 200 grams of protein per day. The component that is probably most often overlooked is water intake. Water is extremely important in the recovery process. I would recommend that competitive lifters consumer their bodyweight (lbs.) in water (oz.). For example, a 200-pound lifter would consumer 200 oz. of water per day. When it comes to supplementation in aiding the recovery process I would recommend the following:
- Low-carb whey protein powder: this will help in meeting the protein requirements described above.
Electrolytes: to be consumed during workout
- MyHMB and/or BetaTOR: this is one of the few supplements out there with a lot of quality research behind it. It simply increases protein synthesis and decreases protein degradation. To be taken before and after your workout.
4. Recovery Modalities
These would include the following, but I would not worry about these unless you are already doing a very good job at the aforementioned three recovery points:
- Soft tissue work: massage, foam rolling, etc.
- Contrast baths
- Extra (recovery) workouts: this typically consists of various movements performed with very light weight and high repetitions in order to increase blood flow to the trained muscles and thus enhance the recovery process.
- Compression garments