In today’s demanding world of high intensity sport, whether you’re at a professional or amateur level, recovery is the single most important area for athlete development. What I mean by this is if an athlete cannot recover efficiently they cannot train at optimum levels for each training session, thus increasing the risk of fatigue leading to injuries and psychological blow out. For this blog entry I am going to take you through the main areas to help guide you through the art of efficient recovery.
At the most basic level, nutrition is important for athletes because it provides a source of energy required to perform the activity (Fitzgibbon, 2015). Nutrition is the fuel for an athlete’s engine but also goes a long way in aiding recovery in terms of building/repairing muscles. Most people today think that protein is the essential nutrient in the growth and repair of muscles but it is actually a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fats that account for the body being able to recover. When you train, glycogen levels in the body deplete causing muscle breakdown and fatigue thus it is very important to replenish these glycogen stores quickly to speed up the recovery process.
A study conducted by Berardi et al (2004 tested the hypothesis that a carbohydrate-protein (CHO-Pro) supplement would be more effective in the replenishment of muscle glycogen after exercise compared with a carbohydrate supplement of equal carbohydrate content (LCHO) or caloric equivalency (HCHO).
Results of this study showed that subjects who consumed the CHO-Pro treatment immediately after training replenished glycogen stores by 46.8% compared with 31.2% from the group consuming the HCHO treatment and 28.0% from the group consuming the LCHO treatment after a 4 hour time period.
Good nutrition for athletes is essential and should be treated as a science in itself. The importance of a well-balanced diet containing a good mixture of lean protein such as fish, chicken (fillets not processed), red meat (steak & mince), Carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, potatoes, and green vegetables, and fats like virgin olive oil, nuts, avocados, coconut oil, eggs, fish (again) are the foods you need for your body to be able to cope with heavy duty training schedules.
Sleep is the main time the body uses to recover. During the first few hours of deep sleep growth hormone is released into the body by the pituitary gland helping an athlete’s muscles grow and recover. An athlete needs about 7-10 hours’ sleep per night depending on the person to be adequately rested. According to Kuhland (2016)
- Hours slept before twelve at night are proven to be more effective than those slept after.
- Sleep in the most natural setting possible, with minimal to no artificial lights.
- Wakeup with the sun if possible.
- Fresh air and cooler temperatures help to improve the quality of sleep.
Some research suggests that sleep deprivation increases levels of stress hormone, cortisol. Sleep deprivation has also been seen to decrease production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are stored for energy use during physical activity. In short, less sleep increases the possibility of fatigue, low energy, and poor focus at game time. It may also slow recovery post-game (Sleepfoundation.org, 2016).
Whether you’re at the top of your game or in the game for the fun of it, getting the proper amount of sleep is necessary to face the world with your best food forward. Sleep will help you on the road to good fitness, good eating, and good health.
Nutrition and sleep are key to optimum recovery but hydration both during and in between exercise is vital as our body loses fluid through sweat and urine. Many people claim that if we don’t stay hydrated throughout the day, our energy levels and brain function can start to suffer. The health authorities commonly recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 litres, or half a gallon, this is called the 8×8 rule (Gunnars, 2013).
The easiest way to monitor your hydration is to look at your pee. If it is of a clear to pale yellow colour in appearance your hydration is at a good level, but anything of a dark yellow colour or overwhelming smell is a sign of dehydration. Below are some tips and recommendations (The latter included) listed from the Irish Sports Council (Madigan, 2014), on hydration:
- Each athlete needs to know their own needs. Basic daily requirements might be adequate if you have a desk job or are driving all day but if you have a manual job as well as a heavy training load you will need more fluids.
- If you are well hydrated you should be producing urine every couple of hours.
- Urine that is clear in colour and not strong in smell typically indicates that you are well hydrated. However if you take a vitamin supplement or sports drinks the B-Vitamins can cause your urine to be a bright yellow colour.
- Consider specific gravity of urine as a measure of hydration status. This is especially useful to measure pre training and competition hydration status. Coaches and athletes can gauge if they are coming to training and events well hydrated.
- Drink a wide range of fluids, water, sugar free dilute squash, fruit juices, soup and sports drinks. Water will also be obtained from foods; for example, fruit and vegetables that have high water content
- If you are drinking a lot of sugary drinks you need to be careful with your teeth. Brush and floss regularly and rinse the mouth out with water after consuming these drinks.
- Contrary to popular opinion, caffeine consumption will not have a huge effect on daily urine output or hydration status (ACSM, 2007).
- Alcohol consumption can increase urine output and delay full rehydration (ACSM, 2007). Drinking alcohol in recovery means you are less likely to be drinking appropriate fluids required to rehydrate.
- Some athletes (jumpers, sprinters and throwers) may need to monitor the effect of large volumes of fluid on their performance. Is the weight of the fluid that they are carrying around more detrimental than being slightly dehydrated? This is where individual and practiced plans, in consultation with the relevant specialists, are essential.
Water is of major importance to all living things. Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. So think about it for a minute, when you exercise the functions of the heart, lungs and brain are very important so it makes sense to keep them replenished with H20.
Stretching is an integral part of any athletes’ diary. There are two types of stretching, dynamic (this is done before exercise) and static (this is done after exercise). There are many benefits to stretching such as: It Improves Muscle Development, It Increases Range of Motion, It reduces Injury, It Warms You Up, and It Improves Posture (Williamson, 2016).
In terms of recovery, static stretching should be done in an athlete’ own time away from training in periods of recovery. After a high intensity session muscles become tight and painful, so stretching needs to be done to help with this tightening and let blood flow to the areas affected. Foam rollers can be good for moving on lactic build up and helping with mobility in the affected muscles, although in terms of academic research, the jury is still out on the benefits of using massage and foam rollers as a form of moving on lactic build up.
The above information is to help athletes at any level improve their recovery time effectively, it has been shown that there is no one trick to recovery but more a strategy using a number of different methods. Just remember the main areas of nutrition, rest, hydration and stretching and that everyone is different so listen to your body as well as this blog post. “The art of efficient recovery”
Article by Ronan Keane, Digital Marketing Executive and Personal Trainer – SportLoMo
Berardi, J., Price, T., Noreen, E. and Lemon, P. (2004). Postexercise Muscle Glycogen Recovery is Enhanced With a Carbohydrate-Protein Supplement. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 36(Supplement), p.S41.
Fitzgibbon, (2015). The importance of Sports Nutrition. [online] Ireland’s Leading Provider of Allied Health Services. Available at: http://www.spectrumhealth.ie/blog/the-importance-of-sports-nutrition [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016].
Gunnars, K. (2013). How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day?. [online] Authority Nutrition. Available at: https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day/ [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016].
Kuhland, J. (2016). 7 Essential Elements of Rest and Recovery. [online] Breaking Muscle. Available at: http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/7-essential-elements-of-rest-and-recovery [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016].
Madigan, S. (2014). HYDRATION YOU ARE WHAT YOU DRINK. 1st ed. [ebook] Limerick: Coaching Ireland, p.P7. Available at: https://www.irishsportscouncil.ie/Coaching-Ireland/Publications-/Hydration-You-Are-What-You-Drink.pdf [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016].
Sleepfoundation.org. (2016). Sleep, Athletic Performance, and Recovery. [online] Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/sleep-athletic-performance-and-recovery [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016].
Williamson, J. (2016). Why Stretching Is Important. [online] Healthguidance.org. Available at: http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/15615/1/Why-Stretching-Is-Important.html [Accessed 15 Mar. 2016].