If effective warm-ups are the foundation of injury prevention, recovery routines are what allow you to train consistently. Whether you are training for the sake of health and wellness, sport or elite performance, consistent training is the key to improvements and success. And recovery is what allows you to keep coming back for more.
So, recovery is important. Across the sports industry, recovery is preached as being essential to athletic performance. But how do you recover? Recovery isn’t doing one thing, it covers different areas, the physical, your nutrition and training approach.
The classic post-training (cool down) recovery session is to go for an easy jog, stretch for 10 minutes and call it a day. While this is not completely wrong, recovery goes far beyond a cool down. Coaches and trainers should be encouraging and modelling more recovery routines that their athletes and clients can be doing to reduce post-training soreness and prevent later injuries. Recovery routines include;
- Stretching; there are multiple forms of stretching, but consistent stretching after a training session will help to increase range of motion and increase blood flow to muscles.
- Foam rolling; rolling on a foam roller is a great way to breakdown built-up lactic acid and other metabolites.
- Ice bath; ice baths and hot-cold therapy has been used for centuries, and for good reason. It is an inexpensive and highly effective way to flush out muscle soreness.
There are other, more advanced recovery routines such as compression wear, massages or cryotherapy, but by simply establishing a routine of recovery, you will see and feel the benefits.
Related: How to Meal Prep for Athletes
What you put in your body after training
Just as important as your training, is what you eat. You should be looking to make healthy and nutritious meals that are sources of protein, carbs, fats and antioxidants. (Quantity and proportion will depend on the type and intensity of training). Eating these foods that are packed with carbs, antioxidants or protein are not going to magically make your soreness disappear, but it will replenish your body’s stores, repair and build muscle.
A general rule of thumb when it comes to fuelling after a workout is to consume a ratio of 3 to 1, carbs to protein. You can get this through consuming food that balances this ratio, for example, peanut butter and bread, greek yogurt and fruit, and chocolate milk. There are a variety of high-quality, certified sport nutritional products like post-workout bars, gels or shakes that you can use. However, it is important that if you are taking any sport nutrition products you check with that is certified by NSF International Certified for Sport. (Note: the best source of recovery comes from real foods, so do not rely on manufactured products.)
Antioxidants are also essential to recovery and health. They play the role of neutralization. This means they help to neutralize free radicals produced during training via lactate acid and other metabolites, and protect tissue from inflammation. Common foods that are packed with good fats, protein and antioxidants are;
- Fatty fish – like salmon – are a good source of Omega-3 fats, which play a role in reducing inflammation
- Berries – contain specific antioxidants that protect against inflammation and improve blood flow
- Vegetables – like broccoli, kale and cauliflower contain
- Green Tea – contains a rich source of antioxidants
- Dark Chocolate – yes, chocolate, specifically high concentrations of cacao contain a rich source of antioxidants
- Mushrooms – a good source of antioxidants
The list goes on and on. To find out more, consult a sports nutritionist or dietitian to find more ways in which you can optimize your nutrition to increase health and performance.