Proper recovery from exercise is incredibly important. Without properly recovering from your training session or competition, exercise can lead to injury, illness, and/or a decrease in exercise performance. The components of recovery include rest, sleep, and a healthy diet. The term rest refers to taking days off from exercise, or at least a decrease in the volume of activity. “Active recovery” is a common term used to describe this decrease in exercise volume and may entail a different mode of exercise.
The purpose behind active recovery is to allow the body to recover and adapt to the previous training stimulus without being completely inactive. An example of active recovery would be a marathon runner that runs an average of 2 hours a day, biking for 30 minutes to 1 hour instead of running that day. By doing this, the runner is still getting a cardiovascular training stimulus, while allowing his/her bones, joints, and muscles to recover from the stress that long distance running can have on the body.
Sleep is very important to proper recovery from exercise. Unfortunately, sleep is also often neglected or inadequate. The recommended amount of sleep an individual needs varies depending on age, but every age group should get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night. This chart is a reflection of the sleep recommendations determined by the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance (Calgary, Alberta) in conjunction with the University of Calgary.
Ingesting caffeine before a 30 minute nap can improve your alertness and concentration upon waking, particularly in older athletes. (3) There are some negative effects from caffeine also so this is controversial. It may affect your sleep later that evening or mask symptoms of fatigue.
Methods for increasing the quality of sleep include decreasing time in front of screens (phones, tablets, computers, and TV), creating a low light environment, and sleep nutritional supplementation before bed. By decreasing time in front of screens and creating a low light environment before bed, the body’s melatonin production (a hormone responsible for drowsiness) can be increased. Taking a melatonin or ZMA (zinc/magnesium) supplement before bed can possibly increase your sleep quality as well. Keeping the temperature of the room between 65-72 degrees is best for quality sleep. Most people find 68 degrees quite comfortable during the night.
By getting enough sleep you can prevent plateau and overtraining syndrome, and continue to make progress with your fitness goals.
Another key aspect of recovery is diet. Without a diet appropriate to the type and intensity of your exercise, the body does not have the materials it needs to properly recover. The amount of carbohydrate, fat, and protein an individual requires can vary significantly between persons. However, every person should get at least 9-13 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. An easy way to measure a serving of fruits and vegetables is match what is on your plate to the size of your hand. You also want to make sure your diet consists of a wide variety of these fruits and vegetable. Every color will have a different role in your body, so strive to include as many colors as possible on your plate.
By eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables every day, you can maximize your body’s ability to recover and adapt to exercise, as well as reduce your risk for illness and disease.