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Post Workout Recovery: Focus Areas to Maximize the Benefits of Exercise

By Edited Nov 14, 2016 0 1

Whether you lift weights, play sports, run, swim, hike or walk, post exercise recovery is critical to maintaining health and preventing injury. It is easy to forget, that exercise stresses the body and breaks down muscles. Post workout recovery makes us stronger and resilient. Here are four areas to focus on to maximize the benefits of your exercise.

Sleep

Baby sleep

Adequate sleep is one of the most difficult tips to master, but may the most important towards improving recovery. We lead busy, stressful lifestyles and usually sleep is one of the first things we sacrifice. Inadequate sleep can negatively affect your appetite, mood, and ability to concentrate. Seven hours of sleep if often quoted as a minimum requirement for health, but the number varies from person to person. I benefit from closer to 8 hours of sleep but typically get 7 hours. When I don’t get 8 hours of sleep, I find time during the day for a nap. The length of the nap doesn’t need to be very long. Fifteen minute naps leave me reinvigorated and I feel much better than when I drink extra coffee or tea.

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Nutrition

Eggs and Vegies

A post workout meal should be the largest, nutrient dense meal of the day. Some research shows that this is the best time to consume high carbohydrate (grains, potatoes, squash, fruit, honey) and protein (milk, protein powder, meat, eggs) post workout. Carbohydrates can help minimize muscle breakdown while protein supplies to building blocks to rebuild your muscles.

I focus less on the number of calories and more on the quality of food. I recommend avoiding heavily processed, packaged food (for example white bread, cereal, pre-packed protein bars, soda, fruit juice, candy, frozen and instant dinners). Instead, focus on vegetables (raw, steamed or roasted), fruit, and protein (pasture raised eggs, grass fed meats, whey protein powder). Some of my favorite post workout meals include:

1. Scrambled eggs with grassfed butter and roasted sweet potatoes

2. Smoothies with fruit, vegie greens, raw milk and whey protein

3. Oatmeal with fresh blueberries and whey protein

Mobility and Stretching

Stretch

Try to spend about 15 minutes per day stretching or mobilizing. There are several great resources and ideas for mobility exercises with inexpensive items including foam rollers, rubber resistance bands and lacrosse balls. Yoga is another great way to improve your flexibility. I’ve been consistently practicing daily mobility techniques for the last 4 years and I have noticed a significant reduction in injuries. Regular mobility work improves your range of motion which provides more margin to injury.

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Cold Shower

Ice bath

Athletes use ice baths after competition to reduce inflammation for the entire body. A cold shower is a nice intermediate. Here are some of the benefits that I’ve noticed experimenting with cold showers in the spring and summer months:

1. You feel great after you the shower. Whereas a warm shower feels great when you are taking it, afterwards you can feel lethargic.

2. Save on the air conditioning bill. Not only are you not increasing the temperature of your house by taking a hot shower, but your body temperature is also lower which may allow you to keep your temperature controller set higher while sleeping.

3. Better sleep. The cold shower lowers your body temperature which can improve sleep. •

4. Reduces inflammation. I wanted the same benefit of a icepack with the increased efficiency of getting my whole body at once. Although it won’t keep you from being sore, I definitely think it’s helped me recover faster from exercise and help prevent injury.

5. Burn more calories. Have you ever noticed that swimming can make you very tired? The main reason is that water readily absorbs heat from your body which forces you to burn more calories to maintain constant body temperature.

6. Saves time. I find it difficult to get out of a warm shower. This isn’t an issue with a cold shower.

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Comments

Jan 8, 2015 5:22am
totalathletictherapy
Very good tips for recovery from workouts. I was wondering what your thoughts are on nutrition pre-workout as well? Looking at digestive times and what happens to your digestive system as it slows down when you workout due to blood flow we've found you get better recovery when you already have nutrition being burned prior to working out and then following it up with your recommendations post exercise, to get the most out of it.

I agree with your use of cold to recovery but the reduction inflammation is somewhat unfounded to you are actually hindering that process with the cold tub. Now it does make you feel better, I agree completely, but we've found it has more to do with turning off your SNS and turning on your PNS to set your body up for a recovery state for the remainder of the day/night.

Great article.
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