By Patrick Dixon, Head of Applied Sports Science AMP Human
Sports performance practitioners have come to understand that there are multiple factors that influence the stress and level of fatigue experienced by athletes. The type of training, duration, intensity, level of fatigue and recovery status from the previous training session all play a role in how the body responds. Maximizing the time between training sessions has a profound effect on both the training quality that week and in the long term adaptation needed to improve performance.
However, recovery is more than what you do immediately after exercise, it’s how you think about the 24 hours of your day. There are many products and strategies out there that lend themselves to recovery but the key is understanding how they work together and in what category they belong. A simple way to break down the different key areas is the following:
- Replenish: Take in fluids and electrolytes during and after training sessions to stay hydrated and maintain proper physiological function. Calories are needed during longer sessions.
- Refuel: After the workout, carbohydrates are needed to help replenish glycogen stores and protein is needed to help repair the muscle damage done during the workout.
- Rebuild: Facilitating blood flow to deliver nutrients and flush out metabolic waste is key. Athletes also need to maintain the range of motion and flexibility of the muscle and connective tissue.
- Relax: Improvement requires more than just great training intensity. It also needs down time to allow the body to heal and careful planning over time to balance the rigors of different training sessions.
REPLENISHThe human body is roughly 60% water. But did you know that the average person's sweat rate is between 25 - 45 oz per hour? That means in a 90 minute training session, you could lose up to half a gallon of sweat. It’s also important to note that you don’t just lose water, your sweat also contains electrolytes like sodium, potassium and magnesium which your muscles need to function properly.
REFUELThe first 30-minutes after the workout is a key window in starting the recovery process; carbohydrates are needed to replenish glycogen used for energy and protein (with a full amino acid profile) is needed to support the successful repair of damaged muscle fibers. The ideal ratio of carbohydrate to protein is 3:1 with carbohydrate needs between 1.1 and 1.5g per kg. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American College of Sports Medicine recommend 1.2 to 2.0g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for athletes, depending on the type of training with resistance training requiring more.
REBUILDAs an athlete trains, there will naturally be muscle breakdown leading to soreness and inflammation. In order to combat these symptoms, strategies that increase blood flow can serve a dual purpose; aid in the repair process by improving nutrient and oxygen delivery and the clearance of metabolites that may be leading to inflammation (lactic acid). Dynamic/Active Recovery is typically low level aerobic exercise like jogging, biking or swimming meant to do just that. The idea is to create just enough of a response to get better blood flow to the muscles working without adding to fatigue. Stretching after exercise helps maintain and even improve the range of motion in a muscle which aids in the improvement of athletic performance as well as improves the blood flow into the muscle. Different techniques include static, dynamic, and PNF.
RELAXSleep is crucial to the healing process for both the body and the mind. Research has shown that restricting sleep to less than 6 hours per night for 4+ consecutive nights may impair cognitive performance, mood and immune function. This has led to recommendations of getting 8 hours of sleep per night. The second part of that advice is making sure that electronic devices are turned off due to the blue light effect.