An old friend of mine contacted me the other day about what can be done to help enhance recovery from training especially when you get older. This was great timing since a student asked me a question about using ice baths to help with recovery and I asked him what the two most important parts of recovery are. He didn’t know immediately but pretty quickly we got to the answer:
Sleep and Nutrition
Now with sleep when it comes to recovery we are looking to maximize this number. I know that life will get in the way here, but in a perfect world we are looking to get eight hours or more each night. Old school lifters would suggest sleeping eight hours and an extra one hour for each hour of hard training. Aim to improve your sleep quality as much as you can. You can do this by making your room the right temperature for you, as dark as possible, and start making a routine for yourself before bed to help you unwind and fall asleep faster. This can be things like no more screens an hour before bed or wearing blue light blocking glasses before bed to help yourself release more melatonin to help you fall asleep.
After getting enough sleep, nutrition is key. Making sure that you are getting in enough calories to support your training is a big first part to take care of. After that getting in enough protein, carbs, and fats (macronutrients) to support your training is important. To decrease soreness specifically, make sure you are getting in enough protein to support your training (at least .75grams per pound of body weight, up to 1.5grams per pound of bodyweight for someone that is trying to lose weight). Then make sure you are getting in enough carbs and fats (you can experiment here but start off with at least 1gram per pound of bodyweight on carbs and .6grams per pound of body weight on fats). After you get this dialed in aim to get in a meal of protein and carbs directly after training to help expedite recovery from your training and get in a meal 2 hours before your training if you can. This will help you fuel your workout and recover from it faster.
Sleep and nutrition at the big two keys to recovery from hard training. If those are not enough you might want to decrease your training volume or intensity since you might be doing more than your body is prepared for. If that isn’t in the cards there are a number of recovery methods that can work, but individual response here is key. Some folks will get a lot of out of these methods and others will get none at all. If you have the cash try them out, but here is my basic list I would recommend trying:
Active Recovery – this is doing work at a heart rate of less than 100 beats per minute. The constant movement for half an hour or more (going for a nice walk). Helps enhance blood flow to not only the muscles, but the joints to help everything recover. Be careful to not go overboard here and use this to actually help yourself recover from the stress, not cause more of it.
Ice Baths – sitting in very cold water for about 20 minutes can help with recovery, but is not only uncomfortable, but can be limiting based upon access to ice and a clean bathtub. This does work for a number of people so take a look and give it a shot sometime to see how your respond.
Saunas (or hot tubs) – This increases blood flow to the skin and activates heat shock proteins which in turn can help with cellular function. This used for about 15-30 minutes can help with recovery or just be useful for overall health (specifically cardiovascular). Give it a shot at the end of your workout to help increase the workouts effectiveness. Do be careful since the heat can be dangerous especially if you are dehydrated to start.
Compression (specifically devices like the normatec) – This is either garments which have limited evidence or pneumatic sleeves that are put on different regions of the body. The sleeves seem to be quite effective with helping recovery, however they are expensive. This is not the same as blood flow restriction training to be clear.
There are more, but those are the ones that come to mind for being effective to some and remember the key is individual response. You can try out other methods that you think help, but do your best to track your own response however you can and avoid confirmation bias. What this means is you are going to recover no matter what, so using something might not be accelerating what was already going to occur. You might try multiple methods at once and then you could falsely believe it was the moon rocks that improved your recovery not the extra sleep and nutrition you were doing better with.
There are a number of means to enhance recovery, but never ever underestimate the effects of sleep and nutrition. After that experiment a bit to see what helps you and throw out what doesn’t. If you have any questions or want me to write further on any of this please let me know. As always, thanks for reading.