by Maureen Ashley
We all train for a reason. Whether it’s to build muscle, get stronger, improve flexibility or simply to have a hot body for some killer selfies, it takes a lot of hard work and consistency to reach your goals. Which is why you don’t want to waste those efforts by failing to give your body what it needs in order to properly recover.
When strength training, the overload on your muscles causes microscopic tears in the muscle and connective tissue. These tears fatigue the muscle but, with proper nutrition and rest over the next few days, the muscles are slowly rebuilt.
Below are four ways you can optimize your recovery to come back stronger for your next workout and stay on track towards reaching your goals.
RECOVERY TIP #1: Eat With 30 Minutes After You Train
Your immediate post-workout goals are to restore glycogen stores, repair muscle damage and build muscle tissue. Your post-workout meal should be consumed within 30 minutes after finishing your workout, when the body is ready and waiting to push the carbohydrates and protein into the muscle cells to start the repair process.
The ideal post-workout meal should include fast-digesting carbohydrates such as bananas, white rice, white potatoes, berries etc. Combine those carbs with a fast-acting protein source – like whey protein powder, chicken, egg whites or white fish – in order to quickly deliver these important nutrients into the muscles.
Studies suggest a ratio of 2:1 carbs to protein in order to get the proper amount of nutrients into the body, so shoot for roughly 20 grams of protein and 40 grams of carbs for your post-workout meal, depending on your own daily macronutrient goals.
RECOVERY TIP #2: Eat Again A Couple Hours Later
You got in your solid post-workout meal, but the work isn’t done – you’ll want to load up with another meal a couple of hours later. You’ll still want to reach for a meal that contains fast-digesting proteins (see above), but switch up your carb sources to the slower-digesting variety like quinoa, brown rice and sweet potatoes.
Slower digesting carbs release glucose more slowly into the bloodstream, which in turn triggers the release of insulin. If you were to eat fast digesting carbs, the release of insulin would be too much, too fast and would create an insulin spike in the body – which could lead to storing those extra carbs as fat. Some studies suggest that consumption of fats post exercise will slow the digestion and absorption of nutrients.
For this meal, shoot for 20-30 grams of protein and 20-30 grams of carbs. Again, your own macronutrient goals will dictate your exact amounts.
RECOVERY TIP #3: Get Plenty Of Sleep
It’s often overlooked, but sleep is one of the most essential elements of recovery. Not only does it help improve focus and mental health, a good night’s sleep helps balance two of the most essential hormones for recovery and growth – testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH).
It’s been reported that 70-80 percent of human growth hormone (HGH) is released when you sleep, with most of that occurring during REM sleep. Research has also found a direct correlation between sleep and testosterone levels – one recent study found that men who slept for four hours had approximately 60% less testosterone compared to men who slept for at least eight hours.
To make sure you are getting enough rest to recover, shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
RECOVERY TIP #4: Take The Right Supplements
• L-Glutamine is an amino acid naturally found in the body. It has been shown to help speed up recovery and minimize muscle soreness. Take a minimum of 5 and up to 20 grams a day, including 5 grams in your post-workout shake.
• Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAS) are the building blocks of protein. BCAA’s consist of leucine, Isoleucine and valine. They are important for muscle tissue and to help maintain blood sugar levels, and consuming them during training can help support your muscles during your workouts. Try adding 5g of BCAAs to your water and sip on it while you train.
• Whey protein powder is one of the best sources of protein immediately after your workout because of how quickly it is absorbed by the body.
• Casein protein powder is another great source of protein source. Casein digests much slower than whey, so it is a great option before bedtime to get you through that 6-8 hour fasting period while you sleep.