Post Workout Recovery Plan

Post workout recoveryStrenuous exercise is one of the best methods to keep our bodies in top physical form. We increase our circulation and heart rate, our bodies rid themselves of toxins faster, our lung capacity dramatically rises and our muscles remain lithe and strong. While these are but a handful of undeniable benefits, many of us may forget to acknowledge that proper rest and recovery are both equally crucial in helping to increase our performance and prevent injury. We need a post workout recovery plan, so we can optimise the benefits from our exercise.

In effect, we can examine the term "recovery" in three distinct phases. The preliminary stage is that of a cool-down while still in the gym or immediately after strenuous exertion. The second stage revolves around proper post-workout nutrition, and the final phase is the amount of physical "down time" and rest we allow ourselves before the next session. So, let us examine each stage in a greater amount of detail.

Post Workout Recovery – Cooling Down

Have you ever noticed someone in the gym leave immediately after running five or ten miles on an inclined treadmill? Perhaps you may have witnessed a weightlifter finish a heavy chest workout and simply walk out into a chilly December night without having even caught his breath. This is actually quite counterproductive to the workout itself. Cooling down is an absolute necessity, and for a few good reasons.

First, you must remember that during any physical exertion, your heart rate may be as high as 180 beats a minute. Stopping this activity altogether will cause a massive dip in your nominal heart rate. This can lead to dizziness and even the occasional blackout. A proper cool-down can help moderate your breathing and heart rate.

Also, cooling down will help increase circulation throughout the body. This can deliver vital nutrients to any affected muscles while decreasing the amount of lactic acid build up. This will help muscles loosen up and can actually reduce the amount of soreness you will experience the following day. This is the reason why it is a good idea to perform stretching exercises or a light jog as opposed to simply leaving the gym straight away, particularly after a hard workout on a cold day.

Post-Workout Nutrition

One of the fallacies of working out is that the most important meal is taken before the exercise actually begins. While of course it is pivotal for your body to receive an adequate amount of energy to perform physical activity, proper nutrition after a workout is absolutely vital for muscle repair and recovery.

One of the most important nutrients to absorb after a workout is protein. Whey protein is easily digested into the body and contains all of the essential amino acids necessary to help the muscles recover properly. In particular, amino acids such as L-Glutamine are extremely necessary for proper muscle repair. These substances can be thought of as the "mortar" which helps give your muscles their strength. Without protein as a "building block", your body will benefit little from the exercise and you may actually be prone to injury in the next session.

While much stress has always been placed on protein shakes, it is important to realise that protein is difficult to break down in the digestive tract. The energy needed to metabolise protein needs to come from carbohydrates. Some easy-to-find sources of simple carbohydrates include whole grains, wheat bread and rice cakes. These will provide the energy needed to digest the protein. Click this link to discover more about good carbs vs bad carbs.

Finally, there are specific vitamins that should be increased during the post-workout phase. Substances that aid in cellular repair such as vitamins B, C and E are extremely important while minerals such as calcium and zinc are equally valued due to their tendency to increase the metabolic functions within your cells. Read more about the essential vitamins and minerals here.

The good news is that most of this nutrition can be found in the form of ready-to-drink shakes or protein powders. Some proprietary mixes will even contain the optimum amount of carbohydrates within, thus providing you with a quick and tasty form of nutrient-rich recovery. All of these nutrients should be taken within fifteen minutes to one hour after completing a workout and having properly cooled down. A good meal example is chicken pasta salad or a Green Thai Chicken stir-fry. Both of these will provide protein, vitamins and carbohydrates to help your body repair and be ready for your next workout.

Post Workout Recovery – Physical Rest

When I first began training nearly twenty years ago, I was under the distinct impression that professional athletes were superhuman. I believed that they needed no downtime and instead operated as efficient machines. The truth of the matter is, is that proper physical rest is all but essential in preventing illness and injury.

Never forget that the soreness we feel is actually a result of countless microscopic tears within our muscles. While many of us may feel like "sucking it up" and simply "soldiering on", we will actually do more harm than good. Our bodies need a great deal of time to recover in between sessions; the time directly correlating with the intensity of our training.

Sleep plays a crucial role in this process. The normal individual is said to need between five and seven hours of sleep a night. An athlete needs between six and eight hours of rest due to the fact that their bodies will need more time to repair. Although it is not a well-known fact, many of our natural repair mechanisms are only activated during sleep. Our digestive tracts more easily absorb nutrients while our brains release chemicals known as neurotransmitters that "instruct" our muscles, tendons and bones to begin the lengthy healing process. Without adequate sleep, our bodies will not receive the amount of repair that they need. Over time this can lead to prolonged soreness, decreased progress and in extreme cases, burnout or physical injury.

Hopefully it should now be clear that a post-workout recovery needs to be considered an integral part of anyone's training regimen. Here I have shown you some of the best ways to recover after exercise and given you enough information to allow you to design a post workout recovery plan for yourself. By allowing ourselves adequate time to cool down, by ingesting the proper nutrients and by receiving the appropriate amount of sleep, we can be assured that we will enjoy steady physical progress and all of the other numerous benefits that healthy exercise provides. 

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