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Regardless of the sporting discipline in question, whether that be basketball, football or weight training there are two things which most people pay huge attention to.
These are training and nutrition! Although these 2 things are immensely important, what often gets overlooked is the recovery protocol that you implement. In detail I’m going to go through a range of things that will dramatically improve, not only your performance, but your general well being and recovery rate. These things just might give you better results than you'd ever thought possible.
Number one on my list is making sure that you get sufficient “quality” sleep each and every night to ensure that you are allowing the central nervous system to fully recover from the stress that’s put upon it daily. By stress I mean things like training hard, reduced calories for those that are dieting, maybe a bad night's sleep the previous night, bad day at work or relationship problems. All of these things are going to affect how you feel physically and mentally. If you're not sleeping well on top of this it's only a matter of time before your performance in the gym and in life in general starts to suffer. In extreme cases following on from this is burnout!
When you're in this situation it’s common to suffer with excessive cortisol secretion, the “stress hormone.” This is a catabolic hormone which can effect muscle recovery and performance. Digestion can also become impaired!
To get a better night’s sleep focus on:
- Avoiding electronic devices an hour before bed
- Avoid caffeine after 6PM
- Supplement with 5-HTP ELITE SLEEP (the best sleep support system supplement out there!)
- Relaxing in the hour leading up to bed time
The goal should be 7-8 hours of solid sleep, allowing your body to work through the 5 natural stages of sleep. The more REM sleep you can get the better you’ll feel, as well as recover.
Pre & Post Workout Nutrition
There is so much information being thrown about at the moment regarding pre and post workout nutrition it can be a little daunting choosing which option to take.
What often is the most optimal way of doing things can be a chore for the everyday person. Pro athletes implement the most optimal way of doing things because that’s their job and they will probably have more time to think and do. Having said that getting a basic pre and post workout protocol in place is pretty easy.
Pre workout you want to make sure you have a sufficient amount of protein with either fats/carbs or both… This minimises muscle catabolism whilst training… At the very least if eating is not an option, get some BCAAs in. SUSTAIN 2.0 is the product I’d recommend for this!
I personally prefer to have liquid nutrition before training because it is easier on the digestive system and doesn't make me feel bloated. My personal preference is Workout Food 2.0 because of the ultra-quick digesting protein and carbohydrates sources - because of their quick gastric emptying properties there’s no bloating! I’ll sip on this prior to and during my workout. However, before I train I’ll also take Advantage-Ultra because it gives me a lot more focus and energy in the gym.
If I’m playing a sports match I usually prefer a carb heavy meal around 2-3 hours before playing.
Post-workout nutrition does depend on intensity, duration and overall diet strategy. However there are certainly some tips I can share with you.
As I train twice a day muscle and liver glycogen can become depleted quickly. This is why it’s important I replenish these levels with my post-workout nutrition, otherwise my performance would quickly suffer.
If you are someone who trains hard and at high intensity every day, 5/6 times per week, or someone that trains multiple times per day then consuming around 30% of your total daily carbs post workout is a good figure to aim for.
These should be in the form of fast acting carbs… I like Hydra-Carb personally for this. Once my workout or game is done, this is the first thing I’ll have!
If you're training 3-4 times per week, or are just beginning the whole gym/training thing then there isn’t as much need to get the fast acting carbs in immediately. Just eat a meal around 60-90 minutes after training that is protein/carb based. Having said that, a protein only supplement would be advisable to give a full spectrum of amino acids for recovery - Bio Whey UMF is a great choice! It contains super high premium whey protein from Switzerland and has tiny particles compared to most others, meaning there’s no bloating afterwards. No other UK company offers this source of whey protein! Take some BCAAs post-workout can also help with recovery.
Please note, you do not need to gulp down your post workout protein shake/carb drink immediately post-workout, contrary to popular belief. Enjoy it, they taste great!
Leaving it around 20-30 minutes before doing so will actually help speed up the recovery process. This is because the gut is better positioned to assimilate and distribute the nutrients.
Mobility & Stretching
I’m not going to spend too much time talking about what kinds of exercises or stretches to perform, I will save this for another article. However, incorporating these two things will allow for greater recovery and trust me, will make you feel so much better in general.
Mobility work should be performed as a warm up to your workouts rather than static stretching. Static stretching pre training is counter productive and actually weakens the muscles, making them less powerful and explosive.
Mobility work can also be performed as a solo session, or when you are on an active rest day or deload week.
The main reason for performing the mobility exercises are to open up your joints, allowing them to move more freely. The main areas to focus on are the thoracic spine, shoulders (scapulas) and the hips.
So many people suffer with lower back pain! Get your mobility work on point and you should start to see improvements in this area very quickly. Stretching should be performed post training.
Regular stretching will increase the range of movement in the muscles you stretch, thus resulting in better performance. I like to perform a full body stretching programme post-workout but if you have time constraints, focus on the chest, lats, hips and hamstrings.
Foam rolling and self trigger point release are both great choices. Foam rolling helps with myofascial release - an important part of keeping the muscles supple and less prone to injury. It also helps improve blood flow into the muscle which helps remove lactic acid, encourage nutrient uptake and prevent scar tissue.
Rolling should be incorporated into your mobility work too. We all get tight and get knots in hard to get to places, generally the piriformis on the side of the glutes, hip flexors, PSOAS muscle, neck and traps.
One great way to help get rid of these knots or at least to get rid of the tension and pain they cause is to get yourself a lacrosse ball and use it on whatever part of the body you need to and find your trigger point (you will know when you get it). Then just try and take deep breaths and slowly you should feel the tension getting less and less. Again performed daily this will really help your recovery and general well being.
Extra Things That Can Help
- Supplementing with 5g each of CreaPure Creatine and glutamine post-workout will increase the rate of recovery
- Supplementing with a high quality Omega 3 daily will help reduce inflammation which in turn will increase the rate of recovery
During periods of high intensity or high volume of training taking adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, holy basil, liquorice help lower cortisol levels again allowing for a speedier recovery. One great supplement I use for this is CNS Recover! Every day I will also drink tulsi tea before bed. Taking Epsom salt baths 1-2 times per week will really help too!
If you can start to implement some of these strategies then you will be on your way to recovering much quicker from the training that you do.