Getting The Lowdown
The single most important element of any training regime – whether you’re an athlete, bodybuilder or regular gym goer – is ensuring the optimal recovery of your body post-exercise.
Proper steps must be taken outside of the Gym to maximise your progress, which requires a lot of self-discipline, constant research and adaptation.
Building a physique you can be proud of takes a lot more than just regular attendance at your local fitness centre, despite what you may have heard through the grapevine.
If you fail to create the proper environment for your body to change, no amount of training or weight lifting is going to be enough to produce the results you crave.
Whilst recovery time will vary from one person to the next dependent on weight, age and experience, the fundamental principles of effective rest and repair can be applied by anyone and everyone.
Here I will outline these principles and in doing so give you the tools to achieve any fitness or bodybuilding goals you may have, as well as improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Probably the most important component of an effective recovery cycle – a good nights sleep is your one-way ticket to muscle repair and growth.
Your body must be given chance to rest in order to adapt, which is why late nights staying up staring at your television set or mobile device must become a thing of the past if you are truly serious about physical self-improvement.
During a night of between 7-9 hours of sleep, your body will release HGH – human growth hormone -and protein synthesis within the muscles can occur. Both are absolutely vital in repairing damaged muscle fibres and increasing lean muscle mass.
Additionally getting the appropriate amount of shut eye can work to recharge your brain, blocking a neurotransmitter named Adenosine, which is associated with making us feel tired and lethargic. When you wake up after a deep sleep you will feel refreshed and energized, plus you will stay mentally alert for longer periods throughout the day.
Motivation to train will always be higher if you are feeling mentally stimulated, allowing you to push yourself harder for longer in the gym.
Post Workout Stretching & Cool Down
Often overlooked as the unnecessary add-on at the end of a training session; a proper cooldown period is actually essential as part of an efficient recovery routine.
Delayed onset muscular soreness (DOMS for short) is the pain usually experienced in the next day or two after an intense training session, which can be very debilitating. To minimise DOMS and ensure that training on consecutive days during a week is not a problem, post-exercise stretching is extremely important.
Reliving muscular tension is necessary to avoid the negative after-effects of an intense workout, as by stretching you keep your muscles pliable and improve your overall flexibility, not to mention prevent joint pain.
So if you want to maintain a proper range of movement when performing exercises – i.e going deep during squats and coming down nice and low during a bench press – and maximize your overall performance whenever you set foot in the gym, always allow an extra 10-20 minutes for an effective cooldown.
After an intense bout of physical exertion, in whatever form that may take, your body will need to replenish its stores in order to recover optimally. This involves replacing the following things lost during a workout:
Protein, in particular, is essential in promoting growth because it is the one element our muscles need more than any other in order to rebuild. Make sure you are eating enough protein-rich foods in between workouts to increase protein synthesis and minimise muscular breakdown.
Your blood sugar and glycogen levels will also take a massive hit after exercise which means an abundance of carbohydrates will need to be consumed as fuel for the muscles.
Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water and ensure that you include plenty of natural salt in your diet to restore your sodium levels, which is important in speeding up your metabolism and increasing overall energy.
Reduce Stress & Anxiety
We live in an extremely stressful world in this modern day and age, with so many different factors capable of disrupting our equilibrium on a daily basis. High-pressure jobs, difficult relationships and financial worries – to name just a few – can all contribute to us feeling stressed and anxious, which can be very detrimental when it comes to building muscle or generally improving physically.
By setting aside small intervals during the day to concentrate on your breathing and reducing your heart rate and blood pressure, you can significantly reduce the adverse effects of stress quickly. Inhale deeply through your mouth and try to hold it in the top of your chest for 5-7 seconds, before exhaling slowly through your nose.
Repeat the process a few times a day and you will start to notice a change in your overall mood, as you also reduce the risk of negatively impacting your metabolic and immune system.
Cortisol is a hormone released by your body during times of stress and anxiety, which can have an extremely negative effect on your wellbeing. You may feel fatigued, lose muscle mass, gain unwanted fat and lose overall strength, which is why staying relaxed is so crucial.
As I have previously alluded to, a good nights sleep is also a must as a way to reduce stress. To be at your best physically you must also strive to be at your best mentally because the two will always go hand in hand.
Not to be confused as meal replacements, Supplements should be used as a post-workout aid to support your recovery. A whole food diet is a great start, but there are always gaps during the day when you could be using a little extra something to promote quicker muscular and mental advancement.
Here are a few of the most popular products available and how they can help you reach your goals:
Whey Protein – Whey comes in powder form and is often used straight after a workout to maximise protein intake. It reaches the muscles quickly and has anabolic effects which aid growth and repair.
BCAA’S – Branch Chain Amino Acid’s contain leucine, isoleucine and valine, which are 3 essential amino acids found within muscle protein. They are proven to aid recovery and stimulate protein synthesis.
Creatine – Creatine helps your muscle tissue produce ATP, which is an energy molecule that can help improve strength and intensity. Also used to support gains in size and lean muscle.
Omega 3 Fish Oil – The purest form of omega 3 fatty acids, which can aid blood circulation and increase your metabolic rate.
These are just a handful of the supplements available today and whilst science continues to advance at a rapid rate this market will only expand, as we find new ways to enhance human performance naturally.
Find what works best for you and incorporate the most effective supplements into your exercise regime as a tool to further increase your progress.
I hope this article has made it completely clear that without a well thought out recovery strategy in place, even the most intense training programme in the gym will ultimately be for nothing.
Building lean muscle mass, reducing body fat, increasing strength and improving stamina is difficult and time-consuming. There are no shortcuts and if you skip out on the important steps between sessions you will never see the fruits of your labor.
Sleep, rest, eat and stay limber in order to make sure that your body is in top working condition and ready to facilitate change.
If you can match a great bodybuilding routine exercise wise with a great recovery routine to complement it, there really is no limit to what you can achieve and you will begin to see results in the mirror in no time.