Do you want to get stronger? Well, then you should know that building muscle by lifting weights is just one side of the “getting stronger” coin. The other, far less frequently addressed one, is effective rest and recovery after training.
If your focus, up until now, was solely on how to improve specific aspects of the workout, such as form, breathing, and staying consistent, you might have unconsciously stalled your progress. Why? Because recovery and rest are equally important when it comes to building strength and conditioning.
But don’t worry, you can easily incorporate these five ingredients to effective rest and recovery after training into your regimen.
Eat Plenty of Protein, Fruit and Vegetables
Post-workout meals are very important. Without any doubt, they play a vital part in the recovery process after the training. This is why it is important to learn the big NOs of post-workout recovery, at least when it comes to diets. Therefore, salty and sweet snacks, refined oils, white flour and industrially processed meat are out of the question. What are you left with, then?
Don’t worry, you have plenty of options which include lean meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables. You should always go with meats that contain a high amount of protein – chicken, turkey breast and fish for instance. You can also add plenty of protein to your meal by eating low-fat cheese.
Fruits are excellent sources of simple carbohydrates and it’s important to consume them after a training session, as they will resupply your body with much-needed energy, especially the muscles, which have to be quickly replenished with glycogen.
On the other hand, vegetables are the source of complex carbs and a number of useful micronutrients. If you consume them after training, they will take care of your appetite and provide a steady source of energy for your body and the repair process over the next few hours.
Get at Least 7 Hours of Sleep Each Night
A good night’s sleep is another very important part of an effective rest and recovery regimen. Sleep deprivation can greatly affect your performance during training, prevent you from getting optimal muscle gains and make you more vulnerable to the injuries.
When we say get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, we do mean it. This consistency is very important. Why? If you don’t have a consistent sleep regimen, there will be subtle changes in your hormone levels. Especially the ones that are related to mood, stress and muscle recovery.
Scientific studies have proven that poor sleep habits decrease levels of human growth hormone while increasing the levels of cortisol. Unhealthy sleeping habits also have an inhibiting effect on glycogen synthesis. This is why you may feel more tired after just a few sets at the gym and gain very little muscle even with your consistent workout plan.
Don’t Cut Your Calories Too Low
We have already talked about how a good post-workout meal is important for proper rest and recovery. In this section, we want to emphasize that your entire diet plan should be designed carefully so that you don’t end up cutting your calories too low. Not, even if you want to get leaner.
Here is the paradox that you have to get familiar with. While the logical assumption would be that if you consume fewer calories per day your metabolism becomes more efficient, you should know that putting your metabolism into “efficient mode” is generally a bad thing.
Your fat stores can only provide a certain amount of energy, and if you cut your calories too low your are putting your body in a situation where it needs to consume muscle tissue for energy. This will affect your performance in the gym and prevent you from reaching your goals.
Find a Way to Relax and cut Down Stress
In order to understand why you need to relax and cut down stress as much as possible, you have to understand the connection between training and stress. Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat – your body processes the training as a stressful experience. And we know that our bodies produce cortisol in stressful situations.
Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is a catabolic hormone. When it gets secreted into our bloodstream it signals our body to start breaking down muscles and fat into glucose. When its concentration is high, our bodies skip the fat burning part because it is too slow and turn to breaking down muscle to get glucose, since it is a much faster and more efficient method.
After the workout, the levels of cortisol in your blood will increase and any extra stress throughout the day will only make matters worse. What you need to do is find a way to relax and cut down stress, so that your body can get rid of cortisol and protect your muscles from breaking down.
Have a Plan Instead of Always Going 100% in Training
Going in 100% in every training sessions is a recipe for disaster. Why? Even the professional athletes who are used to hard workouts and to strict and healthy diets have scheduled periods of rest and recovery. Simply because the joints and muscles have to recuperate after being exposed to another heavy workout.
If you continue to push yourself to or over the limit every training session, it won’t help you to get the results faster. It is quite the opposite, you will be left with poor results and a much higher risk of injury.
This is why it is important to have a plan before you hit the gym. Allow your muscles to rest after every workout for at least 48 to 72 hours. Especially after you incorporate standing barbell movements into your workout regime – deadlifts, squat and overhead press.
These are multi-joint exercises which engage large muscle groups and they require more time to recuperate when compared to smaller muscles such as triceps, biceps, abs and forearms.
As you can see, none of these will require you to put in a lot of extra effort. However, if you successfully add these five ingredients to your training routine, you will be able to achieve optimal exercise performance, better results, and more importantly, stay healthy and injury-free.