Optimal Athletic Performance and Recovery
You always see the videos of hardcore training sessions. Throwing weights around, doing sprints, grunting, flexing… Ok, that last one isn’t very hardcore but you get the idea. But we rarely see what these people do to recover if anything. And I don’t care who you are, you can only train as hard as you recover, period. Behind every high-level athlete performing at his or her best is a rigorous training regiment paired with a meticulous recovery protocol. This protocol will depend on several things like what kind of training, how often, how old the athlete is, their body composition, and their overall health.
Let’s stick to the basics. There is no need to get fancy. Do these fundamental principles correctly and consistently, and you will see great improvements. Do you want to jump into a cryotherapy chamber? That’s cool, pun intended. But if you are skipping these tried and tested principles, you are stepping over hundred dollar bills to pick up pennies.
Eat real food! You can’t skip over this. Eating nutrient-dense whole foods consistently will increase your body’s ability to recover from training sessions. It does not have to be complicated, good quality lean protein with a mixture of leafy greens and seasonal vegetables, add some healthy fats, and include some low glycemic fruits like berries during the day. You can also use herbs and spices to reduce inflammation. Like turmeric, cayenne pepper, and ginger.
Please Hydrate. I know this is boring, and I’m sure you've heard it before. Hydrating means drinking sufficient amounts of water, every day, no matter what. It also means replenishing your electrolytes. My favourite way to do so is by adding magnesium and salt to my water. You can also add some freshly squeezed lemon or lime to add some flavour.
Sleep your way to recovery. It’s boring but it works. You need to optimize your sleep. Make sure you are getting between 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night. Here are some quick tips:
- Sleep in a bat cave. No light what so ever.
- No electronics in the bedroom.
- Stay away from screens at least 1 hour before bed. Facebook can wait until the next day.
- Lower the temperature if possible. We sleep better when the room is slightly cooler than usual.
Practice these consistently and your recovery will improve.
Now we get to the magic pill. Well not really, but let’s talk about supplementation. We can talk forever about what supplements to take when and how much, but let’s keep it simple.
Supplementation should start before your training session. A lot of people like to use some type of stimulant before training, I would try to avoid this unless absolutely necessary. Reason being you can start to develop some dependency. And if you are training in the evening, taking stimulants will affect your sleep, hence affecting your recovery. Several companies are now coming out with stimulant-free pre-workout supplements. This is what I would recommend most of the time. If you absolutely need some kind of stimulant just stick to a small cup of coffee. And try to schedule your workouts in the morning.
Other than stimulants you can take several things before training. The goal is to increase mental energy, focus, and blood flow. My favourites are:
- Acetyl L-Carnitine
- N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine
- Citrulline Malate
The dosage and combination will depend from case to case. I don’t usually refer to specific brands or products, but I recommend this one all the time so I thought it would be fitting. Designs For Health makes a product called PreTrain NRG. It’s my go-to pre-workout supplement.
Once the training session is underway, we can start to take supplements that will aid in muscular recovery. The main ones are Essential Amino Acids (EAA) and Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA). I recommend a 2:1 ratio BCAA: EAA. You can also add a protein supplement instead of BCAA.
Depending on the type of workout, your goals, and your body composition you can add some carbohydrate beverage as well. But I’m going to make this very clear. Unless you are below 10% body fat, meaning a visible 6 pack, and your training is glycogen dependent meaning high-intensity intervals of some sort, you should not be taking any carbohydrate supplements. You do not need to replenish your glycogen right away. You can easily do so by having some healthy source of carbohydrate with your next meal. So please keep that in consideration.
After the training session is over, we want to be in full recovery mode. We can begin by taking a protein supplement, Glutamine, and Magnesium. This is the perfect cocktail to kickstart your recovery.
Hopefully, I was able to shed some light on how to recover properly. You might have heard this all before. But I doubt you have tried implementing all of these principles consistently, over a long period of time. It’s not sexy, but it works...The story of my life.