Recovery is an essential part of an athlete's training regimen, especially after an intense training session, a competition, a race, or any other physically demanding activity. Recovery is when the tissues in your body remove waste products and when your body rebuilds and repairs its tissue and bones. Adequate recovery also helps prevent injuries from overtraining and promotes better performance in future activities.
With the known benefits of athletic recovery, we’ve come up with a list of the best strategies to help your body recover after an extreme workout.
Participating in a low-level aerobic activity or mobility activity after a strenuous workout is a beneficial way to promote circulation and aid in the recovery process. By engaging in such activities, blood flow to the affected tissues increases, helping to circulate out waste products and deliver essential nutrients needed for tissue repair and rebuilding.
Examples of low-level aerobic activities include walking, biking, and light jogging, while mobility activities may include stretching, yoga, Pilates, or a targeted mobility program.
Getting an average of 8 hours of sleep (7-9 hours recommended) each night is crucial for athletes as adequate sleep allows the body to rest and recover. Sleep is also when your tissues heal and rebuild, preventing physical and mental fatigue while also promoting better performance, mood and overall well-being.
With adequate sleep, athletes are also more alert on the field, have faster reaction times, and have better mental and physical focus, thus lowering the risk of injury.
Engaging in intense exercise and competition can cause tissue breakdown, which requires proper rebuilding for optimal recovery. Adequate protein intake is essential for this process, helping maintain and build muscle mass and reinforcing tendons, ligaments, and bones. By consuming enough protein, athletes can enhance the rebuilding process, leading to stronger muscles, and a reduced risk of injury.
Proper protein intake also helps to improve recovery time, allowing athletes to return to physical activity with minimal downtime. The suggested protein intake for athletes varies depending on their training regimen and type of sport, with a typical range of 1.0-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Endurance athletes are generally recommended to consume 1.0-1.6 g/kg body weight, while strength/power athletes should consume 1.4-1.7 g/kg body weight.
During exercise, carbohydrates act as the primary source of energy. It is crucial to replenish carbohydrate stores since sufficient carbohydrate intake can enhance endurance (delay exhaustion) and boost performance in high-intensity exercise or sports.
Aerobic endurance athletes benefit from increased carbohydrate consumption, with suggested amounts ranging from 8-10 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. On the other hand, strength/power/sprint athletes are recommended to consume 5-6 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day.
Restoring lost water and electrolytes due to exercise is crucial for recovery, circulation, and improved performance upon returning to training or competition. Dehydration can negatively impact performance by causing a rise in heart rate (and subsequently perceived exertion), as well as rendering one more susceptible to heat injuries/illnesses, such as heat stroke.
For every pound of weight loss during exercise/training/competition, 16 ounces of fluid should be consumed to replenish the body. It is recommended to prevent a fluid loss exceeding 2% of body weight since the negative consequences of dehydration become considerably more significant beyond this point.
Athletes who undergo intense physical activity and neglect the recovery period post-workout often experience decreased performance, injury, and burnout. Prioritizing recovery time including active recovery, sleep, and nutrition after strenuous activities are crucial for athletes to maintain their physical health, prevent injury, and achieve optimal performance. For more guidance, get in touch with one of our Santa Monica physical therapy aides at MAVEN.