Many of us love to train.
We love getting after it in the gym, playing sports, doing group fitness, running, biking, moving our bodies in general.
But how we recover from said movement is oftentimes a piece of the puzzle that’s forgotten whether it’s intentional or not.
Neglecting recovery is easy because it’s not “sexy” or fun to sit on a foam roller for 30 minutes or get in bed at a decent hour but without recovery, we can’t expect to make progress towards our fitness goals.
We tend to gravitate towards expensive recovery tools like Theraguns, Compex, & invest in supplements without first prioritizing the 5 recovery strategies that we’ll go over in today’s blog because the Compex & supplements are much easier. They don’t require a ton of effort whereas sleep, stress management, adequate nutrition, hydration, & rest days require a conscious effort.
Our bodies are well-oiled machines & can endure a lot, yes, but...
We can only adapt to what we can recover from.
We want some adaptation in the gym, so that we can then push harder, lift heavier, run faster, etc. & this adaptation isn’t possible if we don’t give our bodies the opportunity to recover from our training stress.
We put so much effort & energy into our training, but imagine how much better we’d perform, inside & outside the gym if we focused more on how we recover?
So today’s blog is going to be your ultimate guide to recovery. We’re going to teach you some of the Clar-e-ty favorite ways to optimize your recovery game & hopefully enhance those gains.
So before you go purchasing an expensive recovery tool or purchasing a ton of supplements, here are a few cheaper options to consider first...
We had to start with sleep because sleep is one of the most under-valued & under-utilized forms of recovery out there. Sleep is essential for all basic bodily functions, especially recovery.
When you’re sleeping, your body is repairing, restoring, & recalibrating itself from the day you had. This is why lack of sleep can lead to brain fog, extreme fatigue, increased hunger & cravings, decreased performance, a decline in cognitive function, etc.
You may notice when you sleep 7-8 hours at night, you feel like you can conquer the world the next morning. Sleeping more boosts hormones, allows your body the opportunity to burn fat & build muscle more optimally, increases your productivity, increases your energy levels, & gives you longevity. The benefits of good sleep quality & quantity are unparalleled when it comes to recovery.
Most people should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep minimum. You can keep your room as dark & cool as possible & limit your screen time before bed for more optimal sleep quality.
Food is fuel. Your body needs fuel in the tank to keep functioning.
Fueling our bodies through adequate nutrition refills our glycogen stores, helps our muscles repair from exercise, & drives the adaptation our bodies need to get ready for the gym the following day & in life.
Chronically under-fueling/under-eating is one of the main reasons for poor recovery which is why your nutrition is such an important piece of the puzzle.
Your nutritional needs will be based on the amount of activity you do inside & outside the gym & will be specific to you. This is why we’re such advocates for 1:1 coaching here at Clar-e-ty.
However, general recommendations include:
Eating enough food, in general, is vital for recovery. Most people should be living at their maintenance calories for the majority of the year to help with performance, other life endeavors, as well as recovery. If you need help determining your maintenance calories you can sign up for a Diet Audit call with a Clar-e-ty Coach today & we’ll hook you up.
Carbs are the most important macro for recovery. For recovery, look to bunch the majority of your carbs in your pre & post-workout window. The amount of carbs you need depends on factors like intensity output during training, training duration, & what you do outside of training. Regardless of your sport, carbs are essential for recovery!
Protein would the next important macro to prioritize for recovery. About 1g/lb of bodyweight in protein is generally recommended for most active individuals, but it all depends on where you’re currently at in your nutrition journey. Consuming more than 1g/lb of bodyweight in protein isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it doesn’t mean that your recovery is going to speed up if you’re not consuming enough quality carbohydrates.
Lastly, we have fat. Although fats are the least important in terms of fueling for recovery, they are important to consume. As long as the minimum amount of fat is consumed for hormonal function (about 20-30% of total cals), your recovery will be optimal. Athletes whose recovery is predominantly neurological (power & strength, sprinters, etc.) might benefit from a higher fat intake than athletes who require more energy output across a broad time-domain (CF athletes, high-intensity sports, endurance athletes, etc.).
Although hydration is technically a part of our nutrition, it had to have its own category for recovery.
Drinking enough water throughout the day is easy to forget to do, but most active individuals should shoot for 1/2 their body weight (lbs) in oz of water daily + 15-30oz extra for every hour of exercise. However, if you sweat a lot in the summer months this number could be more.
Dehydration can lead to dizziness, cramping, lack of performance & make us feel sluggish & under-recovered which is why having water on you at all times is key to ensure you won’t forget to drink!
Also, hydration is more than just drinking water. In fact, you can actually drink a bunch of water & still be dehydrated if you’re deficient in electrolytes.
Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, chlorine, etc. work to bring water to your cells that are circling outside your bloodstream to speed up the recovery process.
This is why those that are deficient in electrolytes or dehydrated might feel brain fog, might be extremely thirsty even though they’re drinking plenty of water, or not sweating/peeing even though they’re drinking water.
You can help replenish your electrolytes by salting your food, supplementing with electrolytes, & eating plenty of fresh fruit & veggies to help optimize recovery.
Stress management is another essential piece of the recovery puzzle.
Our bodies undergo many stressors throughout the day, including training. Since we know our bodies can only adapt to what we can recover from, limiting our stressors outside of training when possible is important.
For example, we want to avoid getting into the “hustle mentality” or “go go go” state of mind from the moment we wake up to the minute our head hits the pillow. We have to have relaxation time planned into our day to keep our recovery game strong.
Setting aside even 30 mins to 1 hour of passive relaxation time is great for aiding the recovery progress. Activities like watching TV, reading, listening to music or a podcast, going on a walk, or spending time with friends & family are all great options for your “decompression” time.
Restorative Movement & Rest Days
We get so wrapped up in training that we forget how important rest days & turning on our parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest mode) are for recovery.
Moreover, our bodies need rest to adapt to our training stimuli. We don’t need to go hard in the gym every single day to see results or improve gains. In fact, you can only train as hard as you can recover. Sometimes it’s more important to include restorative movements like stretching/yoga, or walking in your daily routine than to spend 2 hours training at the gym.
As much as we hate to admit it, taking rest days is absolutely essential & necessary for making any kind of gains in the gym! And we’re not talking about the “rest days” where you bike for an hour or run a 5k. We mean a FULL rest day. You might include some walking or light stretching into your rest day, but nothing that spikes your heart rate should be included.
For the majority of us, we should feel good after we train. We shouldn’t feel like we just got hit by a bus or feel fatigued to the point of exhaustion & we definitely should feel under-recovered or sore for days after workouts all the time.
If you are, it might be time to back off from your training a bit & focus on things you can do today to improve your recovery.
We like to overcomplicate things like recovery when in all reality, it’s the simple, more minute things like sleep, rest days, hydration, stress management, & adequate fueling that often leads to the best results & recovery.
So instead of focusing on the things that might make a 1% difference (supplements & Theragun), focus on the things you can do right now that will make 99% of a difference when done consistently well.
The more simple things might not be as “sexy” & they might take some extra time & commitment, but your body will thank you for it in the long run.
If you need some assistance upping your recovery game & want the support of a coach to help you come up with ways that are attainable for you, head to the link below & apply to work with a Clar-e-ty Coach today. Let us help you find ways & build habits that will help you live your healthiest life.
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.
Recipe & Macro Guide here.