Recovering from your workouts is just as important as those workouts themselves. You stress your body during them, but it’s during the recovery period that your body adapts to that stress. Recovery has a few different component including:
Letting your body rest physically. This includes appropriate rest period during the workout, proper workout split during the week and planning your training cycles over several months.
It also includes your sleep but more specifically the quality of your sleep. This is an absolute necessity to become stronger, fitter, leaner or whatever your goal is. Sleep is when your body repairs itself. You need to be getting AT LEAST 6 hours per night.
The food you eat before and after your workouts. Making sure you are running with optimal fuel and giving your body the nutrients it needs to recover is essential.
Drinking enough water throughout the day. We are made up of at least 50% water. This element is extremely important to us so make sure that you drink a minimum of 2 litres a day.
These 4 pillars of recovery are interconnect. You will recover the best if you do all 4 at a time. Many people fall in the trap of only doing 3 of those and not seeing results! Reaching your fitness goals is all about paying attentions to these basic details.
How long should you recover in the gym?
Depending on your workout’s goal, you need to rest differently. When you workout for size and mass, you break down your muscle cells. When you workout for strength, you stress your nervous system. When you workout for endurance you stress your oxidative system. These three systems are all different and require different times to allow them to operate properly.
Follow these rest periods according to your goals:
Training for size and mass: 45 sec-90sec
Training for strength: 2min-4min
The rest in between workouts in also very important. The nervous system needs days to recover. Your muscle cells regenerate quite rapidly and should be good to go after a day’s rest granted good nutrition is followed. Your oxidative system returns to normal after a few hours.
In general, follow these recovery times between workouts:
Strength workout: 3 days
Mass/size workout: 1 day
Endurance: 1 day
Note: for mass and size, you can workout different muscle groups in consecutive days. For example you could do legs on monday and chest and back on tuesday. You cannot do the same with strength workouts. If you do a strength workout on monday, you cannot go heavy on the chest and back on tuesday. You could do a mass and size workout on tuesday, but not a strength workout. You nervous system will not have recovered fully yet.
What should you eat after a workout?
With all the different info out there about the anabolic window, fasting, macro proportions and all these different diets, it can be a little tricky to figure out what and when to eat after a workout.
My trick: find what works best for you! Experience with a few different protocols and see which ones offer the best recovery.
I personally like to eat pretty quickly after my workouts a good mix of protein, slow digesting carbs and leafy greens. Note that this is what I like to eat in general.
It has been shown that protein gets absorbed better when ingested with carbs so this is the only detail I would really urge you to take into account. If you really want to get finicky, a 2:1 carb to protein ratio is what you should aim for.
I recommend eating the bulk of your daily calories after your workouts. Your body will utilize all the nutrients better since it will be in recovery mode.
Drinking enough water is important for recovery. The fact that we are made up of 50% or more of water should tell you how important this element is to us. To put it simply, being well hydrated facilitates all recovery processes from decreasing muscle soreness to improving sleep quality.
Two litres a day is the bare minimum you should drink, if you have worked with me you know that I like to see my clients more around 3 litres.
The thing about sleep is that unlike exercise and nutrition, you simply cannot replace it. You can vary your workout routine, you can eat a bunch of different ways and even use supplements, but you cannot replace sleep.
You want to maximize non REM sleep. This is the phase of your sleep where your body releases more growth hormone and your brain consolidates memory. We all have had those nights where even though we get 8 hours of sleep we don’t really feel rested. That is due to a lack of non REM sleep.
You can improve the quality easily by following these few tips:
Go to bed earlier, before 10pm preferably
Eat a smaller meal before bed
Exercise easier in the day
Make sure you eat enough magnesium
Have a evening routine before going to bed
Avoid looking at screens 2 hours before going to bed
Avoid caffeine after noon
Avoid long distance cardio
All these tips are not to be taken all at once, try to incorporate a few of them and then add in more gradually.
From past experience personally and with my clients, I find that most plateaus happen due to a lack of one of these components.
It's easy to do one or two of those properly, but after a certain point, you need to be hitting all of those properly. The sleep and water is usually the ones that take people by surprise. To make sure you are drinking enough have a water bottle that you need to refill X amount of times to get to 2 litres and try to drink that every day. For the sleep, make sure it's 6 hours of good sleeps. Start by making sure that you are in bed, in the dark with your eyes closed for that long. Then slowly work your way to longer periods. Remember 6 is the minimum, so try to get a little more than that.
Rest up and go crush your goals,