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From my previous articles you would know what types of exercise to do and how to do them. This article looks at what you should do after your activity to get the best results possible. We are talking about exercise recovery.
It is important to refuel as soon as possible after exercise. When we exercise we predominantly use carbohydrate as fuel, and the period of greatest potential refuelling of carbohydrates is 30 – 60 minutes after exercise. If we don’t get our carbohydrates stores back up to normal before the next exercise session, the intensity of this up coming session will be lacking.
Protein is probably even more important than carbohydrates, especially if your goal is to tone up and trim down. When you do exercise, especially weights training, damage occurs to your body’s muscle fibres. You need to consume protein to repair these muscles and to help them grow. You can either use protein in the form of powder, such as whey protein, or the type found in food. Either way is fine, although real food protein is not a convenient type of food. It’s much faster to make a protein shake than it is to cook a chicken breast. I’d much rather have the chicken breast though. As a rule, within an hour of exercise, try to either have a protein shake or eat a well-balanced meal that includes carbohydrates and protein.
Our bodies are made up of about 70% water and therefore don’t perform as well when we are dehydrated. It’s harder to get oxygen around the body when the volume of blood is reduced by being dehydrated. Normally drinking water is fine for exercise done at the gym, although if it is either a high intensity exercises session or is of long duration (over 1 hour) sports drinks may help maintain the intensity of the session and help recovery. Bring a water bottle to your workout or make sure that you drink in-between exercises.
Muscle soreness is a common but complex phenomenon. Lactic acid is not the culprit. It is more likely due to damage caused to the muscles when working out. Little microtears occur while training and nearby nerves pick this up and deliver a pain message to the brain. DOMS or delayed muscle sore is the same thing but this pain can be felt 24 to 48 hours after activity. It is more due to exercise done on the negative of eccentric phase of the exercise, for example the lowering phase of the bench press. There isn’t much you can do about muscle soreness, but you should be less sore over time as the muscle adapt. Proper refuelling and stretching may help. If pain does persist see your physio. Anti-inflammatory treatments, massage and baths with Epsom salts may also help.
People also forget about warm downs. It is important to warm down after you exercise to help bring your heart rate down to normal and to move blood around the body to flush out toxins. Sleep is also very important for growth and recovery, try to get 7-8 hours a day.