Never underestimate the power of good recovery. There’s no point putting in all those hours in the gym or pounding the pavement if you’re not going to show a similar level of dedication with the aftermath.
It goes without saying that, after a big run, it’s pointless heading to McDonalds and picking up everything on the Pound Saver Menu. But there are certain less obvious things you can do to help your body repair properly after a workout, ensuring you’re maximising all the blood, sweat and tears you’re putting into improving your fitness.
1. Don’t neglect your pre-workout nutrition
By now most people understand the relationship between good nutrition and the quality of their recovery, but it’s important to remember that the foods you eat prior to a workout can also play a significant role in pre-empting the process of rebuilding tissue once the workout is complete.
The foods you eat prior to a workout can also play a significant role in pre-empting the process of rebuilding tissue once the workout is complete
“The process of digestion takes time,” says nutritionist Belinda Reynolds, “and carbohydrates and proteins that have been eaten before a workout will still be circulating throughout the body. This is why it is imperative you choose your pre-workout food wisely.
“Be sure to ingest plenty of lean, high-quality protein along with some complex carbs, especially if you’re planning an intense cardio and weight-training workout. Try to eat around two hours before your workout to avoid any cramps or digestive problems.”
2. Potassium is your friend
“People often think that eating a banana before their workout is the best time to have one, due to the release of energy they provide,” says Belinda, “but I’d advise those people to switch eating their potassium-rich bananas to after their workout.
“Any sort of intense workout will deplete your potassium reserves, which play a key role in providing the muscles with energy, so try to make bananas and potatoes part of your post-workout nutrition plan to ensure these reserves stay stocked.”
3. Get to grips with active recovery
Rest days need not literally mean resting on the sofa writhing in squat-induced leg pain. Active recovery is actually a good way to relieve the damned DOMs.
“Active recovery is basically any light movement that stimulates blood flow and increases circulation to the muscles,” says Bio-Synergy ambassador and GB Decathlete Ben Gregory. “Be it kicking a football around the park, an easy bike ride or foam rolling the sore muscles in more extreme cases of soreness, any mobility exercise will prompt recovery-inducing effects in the body.”
4. Get some Zs
Six hours sleep a night just isn’t enough if you’re serious about your training and recovery. Sleep is a key component in allowing your body to rest and repair itself, both physically and mentally. Sacrificing hours of sleep a night over long periods of time can also have a negative impact on your mind, thus diminishing your drive in training sessions.
Aim for around seven to eight hours sleep a night (we know, it’s not always easy, but just try, okay?). If you’re struggling to hit this number on a regular basis you might want to consult our handy guide on how to ensure that insomnia doesn’t get the better of you.
5. Don’t you dare skip stretching
Even if you’ve been weight training or running for some time now, that still doesn’t excuse you from skipping stretching. It’s a key factor in protecting against injury, aiding muscle growth and, in all honestly, it actually feels quite nice to have nice, long stretch.
By never stretching you could be shorting your muscles of flexibility, which could hamper you when performing certain weight lifting or cardio moves
“By never stretching you could be shorting your muscles of flexibility, which could hamper you when performing certain weight lifting or cardio moves,” says Ben Gregory. “Stretching is a great way to relieve muscle tension and potentially downplay any soreness that you might experience at a later date.”