4 TIPS TO ACHIEVE OPTIMAL REST & RECOVERY:
In addition to training and nutrition, rest and recovery are super important to our gains journey – maybe even the most important. By resting, we are allowing our body to recover and without this, we will not improve physically. In other words, we have to turn it off to turn it on. When we train, our muscles are put under stress and break down. When we rest, this is where the magic happens as the muscles have time to recover, repair, strengthen and grow bigger.
Sometimes “rest days” make us feel lazy or like we are slacking off. So we can easily train 6-7 times per week and then wonder why we aren’t improving quickly or why we are feeling sore all the time. If you look at the most successful strength athletes, you will notice that they may only train 4-5 times per week and highly prioritise rest days. Training 6-7 times per week can be unsustainable because the lack of rest and recovery will result in slower progress rather than training 4-5 times per week.
Sometimes, resting isn’t as fun as training but it is vital to our physical health. When we experience muscle soreness, it is extremely important to practice rest and recovery. But rest and recovery doesn’t always mean sitting still and doing nothing, in fact, sometimes this can be the worst way to rest and recover.
If you want to learn about the best ways to rest and recover your body, keep reading!
Tip 1. COLD WATER IMMERSION
Cold water immersion has been scientifically proven to reduce the effects of sore muscles and perceived exertion within 24-48 hours. Cold water immersion can be done via ice baths (not for the faint hearted), brisk cold showers or even swimming in the ocean or pool. People who soak in cold water for short periods of time (5-10 minutes) usually experience less muscle soreness later on. This is because cold water causes your blood vessels to constrict, thus reducing blood flow to the area, similar to applying ice which helps reduce swelling, inflammation and pain. In addition to this, cold water therapy also reduces body temperature which promotes quicker rest and has also been shown to stimulate our body’s immune system response to help fight illness. Cold water therapy is best used in conjunction with stretching and active recovery which we’ll talk about later.
How to implement cold water therapy:
Tip 2. ACTIVE RECOVERY (DON’T BE STAGNANT)
It’s important that after an intense workout, we still continue to move our body. Active recovery exercise is a great tool that can help promote muscle recovery by bringing fresh blood flow to areas that are feeling sore. In addition to this, active recovery also reduces lactic acid build up, eliminates toxins and helps keep muscles supple and flexible. Active recovery exercise involves performing low intensity exercise following a strenuous workout. It is more beneficial than inactivity, resting completely or sitting. This is because it helps keep fresh blood flowing to areas of muscles that need help rebuilding and recovering. It’s usually best to do active recovery 24-48 hours after a training session.
How to implement active recovery:
Tip 3. CONSUME PROTEIN THROUGH NUTRITION (Eat!)
Rest days are growth days and believe it or not, our muscles are actually built on these days as oppose to the days we’re grinding in the gym. During rest days, our bodies are able to replenish glycogen stores more easily and let the nervous system recover to a normal optimal working state. This results in muscle growth and better physical performance when you re enter the gym. During rest days, our body is able to dedicate more of its resources to growth and repair and help our nervous, immune and hormonal systems growth and performance. One thing we must do to help our rest and recovery is EAT, even if we aren’t training that day!
EAT. Especially if the goal is to build muscle. Our rest days are not for depriving ourselves, they are the days where we should be doing everything we can to maximize our growth and performance. It’s best to avoid cutting calories and limiting nutrition, as this will leave the muscles depleted. Consume foods that contain a high protein content to promote muscle recovery such as: organic red meat and fish, organ meat (as it’s higher in nutrients), eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, cooked vegetables, nuts, fruit, collagen.
Tip 4. MAGNESIUM
Magnesium is a fantastic and affordable supplement that can help our muscles rest and recover. Magnesium helps our muscles relax and prevents them from cramping which can be common, especially if the muscles are sore or tight. Magnesium helps replenish red blood cells, which have been working hard to provide our body with oxygen during physical activity. Magnesium also improves energy production, reduces nervous tension and anxiety and promotes better sleep. During physical training we also sweat out a lot of our natural electrolytes, including magnesium, by up to 20%.
Magnesium can be found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, seaweed, beans, nuts, avocados and bananas however, due to our modern way of mass farming and producing, poor soil and untested growing methods means that these foods can be deficient in magnesium which is where a supplement can come in handy.
Magnesium can be taken orally as a tablet or powder however a powder will be faster acting and less likely to be excreted due to less fillers and a higher absorption rate due to the molecular structure. Look for Magnesium supplements such as: citrate, glycinate, chloride and malate. Avoid Magnesium supplements such as: oxide and sulphate as these are cheaply made and poorly absorbed.
Another way to absorb Magnesium is through Epsom salts. Pour 1-2 cups of Epsom salts in a bathtub and soak in it for 20+ minutes. The Magnesium will get absorbed into the body through the skin and this may help relax the muscles and reduce pain and inflammation.
- Alex Reyne
May 24, 2022 4 min read
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