Recovery is a crucial part of any successful fitness-training program; whether your goal is to increase speed, build muscle, get stronger, or burn fat, recovery should not be overlooked. In terms of training recovery refers to the application of techniques used to maximize your body’s ability to repair itself. There are a vast number of variables that can be accounted for when taking steps towards better recovery, but these can all be delegated to a few key elements. This article focuses on one of those elements in particular—nutrition—and the subcomponents pertaining to nutrition that I find most easily attainable.
Both maintaining daily fluid intake as well as restoring the lost fluids and electrolytes from activity is crucial not only for recovery, but for overall health, performance, energy level, and metabolism. The simple ways to monitor your hydration is by tracking your water intake and monitoring the color of your urine. When refueling with liquids, water should be choice number one, as opposed to heavily sugared sports drinks. Electrolyte replenishment is equally important, as it not only helps rehydrate the body after a bout of hard activity, but also aids in avoiding muscle cramps. Contrary to believe, muscle cramps are rarely due a deficiency in potassium and more likely attributed to decreased amounts of sodium. Certain supplements designed specifically for rehydration can be useful both during and after activity for better recovery. Also, using a natural Himalayan sea salt in things like your drinking water or for seasoning foods, as well as eating foods high in essential minerals, in conjunction with adequate water intake will help to support hydration for proper recovery.
2. Carbs & protein
It is important to eat good quality sources of these macronutrients in order to help heal your body, rather than poison it. Carbohydrate intake helps to replenish the loss of stored sugars (glycogen stores) in the liver and muscles, and initiate muscle glycogen synthesis (the formation of glycogen, which is the body’s stored form of glucose) after a bout of hard exercise. Good quality carbohydrates consist of things like yams, sweet potatoes, wild rice, and whole oats. You can think of carbohydrate intake after exercise as refueling the body, and protein intake after exercise as rebuilding the body. Consumption of protein is important to assist with muscle repair. Even if your exercise does not necessarily consist of strength training, and perhaps a long distance run, muscles still break down and need the essential building blocks of the body, amino acids, to help repair the degradation brought on by exercise. Good sources of protein include free-range eggs, grass-fed beef, wild salmon, and some organic whey/plant based protein powders.
Depending upon your fitness goals, as well as the intensity and duration of your activity, the ratio for the amount of carbs to protein you should consume after exercise will vary. A solution to this is finding a qualified nutritionist to provide you with accurate recommendations.
3. Sulfur rich foods
Now we’re starting to get a little more detailed in our recovery. Sulfur is vital for proper functioning of our cardiovascular system, our muscles, and our nervous system, in addition to several other processes. While you can get high amounts of sulfur from consuming good quality proteins such as the ones listed in the previous section, over doing it with the protein may be cause for some digestive stress. To get a better bang for your buck, you should instead load up on sulfur-rich vegetables. This way you’ll not only get the sulfur needed to better recover, but also get a ton of important micronutrients that are important for a healthy body. Vegetables that qualify as sulfur-rich include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, onions, and garlic.
4. Anti-inflammatory foods
Rather than taking Advil, Motrin, Aleve, or any other NSAID’s that have long been proven to induce various negative effects on your organs like your liver, kidneys, and GI tract, you can treat your body with naturally occurring anti-inflammatory foods. Similar to taking in sulfur through vegetables, eating anti-inflammatory foods has a synergistic effect due to the immense amount of micronutrients also found in these foods. An article published by Harvard Medical School is a great guide illustrating foods that cause inflammation and foods fighting it. Some other anti-inflammatory foods not discussed in the Harvard article include:
Omega 3 Fatty Acids have been widely studied and proven to have a tremendous ability to guard against inflammation. Quality sources of omega 3, other than a good fish oil supplement, are grass-feed butter, avocados, cold-water fish, and organ meats.
Ginger, which containing antioxidants found to inhibit the formation of specific inflammatory compounds.
Turmeric, also known as curcumin, as been studied plenty. Research has shown this spice to be almost as effective as pharmaceuticals as an anti-inflammatory, minus all the harmful side effects.
Your take away here should not be to overwhelm yourself with all of the different modalities for recover, but rather keep it simple.
· Drink fluids
· Eat good quality carbohydrates and proteins
· Load up on vegetables
· Ask for help if you feel you need it
Understand that by taking action to do just a few things can have a beneficial and noticeable impact on your recovery and performance.