Whatever your reason for training, rest and recovery will play a crucial role when it comes to achieving your goals. Muscles don’t grow at the gym – they grow after your training session when your body begins to repair. If you want to get the most out of your workouts, you will need to add recovery into your plan but first, let’s touch on overtraining:

The importance of recovery is often undervalued with many not making it a priority and essentially, overtraining. Overtraining can make it harder for you to reach your goals and can also lead to injury, performance decline and health issues.

Systematic overtraining affects the entire body and can cause irritability, mood swings, insomnia, depression, loss of motivation, chronic soreness in joints and an elevated heart rate. Localised overtraining is when the same muscle group is trained day after day with little or no recovery. While there are 2 types of overtraining, both occur as a result of too much exercise and not enough recovery.

Your workouts should push past your comfort zone but not so much that you hurt for days. If you stimulate your muscles just enough for growth, incorporating a solid rest day into your training programme will be sufficient enough for you to come back even stronger.

There are 4 key elements to speedy muscle recovery: Active Recovery, Sleep, Hydration and Nutrition.

 

Active Recovery.

Active recovery means neither complete rest, nor hardcore training, but do keep moving with some low impact exercise. The idea of active recovery is to stimulate blood flow, and flush out, lubricate and hydrate the joints.

Here are 5 active recovery ideas for your days off:

  1. Swimming
  2. Walking
  3. Yoga
  4. Pilates
  5. Jobs around the house or garden

 

Your stretching routine is just as important on your rest days as it is right after your workout. Put aside at least 20 minutes for stretching and take the time to roll out on a foam roller or a massage ball. Rest days are also the perfect time to book in that sports massage. Consider low impact activities like yoga or Pilates on your days off and use the time to test out your compression gear.

 

Sleep.

Getting enough sleep is extremely important not only for rest, but also for your stress levels, muscle recovery and mood. Your body releases growth hormones during sleep so therefore it is essential you get enough. Aim for at least 7 hours a night but listen to your body. You may need more or less than this. Protein synthesis occurs during sleep so it’s a great idea to have a protein snack or shake before bed and in the morning to help the process along.

 

Hydration.

Dehydration reduces the body’s ability to repair itself and can cause damage to your muscles. It can also lead to headaches, fatigue, muscle cramps and a decline in your performance so keep hydrated and flush out any toxins by drinking plenty of fluids during your recovery time. And no matter how much of a spin you put on it, alcohol does not count. It may be a liquid, but even 1 or 2 drinks can reduce the body’s ability to recover.

In most cases, water will provide all the hydration you need. Sip regularly throughout the day to maintain optimal hydration and to help support your body’s systems and processes for muscle recovery. Remember that your water intake is also boosted by the foods you eat, and drinks such as tea and coffee do count.

Click through to read more on hydration.

 

Nutrition.

A balanced nutritional plan from whole food sources is the best way to keep your body replenished during both training and recovery. You have a post workout window of 45 minutes, which is one of the most important times to consider your nutrition for effective recovery.

A small meal containing fast acting carbs and protein will put you on the right track. Consumed straight after your training session, the carbohydrates will replace energy and help recovery, while the protein will help your muscle tissue recover, rebuild and grow. If you need to supplement your diet with a quick and convenient source, a quality protein powder combined with a carbohydrate source will restore the nutrients you need to recover. Choose a protein powder that is formulated for your goals – whether that’s muscle gain, fat loss or general nutrition. For general muscle recovery support after intense training, try a pure, fast-absorbing protein powder like Horleys Elite ICE (mixed with a fast carb source like Horleys Replace). Combining your post workout protein with a fast carb source promotes quick uptake of nutrients to where they’re needed for muscle recovery. Replace also contains electrolytes, helping to replenish those you may have lost through sweat during prolonged exercise.

Stacking protein with a BCAA supplement like Horleys BCAA Max before or during the first 20 minutes of your workout will get amino acids into working muscle so you can get a headstart on recovery. Research shows BCAAs can reduce muscle aches and pains after intense training sessions.

Rest days aren’t a time for slacking off on your nutrition. Try and avoid the old "I’ve trained hard, so I deserve it" excuse – you don’t want to undo all your good work with a binge on junk food. Keep your diet and eating times close to what you would do on a normal training day. You want your nutrition to work for you even when you’re in recovery mode.

 

Key points to remember.

Recovery plays a vital part of any fitness goal. Whether you want to gain or lose weight, or get stronger or faster, adding these elements into your recovery programme will help get you the results you want:

  • Some low intensity exercise
  • A good 20 minutes to stretch it out
  • At least 7 hours sleep a night
  • Plenty of fluids
  • Remember the post workout window. Get a small meal of carbs and protein into your system 30-60 minutes of exercise (depending on your goal)

 

You work hard at the gym but it’s what you do outside your training time that will actively support your efforts. Your recovery time has a lot to do with how much energy you can put into your next workout. Rest assured, ‘rest time’ is not wasted. Use it to your advantage.

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