The secrets to effective sports recovery

From cold baths to Hemp Oil, what are the best ways to wind down after getting sweaty?  

You’ve done your workout, you’ve sweated buckets and you’re feeling pretty pleased with yourself. Time to get changed and head outside with a new spring in your step, right? Not so fast. The importance of recovery after intensive exercise or workouts should not be underestimated. Especially if you want to carry on upping your game. 

The National Health Service website explains how microscopic damage to the muscle fibres occurs after exercise, leading to soreness or DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). That’s no excuse not to do it, they warn, it’s just a case of building up strength and taking care of your body before, during and after you exercise. 

So whether you’re a Park Runner, a Tough Mudder devotee or just a die-hard gym goer, here are some suggestions on soothing those aching limbs and reducing post-workout pain. 

1. Sleep on it

Good news – when you passed out on the sofa after that morning run, you were totally justified. Christie Aschwanden, author of Good to Go, a book investigating the science of sports recovery, found that sleep was the best recovery tool going. The reason? HGH (human growth hormone) is released while we’re getting some shut-eye, and it helps to repair muscles and fix the microscopic tears that occur while we’re in action. At Real Madrid football club, a siesta is built into training regimes in purpose-built sleep facilities, giving the athletes time to recharge and recover after time out on the pitch. Many top-level athletes, including the likes of Roger Federer and LeBron James have been vocal about their need for ten hours a night. You snooze you loose? Quite the opposite, it seems.  

Grass & Co.

2. Begin a Hemp Oil routine  

Tara Laferrara, a former sprinter and a NASM certified personal trainer, recently told menshealth.com about her experience with Hemp Oil. “I noticed the biggest difference in inflammation and stress after a workout,” she said, “It basically manages and prevents my joint inflammation, that aching kind of feeling, that I'd get after a heavy lift day."

3. The big freeze

Fancy stripping off to your pants and hanging out in a -200 degree ice bath? Thought not. The rise of cryotherapy in recent years, though, suggests that many people are prepared to do just that in the name of good workout recovery. A clutch of premiership football clubs have even installed cryo chambers on their training grounds, so that players can pop in for a deep freeze after time out on the pitch. The idea is that the body goes into survival mode and produces cold shock proteins, linked to helpful human growth hormones.  The jury is still out when it comes to the efficacy of cryotherapy, with studies still largely inconclusive. 

4. To stretch or not to stretch?

There are great differences in opinion when it comes to stretching. Once upon a time it was seen as the be all and end all – both pre and post exercise. Recent studies, however, have cast doubt on it, with an Australian scientific study showing it has no real benefits at all. “The evidence from randomised studies suggests that muscle-stretching, whether conducted before, after, or before and after exercise, does not produce clinically important reductions in delayed-onset muscle soreness in healthy adults.” Ouch.

5. Food for thought  

Feeling peckish after your workout? Tuck in. It’s important to replace the nutrients that are lost when you exercise. Six-time Olympic world champion Chris Hoy told the Telegraph that recovery via a carefully monitored diet was his secret weapon, listing his three key nutrients as protein, carbohydrates and electrolytes/water. His recommendations make scientific sense. Electrolytes and water lost during exercise need to be replaced to help your body run efficiently. Meanwhile, protein is made up of amino acids that are essential in building new muscle tissue – and carbohydrates restore glycogen stores that are used like fuel when you exercise.

Scrambled eggs on toast, anyone? 



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