The recovery products industry is a growing multibillion dollar industry. Synthetically manufactured recovery supplements continue to fill stores globally however, people remain confused and unhealthy. This article is meant to challenge you to reset your current way of thinking about recovery after physical performance.
Instead of presenting new enlightening recovery products and focusing on confusing isolated nutrients, I’m offering you a new common sense type of approach about the human body metabolism in regards to recovery. I don’t want you to omit anything from your current recovery routines or lifestyle however; I wish that you be open to making changes since it’s always a difficult thing for anyone to make changes to their daily routine.
Like health or wellness, optimal recovery is more complex and individual than the media portrays it to be. Single processed nutrients are added into diets in the belief that faster recovery, muscle gain or weight loss will be achieved. If the widely discussed protein or any other single nutrient would be the solution for optimal recovery, we would all be thriving today. However, even today many of the world’s top athletes as well as everyday fitness enthusiasts are struggling with optimal recovery and weakened immunity.
Instead of making personal arguments and opinions about these products, unquestionable facts and information need to be presented on the basic needs of the human body after physical performance. Thereafter, a basic challenge for boosting the overall body metabolism aiming at enhanced recovery and general wellbeing can be submitted.
What need to be replaced?
Recovery refers to the process our bodies go through when stressed by exercise. Science and common sense agree that our bodies need three things after physical activity. These include; increased fluid ingestion, proper nutrition and quality rest.
It is however important to note that most people tend to overlook proper implementation of almost all the above factors the most affected being lack of sufficient fluid intake and proper rest. Most people also tend to focus on single, isolated and synthetically processed nutrients such as protein milk shakes instead of natural fresh foods packed with essential nutrients for recovery.
Today’s science is emphasizing the importance of adequate fluid ingestion in promoting general health and obtaining optimal physical performance and recovery after physical activity. It’s important to note that the human body is made up of 70% water and every metabolic transaction happens through water. This explains why lack of water in the body is potentially lethal even if it happens for just a few days. In fact, water loss (even as low as 1 percent of the total body weight) is considered as mild dehydration which leads to slowed metabolism and recovery. In addition, the body can’t absorb salts or convert sugars into glycogen without water.
(Popkin et al 2010, Graham 2008, Murray 2007)
Therefore, boosting your pure water intake is vital for you to perform and recover optimally. Below are the recommended water ingestion guidelines. The daily amount can be calculated easily as follows:
Bodyweight (kg) X 0.033 = is the average amount in liters / day
Bodyweight (lbs.) X 0.064 = is the average amount in cups / day
The average amount that needs to be replaced after physical performance is gained by weighing the body before and after exercise. One pound of lost weight is approximately one pint of water and one kilo (kg) is about 1 liter.
Ideally, 3-6 pints of water should be ingested after exercising depending on how strenuous and long the exercise has been. In addition, weather conditions also alter water intake requirements. We therefore recommend that you use the measurement provided at least in the beginning until you have a more accurate estimate of how much water you need to replace. You can also examine your urine to tell if your body is hydrated or not. If the urine is yellowish and/or a bit smelly, you are most likely dehydrated which simply means you should drink more water.
The protein myth is everywhere around us. Everybody talks about protein as being the most essential factor in recovery. However, according to Dr. Douglas Graham and his research studies carried out with the help of the International Olympic Committee, carbohydrates and not proteins are the most important foods to consume after exercise. (Graham 2008)
Carbohydrates come from either processed foods that contain sugar (energy drinks, candy, cereal etc.) or from fruits, berries and vegetables. The latter group provided by mother earth isn’t processed and contain lots of water, oxygen, vitamins, enzymes and lots of other vital minerals and nutrients instead of toxins, carcinogens and mutagens found in refined food.
Therefore, the challenge is boosting natural whole foods filled with natural carbohydrates and other vital minerals for recovery such as:
Potassium (bananas, tomatoes, spinach, avocado, nuts, fish and dried plums and apricots).
Magnesium (bananas, dark leafy greens (i.e. spinach, kale), nuts and seeds, avocado, fish and raw cacao).
Vitamin C (dark leafy greens, broccoli, strawberries, papaya, tomatoes and peppers)
Vitamin B (bananas, potatoes, legumes, chili peppers, dark leafy greens, chicken and turkey)
Calcium (dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds (i.e. flax seeds), broccoli, almonds, dates and dried figs)
Iron (nuts and seeds i.e. almonds, dark leafy greens and meat)
Zinc (dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds i.e. flax- and watermelon seeds, raw cacao and garlic)
The easiest way of getting the challenge going is to choose your favorites of all the above fresh foods and then proceed by making a shopping list for the first week. Aim for a minimum of 7 portions a day. You should also increase the portion amounts every week. You can divide the portions throughout the day. You can still eat the way you ate before. These are only additions to your current diet. Remember, there are no limits to consuming fresh fruits, berries, vegetables, nuts or seeds. Eat as much as you want and listen to your body’s reactions.
Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. In addition, change the produce if you are getting strong allergic reactions. It is however important to note that some mild reactions such as flu, skin conditions and increased bathroom visits might appear in the beginning. You shouldn’t however be alarmed since the body is only beginning to clean itself from the toxins that used to block your metabolism. Things will balance out with time.
Doing exercise when you feel tired does more harm to the body than most people realize. Your performance and recovery will be below par when you work out when you are tired. It’s like eating more when you are full or sunbathing when you have sunburns. If you constantly feel tired, the first thing you need to do is fix your diet. You may also need rest. In addition, if you aren’t bursting with energy in the morning, you are most likely sleep deprived. The trick to dealing with all health issues is listening to your body and its signals.
When the body is stressed mentally or physically, it needs to be provided with more sleep. In our modern world full of deadlines and expectations, the importance of sleep can’t be overemphasized. From an athlete perspective, sleeping is as important as training. It is far more than just doing nothing. The world’s top athletes such as Husain Bolt, Roger Federer and Lebron James sleep 9-12 hour per day.
“I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body” – Usain Bolt.
Therefore, go to bed early every day until you wake up feeling packed with energy. Make your bedroom quiet, dark and comfortable and force yourself to a new routine in order to enjoy full recovery. In addition, extend your sleeping hours whenever you feel like it and experience renewed energy bursts and faster recovery.
Lack of quality sleep, scarcity of natural nutrients and insufficient water consumption are among the top factors disrupting our recovery in today’s hectic modern world. Most people fall for marketed recovery products because they are the easiest way out. This shouldn’t be the case. Also, you shouldn’t despair because you aren’t alone in the vicious cycle of lack of energy, extra handles in your waistline and disturbed physical performance and recovery.
Take the challenge and make a check list today. Start by calculating your daily water requirements using the formula mentioned above. Proceed by writing down your preferred natural foods. Divide the intake into 7 portions daily. Lastly, mark your sleeping hours. You should sleep for 8 to 12 hours daily depending on your stress levels. Place this check list on your fridge. Examine your physical and mental progress after a month.
Popkin, K. D’Anci and I. Rosenberg. Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition Reviews. August 2010. Vol. 68. Issue 8. Pages 439-458.
Graham. Nutrition and Athletic Performance: A Handbook for Athletes and Fitness Enthusiasts. 2008. Pages 21-24.
Murray. Hydration and Physical Performance. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. July 2007. Vol. 26. Issue 5. Pages 542-548.