No matter what activity you do, be it squash, muay thai, triathlon, weightlifting, or even curling, if you want to become better, faster, or stronger you'll have to participate in some sort of recovery. Luckily for you, you're probably already participating in the best methods of recovery already. But are you doing them to their fullest potential?
What you're already doing right
The best methods of recovery are, hands down, sleep and nutrition. Whether you like it or not sleep is something you highly love doing, the same goes for food, and you would die without water, so you do that as well. But there are always ways to improve.
Eat — Sleep — Drink — Repeat
Get enough sleep
Although sleep is something we all do, who says you can't do it better? I know Arnold Schwarzenegger tells us to sleep faster, so talk to him if you need eight hours of sleep in a time span of three hours. Not my area of expertise. However, I can tell you this; the amount of sleep you get every night is what sets the good apart from the average. Research papers on sleep have been done over and over again and each and every one of them is saying the same damn thing; get a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night. Notice how I put "every" in italics. Getting an average of seven hours, where you sleep 5 hours on workdays and 12 on the weekend, is not good enough. By all means, get eight hours of sleep if you need it, darn it, get twelve! Just don't sleep any less than seven.
Why, you ask?
Instead of your body trying to repair all the damage from your previous workout while you're doing sh*t like playing paintball — running around all anxious for getting smashed in the face — it prefers doing the repair while you're past out in your bed in your superman knickers. At that point its' got everything it requires to be able to focus solely on repair, and other zen like stuff. The body is at work 24/7, but while you're asleep and not distracting its workflow, it gets into the zone and as a result gets much more work done. So the more time you allocate to sleep the more repair the body can get done and the faster you'll get back to full readiness. If you get this sorted you're on the right track to optimal recovery.
Sleep is obvious when it comes to recovery, but too often do people forget the importance of nutrition! Now, nutrition is a HUGE topic so we won't cover everything. However, we can go straight into the basics. Which is; consume equal to or, preferrably, more carlories than you expend! If that simple advice is practised it doesn't matter what your macronutrient ratio is, if you have a protein shake straight after a workout, so you don't miss the "metabolic window", or the fact that you eat oranges every other day while sitting on the crapper. Calories is energy and the body uses energy to recover while sleeping, simple as that. Sleep and food go hand in hand. Only when this is the new norm can we dig a bit deeper into what types of food you should consume, when to consume it, and all the rest of it.
Drink more water
Drinking water must the simplest and easiest thing in the world, and it has a significant effect on recovery. Don't be that knob head who doesn't drink water and still complains of insufficient workouts. My advice for the ones who don't drink enough water and should drink more is the same as Shia LaBeouf's is; "do it, JUST DO IT". Drink a minimum of 2 liters of water daily and you're golden!
Simple sleep hacks that leave you feeling like a monk on a 2 month retreat
Now you've made sure to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep every nigh, you can start fidgeting about with all sorts of different methods of improving your quality of sleep. There are a fair amount of methods to do that, but if you want the most bang for your buck a consistent sleeping pattern is probably the wisest choice.
Keep in sync with your body's natural sleep-wake cycle
Although you might sleep for seven hours every time you go to sleep, that is not the same as going to sleep at the same time every night. With an inconsistent sleep-wake cycle your sleep quality will suffer somewhat. By optimising your body's natural sleep-wake cycle by going to sleep at the same time every night your sleep will improve, you'll feel more fresh in the morning, and you'll have more energy throughout the day.
The art of power napping
Let's be real here, power napping is a gift sent from heaven! If their done right there is nothing quite like it. The secret ingredients to the perfect power nap is good timing and duration. If you keep it too short it won't do the job well enough, and if you nap for to long it f*ckes up the rest of your day. If you nap too early it’s not quite the same as doing it in the middle of the day, but for God's sake, don't nap too late. If you don't like feeling like a groggy Godzilla, woken up too early from hibernation, then keep your naps between 10 - 20 minutes, NO LONGER, and just after lunch. And at the LATEST 3 hours before bedtime.
Limited exposure to blue light
You’ve heard it a million times, and I’m going to make it a million and one. Blue lights, such from your phone, laptop, smart watch, and other devices is like picking up your brain and giving it a good ol’ shake! If switches your brain from night time to day time. Therefore, reducing exposure to it will enhance your ability to both fall asleep and better quality sleep. Not allowing yourself any blue light exposure 40 to 60 minutes before bed is all you need.
Another great way to reduce the exposure to blue light if you absolutely have to use a screen just before bed is activating Night-Shift on your phone or downloading f.lux on your laptop. These will slowly change the colour or your screen orange as day shifts to night. If you use your phone / laptop alot you won’t even notice it. This, in my opinion, is the best method of reducing blue light exposure when you need to use your devices closer to bedtime.
Get you caffeine fix earlier, rather than later
Not to go all AA on you, but the first step to sobriety is accepting you’ve got an addiction. Caffeine is no different, however, fortunately, you don’t need to restrict all caffeine consumption. All you need to do is manage when you consume it. It should be quite obvious, but for some of the gormless tits reading this (obviously not you) it might be an eye opener. Since caffeine is essentially the opposite of sleep, by keeping you awake. Consuming it too close to bedtime will leave you in bed awake, restless, and in a constant worry of waking up having shat yourself. So do yourself a favour and keep your caffeine drinking arse to at least 4 hours before going to sleep.
Darkness and silence
A quick and easy one is sleeping in a room which is completely dark and dead silent. Without the distraction of light and disturbing noises you’ll fall asleep easier and will be less likely to be woken up in the middle of the night.
After quantity of nutrition comes the quality. You're eating equal to or more than you currently expend, but what should your macronutrient ratio look like? Again, there are countless papers on the topic and all of them have similar results, all with slight variation. But the overall advice is this: Protein, 1.8g/kg/day, fat 1g/kg/day and the rest should be Carbohydrates (often between 3 - 4g/kg/day for the average person). If your macronutrient ratio looks something like this you're doing well for yourself.
Protein powder is for noobs?
It's a big misconception that it's impossible to build muscle, strength, or lose weight without the use of some sort of supplement. It's not necessary to take supplements, are you kidding me? What you need is some good ol’ steroids! Those f*ckers will make it worth while! The longer the needle the better...
NO! I'm taking the piss, obviously #CleanSport #SafeSport. Although, I'd like to get across that the use of supplements is, well, a food supplement, not a food replacement. Protein powder, for instance, is to be used if you have a hard time reaching your daily goal of protein from "normal" food. Because of its high concentration of protein, adding some protein poweder to your meals and/or as a post workout shake will provide loads of protein in a small dose. However, if you're not even trying to eat proper sources of protein then wait with the protein supplements. Chances are that you don't need to spend any of your valuable cash on protein powder. Do the basics first.
Have you ever considered that the hate you have for broccoli goes both ways?
Giving advice on eating more vegetables should be a bloody felony these days. People come from left and right telling you to stuff your face with more vegetables than you can shew. Trying to convince you that broccoli contains more protein than chicken. That they make your skin smoother than a baby's arse and other utter rubbish. The truth of the matter is, they contain higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals — which are essential to your health and well being — than most 'tasty' food and should therefore not be neglected in your everyday food consumption. So, yeah, I guess I'm on the same boat as everyone else in telling you to eat more vegetables. I just don't want to cover it up by telling you vegetables will smoothen out your wrinkly arse cheeks, that they are the cure for cancer, or how they improve your eyesight by 300%. By the way, the same goes for fruits. They just taste five times as nice, smoothen out your wrinkly arse cheeks, cure cancer, and improve your eyesight my 300%.
Thanks for reading! This should be enough of my rant about recovery... for now. I'll be back with some pseudo methods of recovery in the next post. Smash that like button, drop a comment to give us your insights, and share this post with your sleep deprived, non-vegetable eating, caffeine addicted friends. Later!