Exercise is rewarding in many ways, but when you’re focused on your goals, it can be easy to forget about recovery. According to Angela Leach, the Head Dietitian for FUTURELIFE®, inadequate muscle recovery could be what is standing between you and your fitness goals. “Muscle recovery is not only about having rest periods between your workouts, it also involves getting the right nutrition,” Angela says.
She adds that the cornerstone of post-workout and recovery nutrition is the 3 R’s – repair, refuel and rehydrate. “They are essential for maximising the training effect, and not doing this can lead to muscle damage and tenderness. A good intake of macronutrients, micronutrients, and fluids, throughout the day, are essential to achieving long-term results,” she says.
Angela shares 3 reasons post-exercise nutrition is important:
1. Encourages muscle gain
Your muscles store glycogen, which is a form of energy storage. When you’re exercising, these stores are broken down and need to be replenished through the consumption of carbohydrates post-exercise.
Muscles also develop tiny tears during strenuous exercise leading to pain and inflammation. Protein is essential for the repair of these micro-tears which then leads to muscle strength and growth.
The combination of carbohydrates and protein consumption maximise the rate of muscle repair and glycogen synthesis, keeping your blood glucose levels balanced and facilitating muscle repair and reconditioning. The results include fewer energy dips throughout the day, replenished stores needed for your next workout and reduced muscle damage.
2. Prevents dehydration
Running out of breath during exercise might be the reason you are reaching for your water bottle, but hydration before, during, and after training has a positive impact on your performance. Exercising while dehydrated can lead to stiffness in your muscles and may affect your blood pressure. Recent evidence suggests that dehydration may increase the risk of oxidative stress which leads to cell and tissue damage. Although this process occurs naturally in the body, dehydration can make it worse, so you need to hydrate with water in moderation and electrolytes when needed. Ensure that you consume enough water and electrolytes but be careful not to overdo it as over hydration has other implications that can negatively affect your performance. If you’re unsure whether you’re getting enough hydration, you can weigh yourself before and after exercise. If there is a difference, it may be due to hydration, but you can drink 100-150ml for every 100g lost to balance things out.
3. Increases strength and intensity
Muscle damage and fatigue are a result of a lack of recovery. A study found that fatigue potentially contributes to prolonged recovery and predisposed participants to injury. The study also determined that performance improvements occur during recovery from training sessions. Although exercise is a process of tearing, repairing and reconditioning, a lack of recovery only hinders the potential of improving your performance and intensity. Recovery is key to reducing muscle fatigue and provides you with the energy you need for regular exercise.
“Don’t avoid the muscle recovery process. Smart nutrition and proper hydration can help your body’s recovery process and ensure you have enough energy to sustain you through exercise. Also pay careful attention to rest periods between your fitness sessions, this is vital and can contribute to your overall performance and results,” Angela concludes.