Recovery for Strength Training Athletes

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Recovery

The Most Important Aspect of Training

Are you constantly tired? Are you lacking progress in the gym? Are you always sore?

Do you know the most important aspect of any training plan?

deadlift by team stronger athlete rocky mahoney
“Mr. Perfect” Rocky Mahoney

“It doesn’t matter what you can do in the gym, if you can’t recover from it.”

Everyone can benefit from getting stronger and everyone needs to exercise regularly to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, strength training and exercise activities are stressful on your body, and can be damaging if you ignore the most important aspect of any training program…RECOVERY! Recovery is the most important aspect of any training plan, because without it all you are doing is breaking your body down by increasing the stress placed upon it. It doesn’t matter what you can do in the gym, if you can’t recover from it. Even with the most optimal training program that has a slow progression you will not continue to progress if you don’t sleep enough, drink enough fluid or eat enough food for recovery. The truth is that no training session is complete until you have recovered from it.

“… no training session is complete until you have recovered from it.”

So how do you recover from training? Well, the most important part of recovery is sleep. Without proper sleep your body cannot function properly, let alone rebuild and grow your broken down tissues from training. Your body grows, and recovers, when you’re asleep, not when you are awake. You can refill your fuel stores, such as glucose stores within muscles, while you’re awake, but the greatest amount of growth and recovery occurs when you are asleep. So how much sleep do you need to recover? Well, it depends. Everyone is different and requires a different amount of sleep to recover from everyday life or the additional stress of training. However, we can set some general standards that fit most individuals in given categories and you can adjust from there. 

“…the most important part of recovery is sleep.”

First, most kids and teens require between 8-10 hours of sleep while growing. They have the largest range of sleep time, because everyone grows at a different rate. You can assume those that grow faster or do the most activity need more sleep than those that are less active and slow to grow. The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep just to perform normally without additional activity or exercise. Women require a little less sleep than men, which may be due to men generally being larger in size. Those that strength train or exercise regularly will need an additional 30-60 minutes of sleep depending upon the overall intensity or work volume. Athletes require 9-10 hours of sleep for full recovery due to their large workloads and intense training which places a lot of stress on their bodies. 

“Those that strength train or exercise regularly will need an additional 30-60 minutes of sleep…”

These are general guidelines for sleep which can be adjusted depending upon how you feel. If you are still tired you (may need to go to sleep earlier, to get more quality sleep, or you) may need to increase your sleep time by 30 minutes. Overall, sleep is the most important aspect in recovery as that is when your body rebuilds itself.

To learn more about sleep go here: SLEEP

Next, nutrition is also vital for proper recovery. If you don’t obtain enough, or the proper, nutrients for rebuilding what you lost, then you cannot recover, even while asleep. Assuming you already eat a balanced diet, you may need to eat additional amounts of nutrients for proper recovery. This may be as simple as an additional meal on training days, or may require larger meal portions throughout the day. Many people believe that they need to take supplements in order to recover from any light to intense training, which is not the case. Supplements can be helpful, but it is best to obtain as much as you can from food, than just taking in a bunch of supplements. 

“…you may need to eat additional amounts of nutrients for proper recovery.”

With any nutritional plan it is (first) most important that you obtain enough calories for recovery. If you are not eating enough calories for your tissues to have the energy to recover, then they will not be able to recover during your sleep. So ensure that you get enough calories to meet your basal metabolic rate, which is the standard amount of calories you body needs daily just to function properly and recover from the stress placed on it from activity. This amount of calories is less than your caloric expenditure with the addition of daily activity and exercise, which is why you can still lose weight and recover fully. 

As a part of consuming enough calories you must also make sure you drink enough fluids. It is recommended that you have enough fluids to not only replace what you’ve lost, but some extra so that you can excrete additional waste. We recommend you drink 0.7 times your bodyweight in ounces of water daily

“…drink 0.7 times your bodyweight in ounces of water daily.”

After ensuring you get enough total calories and fluids for a standard diet, it is important that you obtain all the proper nutrients for your body to have the supplies needed for recovery. The main piece to this is protein, though we do not need as much as many people believe. Protein is the main building block for replacing broken down tissue and growth. Knowing this, those that break down tissue often, through exercise or various training activities, should consume slightly more protein than those that do not exercise regularly. The average person needs 0.4-0.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight daily just to replace tissues lost during normal daily activity. Those that exercise need more to replace and rebuild their tissues, which should be 0.5-0.7g per pound of bodyweight daily. This may seem too low to what many people believe, but remember that this is just the bare minimum that you need for tissue replacement and growth. It is recommended that strength athletes and those that exercise regularly consume about 1g per pound of bodyweight daily, but do not exceed 1.5g per pound of bodyweight as this can place a lot of unnecessary stress on your body’s digestive system to metabolize it. Your body can only build so much muscle mass per day and consuming excess protein will just add to your total calories for the day, which will be used as a slow energy source or stored as fat. It would be best to use carbohydrates (fast energy) and fats (slow long lasting energy) as your fuel sources while using protein for its purpose of building. 

“It is recommended that strength athletes and those that exercise regularly consume about 1g per pound of bodyweight daily…Your body can only build so much muscle mass per day.”

Maintain a normal amount of carbohydrates and fats in your diet to ensure you reach your daily energy needs for full recovery. We recommend 2-4g of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight daily for active individuals and a normal amount of fats (at least 0.25-0.5g per pound of bodyweight) to fill out your total caloric intake needs. Try to maintain a constant amount of protein daily, but do not overeat thinking that you are going to use it only for muscle building.


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Though your macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fats, are important for recovery, it is also vital that you get your micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) for full recovery. These can be obtained through a healthy diet consisting of many fruits, vegetables, dairy and  meat products. If you are lacking one of these categories of food you need to find a way to include them more, or replace the nutrients you are lacking through supplementation. You can utilize a daily multivitamin as a base amount of nutrients to give your body daily, but you should also be conscious of what you are eating and what nutrients you need more of. 

“As a strength athlete,…it is important that you get enough Calcium…”

As a strength athlete, or anyone looking to recover from activity, it is important that you get enough Calcium, which is lost during muscle contraction. This will also help you increase bone density along with the added stresses of strength training. To work alongside Calcium you need to ensure you have enough Magnesium, which is also a vital building block for our tissues and helps with muscular function. Other important electrolytes needed for recovery are Sodium and Potassium. These work together to regulate water in and out of cells and perform many other functions within the body. 

To learn more about these nutrients and which foods have them look here: ELECTROLYTES

All other vitamins and minerals are important for everyday function as well as recovery, so be sure to include them in your balanced diet. You generally do not need to track many other nutrients as long as you eat a balance of fruits, vegetables and meat products regularly. Try to eat a variety of each rather than having the same foods everyday. 

“You can also use some active recovery techniques such as walking throughout the day or doing light activities that stimulate blood flow.”

With proper sleep and nutrition you can recover from all the stresses you place on your body and continue to progress in your training. Make sure to get at least 8-9 hours of sleep after training, drink enough fluids, eat enough calories, consume 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight, get all your vitamins and minerals so that you can be recovered as much as possible before your next training session. This will ensure the best conditions for you to progress in your training. You can also use some active recovery techniques such as walking throughout the day or doing light activities that stimulate blood flow, but do not tax your body with too much stress. Make sure to recover and keep getting STRONGER my friends!

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Strength to you, 

The STRONGER Coach

The STRONGer Coach- Ryan Mathias, CPT

Owner and Creator

MathiasMethod.com

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