Four R’s for recovery.

It was March 2012, a few months away from graduating from the University of Maryland. What was thought to be the best month of the year (my last spring break as a college student), turned out to be the worst month of the year…and probably of my entire four years as a student!

A lack of appetite, troubled sleeping, sprained right ankle (eventually compensated to sprain my left ankle) and depleted energy levels were only the mere issues I faced.

“What the !%@* is going on”, I thought to myself. I eat healthily, get anywhere between 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night and exercise every day.

Pondering deeply, I came to realize that I have pushed my body beyond its ability to recovery naturally. I was suffering from what is known as the Over-training Syndrome. The meaning falls exactly in line with the name of the syndrome – when you over-train and not give your body enough time to rest and recover.

It wasn’t until I experienced such thing that I shifted my paradigm of exercising. Sometimes you’ve got to learn the hard way, right?

I began to emphasize a lot on recovery and give myself at least a day or two of rest per week.

The feeling I went through has inspired me to share my recovery scheme so that you can hopefully manage your exercise intensity and frequency to avoid the over-training syndrome.

Here are my 4 R’s for recovery:

1) Refuel

Your body’s main source of energy stems from carbohydrates. It’s also the most readily-available and quickest form of energy. Depending on your exercise intensity and duration, you may finish your exercise session with a low supply of carbohydrates.

For you to perform stronger and harder in your successive workout, it is important you RE-FUEL with carbohydrates to ensure a re-supply of energy!

2) Repair

The primary nutrient responsible for repairing muscle tissue is protein. It is essential you consume either a protein shake or protein-containing meal post-exercise in order to maximize muscle tissue growth and REPAIR.

For those who partake in intense exercise such as weight lifting, it is vital you up your protein intake after exercising and throughout the day as well, as you may suffer from muscle fiber damage and tears during exercise, ultimately leading to muscle soreness and pain.

3) Rehydrate

If you’re a salty sweater (I am certainly one), replacing the electrolytes lost in sweat is incredibly important to avoid any muscle dehydration or cramping. Sodium (or salt), is a primary electrolyte found in sweat and should be replaced, along with magnesium, potassium and calcium (other minerals considered as electrolytes).

Also, If you have a high sweat rate (the amount of fluids lost during exercise), REHYDRATE with water and electrolyte-containing drinks (i.e. low calorie sports drinks) after exercise to return to a euhydrated state (normal state of body water content). Or simply add some salt to water – that will do the job.

4) Relax

Last but certainly not least, and the reason why I felt into this trap! Allow your body to RELAX. In fact, the best way for your body to recover and produce gains from your workouts is during times of rest (i.e. sleeping).

Whether you completely give yourself a day off, or still go to the gym but lower the intensity of your workout, it is incredibly important to give your body that deserved break to keep yourself in check and not breakdown.

I hope you can learn from my experience and implement these recovery strategies to your everyday life. We tend to neglect how we may feel in the long term and continue focusing on the short term – which means exhausting our body with no time for rest. Start thinking ahead.

To pinpoint the most important recovery strategy is difficult – you need to incorporate all 4 recovery modalities to optimize your exercise gains while also boosting your immune system to sustain exercising on a daily basis.

One thing I will advise though, dedicate at least 1 day a week for some form of relaxation. As hard as it may be to stay away from the gym, believe me, it will do you wonders!

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