As much as I get questions on training for competition, I have recently noticed an upswing in the number of questions I get on enhancing recovering to perform better come game time. This is great as it tells me there are more and more athletes and parents interested in taking care of their bodies for the long haul, and they genuinely care about recovering faster. On the downside, like training and nutrition advice, the internet and social media are loaded with quick fixes and overall bad information on the topic. Hold off on purchasing the shiny new percussion tool. Athlete recovery largely revolves around three main components discussed below.
Sleep is the time for your body to grow, repair, and rejuvenate from stress and damage that occurs on a day-to-day basis, but it can only do these things based on the quantity of rest you have. During this time, your body turns the sets and reps you did in the gym into new gains and the nutrients you consumed during the day into more robust tissue. Failing to regularly get enough sleep can make you more susceptible to a host of physical, mental, and emotional ailments.
Sadly, many of us sacrifice our sleep in an effort to accomplish more, while many of these tasks occur at a diminished level compared to if they had been done fully rested. High school athletes need a lot of sleep because of how rapidly their bodies are developing, yet according to one article, more than 70% of high school students were not getting enough sleep on school nights.
Be consistent with your sleep, as it is one of the biggest factors in maintaining good sleep hygiene. Making significant gains from training will require you to prioritize your sleep. Along with getting to bed around the same time each night, even on the weekends, establishing a good sleep environment will help you get to sleep faster and enjoy your slumber.
We all know we need more water, but just how much do we need? According to research quoted in a CBS report, up to 75% of Americans may be functioning in a chronically dehydrated state. Asking athletes who are already dehydrated to run, jump, and lift for hours during competition and training can lead to big problems. Water is required for the body to perform essential functions like absorbing nutrients, transporting waste, and digestion.
Monitoring the color of your urine is the easiest way to gauge hydration on a day-to-day basis. Aim to keep the color of your urine in the clear to light yellow range throughout the day by drinking water consistently out of a portable water bottle. Having a 24 to 32 oz. bottle and aiming to drink and refill it 3-4 times per day is a very manageable goal for athletes at the high school level and beyond. For long-duration activities such as cycling or trail running, a hydration vest is an easy alternative to carrying a large bottle. For workouts lasting over 45 minutes in hot climates, athletes may want to consider adding a sports drink or electrolyte mixture.
Nutrition plays a vital role in being able to maintain proper energy levels from day to day by consuming enough calories. To maximize recovery, the goal should be to eat enough protein and fat while holding back from consuming excessive amounts of sugars from energy drinks and overly sweetened coffee beverages to make up for poor nightly sleep habits. In this case, protein helps keep you full over a longer period.
Another nutrition goal here should be to consume at least three servings of fruits and vegetables each day. The fiber in these nutritious items will also keep you full while providing vitamins and minerals that offer a host of additional health benefits to help you rebound from tough training.
When it comes to nutrition, it is important to realize early on that it’s tough to eat cleanly while balancing a healthy social life. For this reason, I almost always tell athletes to follow the 80:20 rule, where 80% of the time, the goal is to maintain a solid diet based on whole foods and make sound fueling choices while allowing the flexibility to indulge during the other 20% of the time.
Aim to nail these three cornerstones of recovery for 14-21 days and take notice of how you feel or perform overall. Like good nutrition and training, when it comes to recovery, a focus should be paid to the big rocks before diving into high-cost solutions such as cryotherapy or dynamic compression leggings.
Keep in mind that training or practice typically lasts an hour or two of the day. What you do during the other 22-23 hours per day plays a vital role in reaping the benefits.
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