We hear it all the time: Training doesn’t make you bigger, stronger or faster. Recovery from training makes you bigger, stronger and faster.
Sleeping, taking days off, eating enough healthy food, managing stress all have huge impacts on our ability to recover.
When these aren’t enough, we look to add other modalities such as ice baths, contrast showers, antioxidants, protein supplements, compression, etc.
But there’s one powerful technique very few athletes use: Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing. This is where you breathe in deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to expand and collapse with each breath.
Diaphragmatic Breathing Reduces Exercise–Induced Oxidative Stress
A study was done on 16 athletes following an intense training session.
They were separated into two equal groups.
The Diaphragmatic Breathing (DB) group spent one hour post-workout in a quiet place performing diaphragmatic breathing and concentrating on their breath.
The control group spent the same hour relaxing in a similar quiet place, not focusing on diaphragmatic breathing.
Researchers then analyzed oxidative stress, antioxidant defense status, melatonin and cortisol levels and compared them between the groups.
In both groups, the exercise induced a strong oxidative stress response.
In theory, minimizing this stress response post-workout allows for faster recovery from training.
A few cool things happened in the diaphragmatic breathing (DB) group vs. the control group:
- Significantly lower oxidative stress levels
- Significantly greater “antioxidant defense status”
- Lower levels of cortisol (an inhibitor of antioxidant activity)—however the difference was not statistically significant
- Significantly higher levels of melatonin (a strong antioxidant)
Taken collectively, we can say that belly breathing post-workout reduces the production of cortisol, increases melatonin levels, increases antioxidant defense status, and reduces oxidative stress.
The researchers concluded diaphragmatic breathing is a useful method to accelerate recovery and improve performance.
If you’re struggling to recover from intense training, consider belly breathing for a few minutes post-workout. It could be the simple fix you need to speed up recovery time, allowing you to train harder, longer, and more often.