Your Guide to Optimal Recovery

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Why you need to recover

If this summer marks your 2010 debut in the weight room, know what's in store for Day 2: not being able to lift your arms over your head and bending over to tie your shoes.

You feel beat up because exercise dramatically alters the structure and function of muscle cells, says Dr. Scott Connelly, an expert on the physiology of nutrition and muscle metabolism.

"Multiple or consecutive training days causes what's referred to as low-frequency fatigue, resulting in a diminished capacity for the muscles to produce maximum force contractions," Connelly says. "What high school athletes are confronting are multiple days of practice that are fatiguing exercise sessions, which sets them up for less than-optimal muscle performance on the days when they need it the most."

You may think and feel like you're improving your physical performance by hitting the weights day after day, but your body never has time to recover and rebuild itself.

Recovery Guide

Mike Reinhart created the PAC Training System to bring modern, advanced training methods to athletes. The system's basic premise is that development occurs in a series of cycles. And according to Reinhart, recovery is of top importance.

Here, he outlines three phases of recovery and how to best use this precious time.

Rapid Phase:
The First 30 Minutes

"If you've been exercising intensely, the first thing you need to do is get your heart rate down," Reinhart says. Perform active recovery exercises such as skips, shuffles and walking toe touches. Most important, Reinhart says, is to re-hydrate. Start pumping water and electrolytes back into your system.

Intermediate Phase:
One- to Two-Hour Window

Get lean protein [e.g., a six- to-eight-ounce chicken or turkey breast] and high-glycemic carbohydrates [e.g., fruit, fruit juice or white bread] into your system. High glycemic carbs break down quickly and raise your blood sugar level, which the body needs to replenish your muscles.

"If you've missed that two-hour window, you've blown the advantage of getting your body back to normal," Reinhart says. "It will take you longer to replace the energy stores in the form of glycogen and to get amino acids [into your] tissues for rebuilding [muscles]."

Long-Term Phase:
Eight Hours and Beyond

The big-picture piece of recovery. First, engage in healthy nutritional habits like eating five to six small meals a day, constantly hydrating, and consuming recovery-inducing foods such as almonds, bananas and energy bars.

The phase also includes rest, because "the body needs eight or nine hours of sleep a night for basic maintenance and to rebuild muscle tissue," according to Reinhart. "You [also] need sleep for that burst of human growth hormone, which helps build muscle tissue."

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