Why “More” Can Be “Less”
Repetitions, weight, distance, speed, length…there are so many factors we take into consideration with our workouts. Everyone wants to achieve the most optimal results, but one of the most common aspects of a workout routine we see our patients overlook is RECOVERY. And it has a HUGE impact on your results!
High intensity aerobic and resistance exercise can cause a lot of stress to muscle tissue, as well as surrounding connective tissue. Stress to these tissues is absolutely fine! Within reason of course….It is what sends our bodies into a restorative process of tissue rebuilding and cardiovascular adaptations that eventually lead to the gains we want to see. However…if we continually stress our bodies without letting the natural restorative processes have time to do their thing, we risk degradation instead of progression. Besides tissue rebuilding/remodeling, there are a few other aspects of recovery that are important for our bodies to address after intense exercise:
Refueling Our Energy Stores
- Shorter bouts of higher intensity workouts typically use a energy source in our body called Phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine is a fuel source that our body can make really fast. That’s what makes it the most efficient fuel source for our bodies to use in quick and intense bouts of activity. We generally have stores of Phosphocreatine readily available in our body…buts it’s not a endless supply. Workout examples: HIIT, weightlifting, sprints.
- Longer bouts of lower intensity workouts typically use glycogen (basically carbohydrates). With prolonged and vigorous exercise our body moves past the Phosphocreatine fuel, and starts to pull from our stored carbohydrates. Carbohydrates become a more efficient fuel for longer periods of activity. Workout examples: long distance running, cycling, hiking.
It is vital that we have enough time to refuel these energy stores following a workout. Carefully monitoring what goes into our bodies plays a key role in how efficient our bodies are at refueling for the next workout. If not, our performance will suffer greatly at the next session of exercise.
Helpful Nutritional Hints
- Caffeine, Proteins, and Carbohydrates can help increase your energy stores for those longer bouts of exercise like running or cycling!
- Be sure to hydrate properly to help maintain good lymph flow in your muscles. This will assist in flushing out those waste products from heavy activity. Here is a helpful and simple equation to set a hydration goal each day:
(Body weight in lbs)/2 = X fluid oz water per day
(200lbs)/2 = 100 fl oz water per day
Getting Rid Of Wastes
The energy-making processes we discussed earlier produce “waste” within the tissues. Our bodies begin to accumulate lactate and protons as by-products with greater amounts of activity. The protons and lactate eventually form into what we know as lactic acid. Buildup of lactic acid increases muscle soreness and negatively impacts blood/lymph flow in the tissues. It eventually impacts the bodies energy-making processes themselves, causing them to become more inefficient. Lactic acid has even been shown to reduce the electrical activity in our muscles that is necessary to produce muscle contraction!
Higher amounts of lactic acid = decreased muscle force production.
We all feel the burn during an intense workout! That means you are really putting in some work. But it can also signal the buildup of these wastes, meaning your body will need some time to “de-tox” itself after that tough workout.
So when you are discussing your workout routine with your trainer or health provider, be sure to take these things into consideration. Proper progression is near impossible if you do not allow your body to recover appropriately. In fact, poor recovery strategies place you at a much larger risk for injury. If your tissues do not have enough time to rebuild, refuel, and reset. It’s like asking your car to keep going and going and going without stopping for gas , or changing your oil. Something in that car will eventually fail…..
Can You Speed Up The Recovery Process?
Unfortunately, we can not ask our body to recover at a faster rate than what we are physiologically capable of. However, some more conditioned and extensively trained athletes have slowly and progressively optimized their body’s recovery process over time. This is how people like Dwayne Johnson, or Lance Armstrong, can do such vigorous training sessions in such close proximity of each other while progressing their performance. However, it is important to note that these athletes also plan a highly regimented routine that always allow the amount of recovery that their bodies need between sessions. Recovery is inevitable and unavoidable, even for the most skilled athletes.
What To Do In The Meantime?
Certain workout routines such as heavy resistance lifting,or high intensity interval training, have been shown to pair very well with what we call active recovery. Active recovery can include things like light jogging, swimming, yoga, or dynamic stretching. They can help your body’s rebuilding process become more efficient at reducing inflammation and improving blood flow around the involved tissues.
There is a fair amount of quality research that suggests compression therapy, percussive massage, and stretching all can have unique and positive effects on physiological recovery after exercise such as the reduction of lactic acid in the muscular/fascial tissues, improved local blood flow, and decreased pain-pressure threshold (“pain perception”). These therapies do not automatically push you past your recovery phases. However, they can be very helpful in decreasing muscle soreness, improving mobility, and preparing your body for the next workout!
Brown, Freddy, et al. “Compression Garments and Recovery from Exercise: A Meta-Analysis.” Sports Medicine, vol. 47, no. 11, 2017, pp. 2245–2267., doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0728-9.
Dupuy, O., Douzi, W., Theurot, D., Bosquet, L., & Dugué, B. (2018). An evidence-based approach for choosing post-exercise recovery techniques to reduce markers of muscle damage, soreness, fatigue, and inflammation: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Frontiers in Physiology, 9. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.00403
García-Sillero, M., Benítez-Porres, J., García-Romero, J., Bonilla, D. A., Petro, J. L., & Vargas-Molina, S. (2021). Comparison of interventional strategies to improve recovery after eccentric exercise-induced muscle fatigue. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(2), 647. doi:10.3390/ijerph18020647
Taipale, R., Gagnon, S., Ahtiainen, J., Häkkinen, K., Kyröläinen, H., & Nindl, B. (2019). Active recovery shows favorable igf-i and igf binding protein responses following heavy resistance exercise compared to passive recovery. Growth Hormone & IGF Research, 48-49, 45-52. doi:10.1016/j.ghir.2019.09.001