Updated: Jan 25, 2020
So, you just finished a long hard workout, you’re exhausted, your legs are tired and you’re hungry…. what do you do? You may want to go to the buffet for all you can eat, after all, you did just burn a lot of calories. Stop! Step away from the buffet and remember you have goals. Don’t undo the hard training you have just completed. But you are hungry...maybe even a bit “Hangry.” What should you do to optimize recovery?
The first thing you should do is consume some nutritious recovery food or drink. Studies show the sooner you start replenishing the calories you burned, the faster the nutrients are absorbed so that the rebuilding and recovery of your body can begin. You should try to consume about 2 calories of carbohydrates per pound of body weight and 2 calories of lean protein per pound of body weight within 30 minutes of completing the workout.
For example, a 150-pound person should consume about 600 total calories of nutrition equally split between carbohydrates and lean protein. This can be in the form of a commercially available recovery drink like Carbo Rockets Rehab recovery drink, or a balanced meal.
It is also beneficial to take in some branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) to help rebuild any damage to the muscles. BCAA’s can be taken as a pill supplement or it is also found in good quality recovery drinks.
You will also want to rehydrate and replenish your electrolytes. For the remainder of the day, you should consume a lot of water and electrolytes in the form of a high quality sports drink or water with electrolyte supplements.
Flush Muscular Waste Products
Now that you have consumed the nutrients your body needs, what is next? During training, waste products accumulate in your muscles, causing you to be sore, which can hinder future workouts. There are several methods to help move the waste products from your muscles into you blood stream to be carried away. The simplest and cheapest is an “Ice Bath”. You may be thinking that sounds crazy! But an ice bath is a very effective way to get the waste products out of your muscles. Simply sit in the bathtub with cold water covering your legs and hips, then add about 30 lbs of ice. Stay in the ice bath for 20 minutes. The first few minutes in the ice bath can be a bit challenging, but it is worth it because your hips, legs and feet will recover much more quickly, prevent injuries, and you will be are able to get your training done the next day.
In addition to the ice bath, you can use “Recovery Boots”. These boots cover your legs from hips to feet. The boot inflates with air in a sequential manner, squeezing your legs forcing the waste products out of your muscles. The better recovery boots start squeezing at your feet and the gradually squeeze up your leg to force the waste products out of your legs. One disadvantage to recovery boot is the price tag. Depending on the brand and quality, recovery boots range in price from about $600 to $2000.
A lower cost alternative to recovery boots is a good pair of recovery tights. These are full length compression tights that can assist the body in getting rid of the waste products that have accumulated in the muscles. Recovery compression tights, while not as effective as the other two methods mentioned above, can still provide a reduction in muscle inflammation. This will give you much needed relief and recovery. Tights are an excellent option if you have a long drive or a flight after a destination race, after all they can be worn under your clothes while you travel.
Whether you choose one or a combination of these recovery methods, the final and my favorite recovery option is a nap. Nothing helps the body rebuild better than total rest. So, after that long training session, take a nap to refresh and rejuvenate your entire body. You’ve worked hard and want to be able to have a productive day so try to get a short nap in if you can. You have earned it!
For me personally, I found a combination of recovery methods works best. It is important to plan ahead and take your chosen recovery drink/food with you so that as soon the workout is complete you begin to replenish nutrients and fluids. What works for me is Carbo Rocket Rehab mixed in milk. While I enjoy my recovery drink on the drive home, I stop to buy at least 3 bags of ice for my much needed 20-minute ice bath. Following my ice bath, I ‘thaw’ out with a lukewarm shower. Finally I slip into my recovery boots and grab a quick nap while my boots do their job. Later that day I may wear my recovery tights for a bit. All of this helps my body handle the strain of long workouts and gets me ready for the next day.
When you utilize these recovery methods after your long hard training sessions your body will recover more quickly and more thoroughly which will help you be ready for that next workout without the pain, sluggishness or tight joints and muscles.