January — a month where motivation is at an all time high. Intentions have been set and it’s now just a matter of getting back to work. You are feeling ready to train after some time off perhaps and take it to the next level. However, are you really prepared for what is to come? I’m talking about recovery specifically and the misconceptions that come around it.
When you train like an athlete, you need to take your recovery just as seriously as the work you put in while at the gym. The reality is that many don’t, which can lead to a string of difficulties such as a plateau in performance, stress and injury.
As someone who trains regularly, I’ve been on quite the journey when it comes to trial and error and in terms of recovery, there are often a few key things that are initially overlooked. Although perceived as obvious at first, most people, including myself, are prone to getting these things wrong.
However, all these contributing factors can make a huge difference in ensuring you are training effectively and efficiently all year round.
Want to perform at your best? Here are my top five things that people get wrong about recovery and that you should look out for.
Things People Get Wrong About Recovery
1. Too Little Calories
If you want to recover effectively, you need to ensure you are eating enough calories. It really is that simple. Unless your goal is fat loss/cutting, which may require you to be in a calorific deficit, it’s not a good idea if you want to improve performance, get stronger and fitter.
Additionally, calorie restriction is known to reduce anabolic hormone levels, leading to a more catabolic hormone profile (increased cortisol and decreased testosterone levels) (1). Instead of growing lean mass and burning body fat, starvation will only lead to muscle atrophy and body fat retention. Solution? Eat!
2. Nutrient Deficiencies
Similar to food and the consumption of macronutrients (carbs, protein, fats), when you are working out regularly, your body is under greater demand to also consume micronutrients, composed of vitamins and minerals. A high intake of micronutrients is therefore also essential for performance and recovery. However today’s western diets often lack the sufficient amounts of minerals that we need. As a result, we are left fatigued and more susceptible to illness and injury.
Micronutrient supplementation is a great way to bolster essential minerals into the body and two I use religiously are O3 and M3. O3 contains 2,000 mg of healthy omega-3s, contributing to increased heart function, protein synthesis and blood flow, due to a high content of the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.
For many people, a magnesium deficiency causes noticeable negative symptoms — including muscle aches or spasms, poor digestion, anxiety and trouble sleeping. M3 contains both magnesium and vitamin B6, helping reduce fatigue, aid in the relaxation of muscles and improve circulation of oxygen.
3. Lack of Sleep
Your body repairs itself when it’s at rest and you are at total rest when you sleep. Sleep is therefore hugely important and on this occasion more is definitely better than less. Do you really need an excuse to stay in bed for longer? Getting good quality sleep is key to not only recovery but also your stress levels and hormone balances. Consistently getting inadequate sleep can result in subtle changes in hormone levels, particularly those related to stress, muscle recovery and mood (2).
The amount you need will differ dependant on the person. I find seven to eight hours a night works for me and is a good guideline to start with. Often the case, many people are left distracted which won’t see them get into bed early enough. So, if that curfew is lingering, why not try adopting a no media rule 30 to 45 minutes before hitting the lights? Give it a go — I guarantee you’ll find yourself winding down quicker and have improved quality of sleep.
You’ve hit your post-workout shake, consumed your meals, loaded up on your vitamins and minerals and are even getting good sleep. Yet, you might still be fatigued. Ever wondered why?
The answer could well be dehydration — something easily preventable yet also easily overlooked. During working out, your body loses water through sweat, which is an essential process for regulating body temperature. However, when your body loses water, it limits the capacity of your blood to carry vital nutrients such as glucose, fatty acids and oxygen to working muscles (3). Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help flush out toxins from your body and prevent dehydration, which can make muscle soreness even more painful.
5. Too Many Workouts
Yes, you read correctly! Working out too much can actually be very detrimental. We are all prone to wanting to train more. However you don’t get stronger, faster of fitter training. The body needs rest in order to grow and adapt. People who spend endless hours in the gym trying to chase those gains are only doing themselves more harm than good. Often, it will be a result of dissatisfaction or a lack of education with your training regime.
Studies have shown that when performance plateaus occur, athletes often increase their efforts and training load, initiating a vicious cycle, which after a continuation, can lead into a heavy overtraining syndrome (4). My advice? Structure your training. Get a program, stick to it and if you need to seek help, then do. Your coaches are there for precisely these things. Be sure to enjoy those rest days just as much as the training ones.
- “Maximum Muscle.” M. Matthews. 2014.
- “The Art of Coaching.” G. Stanway. 2012.
- “Optimal muscle performance and recovery.” E. Burke. 2003.
- “Enhancing Recovery.” M. Kellmann. 2002.