In our modern society, rest is often undervalued. While hard work is being applauded, taking time off to unwind is perceived almost as a guilty indulgence. In media success is advertised with pain and discomfort but in real life, the latter is most often associated with burnouts, injuries and chronic fatigue. Results come from keeping your body and mind healthy. Part of staying on track with your health is paying attention to recovery.
Recovery is a sum of thought-through actions such as meal prepping, sleep, massage, meditation, socializing and believe it or not, doing nothing or lying on the couch watching your favorite series.
In this article, we present you with four ways to improve your recovery.
4 Ways to Boost Recovery
1. Add More Magnesium to Your Diet
Magnesium deficiency impairs both performance and recovery. After all magnesium is an essential mineral, crucial to numerous bodily functions. It helps regulate our heart rhythm and blood pressure and contributes to our bone health and sleep quality. It also affects our muscle function with its role in oxygen uptake, energy production and electrolyte balance.
Studies have also associated magnesium with reduction in asthmatic symptoms. In elderly patients, magnesium has been found to contribute to a slight reduction in depressive symptoms.
Due to a fast-paced lifestyle, higher levels of stress and poor diet, people in developed countries are more likely to experience a deficiency in magnesium. Based on several studies athletes have an even greater need for it due to the physiological stress caused by training. Athletes taking part in sports which require weight control (weightlifting, gymnastics, ski jumping) are believed to be especially vulnerable.
While proper nutrition is the foundation for preventing any kind of deficiency, supplementation with magnesium can greatly aid your recovery.
2. Enhance Your Recovery With a Sports Muscle Stimulator
In 1786, Italian physician and physicist Luigi Galvani discovered that the muscle of a dead frog would twitch if the nerves were stimulated with an electrical spark. Later in 1960, Soviets claimed electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) resulted in a 40% force gains in their elite athletes. A lack of evidence ditched the theory but EMS became the subject of further scientific research. The main focus was centered around EMS’s effects on improving muscle strength, increasing range of motion, reducing swelling and decreasing muscle atrophy and pain relief.
Nowadays EMS, also known as neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), is used by athletes as a post-exercise recovery protocol. EMS is a form of therapy which uses electrical impulses (electrical current) to evoke a muscle contraction. With its target training directly on the muscle, EMS is used to decrease the muscle tension and increase the blood flow and metabolite washout, which results in faster and better recovery.
For therapeutic purposes, EMS is a common practice in patients with various injuries to prevent muscle atrophy (loss of muscle mass) and preserve function during the long periods of immobility or disuse.
While for decades EMS systems have been accessible to professional athletes only, modern EMS units are available to a far wider audience. PowerDot is a wireless, portable unit with no external device apart from the pods and an app for the mobile (Android and iOS). All workout and recovery sessions are controlled via your phone. Though smaller in size, PowerDot is comparable to high-end muscle stimulators and offers a solution for any active person looking to improve their recovery. Our friends at PowerDot are giving away three for you to try — enter today.
3. Make Foam Rolling a Habit
Self-myofascial release is a form of manual therapy which has widely been used by athletes to decrease tightness and improve muscle function, flexibility and the range of motion. One of the most popular techniques is foam rolling, in sport slang also known as “smashing the scar tissue.” Most athletes use foam rolling as a pre-workout technique to release the tension in order to improve the range of motion and prepare the body for the training ahead. Physical therapists have been using it as a recovery and rehabilitation tool with a goal of relaxing the overactive muscle and reducing the stiffness.
What do the studies say? Most of them have been focusing on the effectiveness of foam rolling as a recovery tool after training-related muscle damage and its effects on muscle soreness, range of motion, perceived pain, etc. Results have concluded foam rolling can reduce muscle soreness while also improving the range of motion. However the literature and opinions regarding the effectiveness of myofascial release are mixed and the technique is still labeled as an alternative medicine therapy. Studies aside, massaging stiff muscles feels good and contributes to an overall sense of well-being which also positively affects our recovery process.
4. Sleep is an Essential Part of Recovery
As mentioned in the introduction of this article, somehow sleep deprivation became a trend in our society. Athletes often make the situation even worse by using energy drinks or supplements to suppress any signs of tiredness.
Getting enough quality sleep is an essential part of our lives. When we sleep our body uses the time to restore and repair itself. While the first signs of sleep deprivation are impaired cognitive functions, prolong periods of sleep deficiency affect skeletal muscle health. Skipping on our bed time increases the level of cortisol secretion and causes a reduction in testosterone, growth hormone and IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1).
Consequently our body slows down protein synthesis and favors the opposite reaction — degradation, which can result in the loss of muscle mass. No extra explanation is needed how this affects your recovery. Besides, sleep-deprived individuals are more prone to injuries and accidents as their cognitive function is impaired.
While you might be aware of the importance of sleep for recovery, intense exercise might keep you awake long into the night. In this case try using the first three steps to completely relax your body and mind before even heading to bed. Magnesium and massage might also help calming the excitement or anxiety which follows an evening workout session.