Beyond the Protein Shake

If your training sessions are lacking progress and you find yourself feeling lethargic, sore and tired for days after, you may be making some crucial adaptation errors. Today, we’ll look at what recovery really means and whether or not you are executing the proper protocols.To some, recovery is a nebulas term that’s thrown around with no specific explanation. When it comes down to it, recovery is a complex – yet simple – series of protocols. However, don’t be fooled as it entails much more than just drinking your protein shake…


Pre workout nutrition is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Although most think recovery is what happens after training, ensuring proper fueling prior to exercise will enable you to maximize your training as well as prime the recovery process before you even begin your workout. My recommendation is to consume a meal or shake that contains all three of the macronutrients; protein, carbohydrates and fat.


During intense exercise, our bodies undergo a series of processes that break down muscle tissue and deplete a large array of important nutrients. Replenishing the body post workout is very important if you wish to optimize this early stage of the recovery process. Protein is needed to begin the repair process of broken down muscle tissue. Carbohydrates are needed to replenish glycogen lost during training and also aid in shuttling nutrients into cells. Fat is also important post workout as during extended efforts – more so with endurance athletes – our bodies depend on intramuscular triglycerides (also known as fat) to be oxidized and used a fuel. Electrolytes need to be replenished to maintain optimal fluid balance as well as optimal cell function. Last but not least, we must also re-hydrate ourselves with plenty of water.


Ensuring proper fueling and replenishment surrounding your training is important, but what most of us are forgetting is the maintenance of our damaged, stiff and tight tissues that derive from our training. I am referring to self-soft tissue work and joint mobility. Let’s call this protocol anti-stiffness training. Implementing anti-stiffness training post exercise will drastically increase the quality of your damaged tissues, speed recovery and optimize function of these tissues. Some important tools to have for your anti-stiffness training include one or more lacrosse balls, foam roller and one or more stretch bands at varying gauges. If you’re roughing it at the gym and do not have access to these tools, using a barbell, kettlebell or dumbbell can also work. Be creative. The goal is to spend a minimum of 2-5 minutes per muscle group trained using these tools to perform self-soft tissue work and joint mobilization. This will enable us to remove any adhesions within the tissue, restore proper joint mechanics and lastly, aid in the removal of waste and promote nutrient rich blood flow to the area.


In order to maximize recovery, we must ensure that we are maintaining a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Our bodies recover the most during this maximal state of rest. Tissue repair, hormone production, CNS (central nervous system) recovery and more all take place during these crucial 7-8 hours. Make sure your bedroom is completely blacked out. Exposure to light can halt the production of sleep aiding hormones such as melatonin. Turn off computers and cell phones as wifi and electronic devices nearby can also disrupt sleep. 7-8 hours minimum? Any less than 6 hours per night has been shown to compromise immune function by up to 30%, decrease testosterone production by up to 30% as well as increase fasting blood glucose levels and put us into a pre-diabetic state for up to 48 hours.


The typical 8 meals per day, 2-3 hours apart has become outdated. We now know that we can improve protein synthesis by consuming larger meals over 4-5 hours, leaving us with 4-5 meals per day, tops. That being said, I highly recommend you experiment with your body to see what works best for you. Drinking water throughout the day can aid in digestion, maintain a healthy metabolism, keep our tissues functioning properly and lubricate our joints. The standard guideline is to consume ½ of your body-weight in fluid ounces of water daily.

Follow these 5 basic principles and you’ll find yourself on the road to optimal recovery.

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