The RRRS of recovery: Rest, Refueling, Rehabilitate, Supplementation
The importance of recovery when it comes to exercise may be a bit understated. In fact, it may be a crucial component of overall conditioning. I’ve decided to break down the components of recovery into simply rest, recovery, refuel and for a bonus I’ve added a supplemental section for your viewing pleasure.
- Rest- Rest, who doesn’t love a rest day? One where you just lay on the couch and do nothing, ah yes, good times. The thing with rest is we need adequate amounts of it to restore and replenish ourselves. Rest can be divided into rest and active rest. The typical rest we think of is resting without moving. This is where active rest comes into play. Active rest involves engaging in exercise that is very low impact and helps to remedy pain and discomfort associated with muscle breakdown. This can be as simple as walking which has been shown to be beneficial in both stress reduction and recovery from exercise (1).
- Refuel- The role of pre-, intra-, and post-exercise nutrition cannot be overstated enough. During exercise our bodies have to utilize various substrates and fuel to provide the energy to keep us going, while exercise we also lose electrolytes and both electrolytes and substrates have to be ingested post-exercise. The essential macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats) are all involved in providing us energy during exercise. Carbs and protein provide us the most benefit post exercise especially if the exercise was either long in duration or extremely intense. In general fluid losses and in cases of substantial sweat loss fluid should be replenished at a rate of 24 ounces per pound of body weight loss (3). Remember when I said that the role of nutrition cannot be overstated enough? Well depending on your goals and activity level what is needed post exercise will vary. For instance in aerobic endurance (think marathoners, cyclists, hiking) their carbohydrate and protein recommendations (8 to 10g of carbohydrate and 1.0 to 1.6g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day) will vary based on the duration of the activity (4). On the other side of the spectrum in strength and power athletes their recommendations are also a little different (5 to 6g of carbohydrate and 1.4-1.7g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day). As you can see there is a little math involved when implementing individual nutrition goals, but it is a crucial part of the puzzle when trying to improve performance and or gains.
- Rehabilitate- The common acronym utilized for rehabilitation is RICES, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, and Stabilize. However, there are many other modalities that can be used for recovery such as heat, electrical stimulation, acupuncture, or massage. There are many studies with conflicting evidence about alternative therapies for muscle recovery. A more recent study found that cryotherapy (and or cold therapy) was superior to that of other passive modalities (2). What the majority of these modalities do is to help both the pain and healing response.
- Supplementation- Supplements are just that, supplemental. You should aim to get the majority of your nutrients through the food you consume throughout the day. However, if you do choose to take supplements run it by your physician or healthcare provider to ensure it is the right approach for you. There is a lot of research surrounding supplementation and the research is mixed. I want to touch on 2 minerals in particular magnesium and zinc. Magnesium is a cofactor in roughly 300 enzymes in the body, these enzymes regulate muscle contraction, oxygen delivery and protein synthesis (5). Zinc is also another important cofactor involved in multiple enzymes in the body, specifically those involved in muscle energy and protein synthesis (5). The results supplement efficacy are mixed in well-nourished athletes which again points to getting the vast majority of nutrients through your food (5).
In summary, recovery is a topic of mass debate and is crucial to the development of the novice and advanced athlete alike. There is no one size fits all approach to recovery, we are all individuals and thus our requirements are vastly different. What works for you may not work for me and that’s ok. Just remember the 3 R’s when evaluating your needs in terms of recovery.
- Matzer, F., Nagele, E., Lerch, N., Vajda, C., & Fazekas, C. (2017). Combining walking and relaxation for stress reduction-A randomized cross-over trial in healthy adults. Stress and Health. doi:10.1002/smi.2781
- Hohenauer, E., Taeymans, J., Baeyens, J., Clarys, P., & Clijsen, R. (2015). The Effect of Post-Exercise Cryotherapy on Recovery Characteristics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Plos One,10(9). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0139028
- Spano, M. Basic Nutrition Factors in Health. In Essentials of Strength and Conditioning (pp. 198-199). Human Kinetics.
- Spano, M. (n.d.). Nutrition Strategies for Maximizing Performance. In Essentials of Strength and Conditioning (pp. 215-216). Human Kinetics.
- Williams, M. H. (2005). Dietary Supplements and Sports Performance: Minerals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2(1), 43-49.