Recovery is going to be one of the most important areas to master during your fitness journey. For you to be consistent with the tasks required to reach your goals, you have to be in an optimum position, both physically and mentally.
Many people make the mistake of burning themselves out when trying to get in shape through high-intensity workouts, demanding exercise routines, and ultra-restrictive diets. Not only is this detrimental to your performance and progress, but it can also be harmful to your overall health.
Recovery is vital for staying on track and maintaining a healthy body, but how do you achieve it? How can you make sure that your body is primed and ready to attack each and every day?
Sustainable Training Plan
One of the first things you have to get right when looking to improve your recovery is your resistance training plan. This needs to be balanced, sustainable, enjoyable and effective for you to be consistent in the long run. Many people make the mistake of training almost every day during the week and end up overworked, exhausted, tired of the process, and even fall ill due to increased strain on their central nervous system.
It is vital that you do not overwork yourself during this process, so make you find the right balance, which usually is two to four one-hour resistance training sessions per week, featuring exercises that target multiple areas of the body, along with isolation movements that strengthen specific muscles. This will not only make the process more manageable but will also improve your recovery and ensure that the quality of your workouts is high, which is key to progression.
Another huge part of increasing your strength will be your diet. This will be vital, not only in achieving your goals, but also fuelling your workouts and remaining full of energy throughout the day. It is vital that you have a diet that features a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and, to a lesser extent, fats to support you throughout your journey, both physically and mentally.
Consuming plenty of protein and carbohydrates, in particular, is going to be important because it is going to be your primary source of energy throughout the day. Aim for carbohydrates that release energy slowly, such as oatmeal, rice, potatoes, pasta and bread, so that you avoid sharp spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels and that your energy levels remain consistent. Fruit is also a good, healthy option if you are looking for a sharper energy hit. Do not neglect carbohydrates from your diet, especially if you want to have balanced, high energy levels so that you can attack your resistance training sessions with maximum effort and intensity, which will be key to increasing strength.
This is an area that is crucial, not only to your fat loss progress but also to your overall health. A high-quality night’s sleep of seven to nine hours gives your body much-needed rest and recovery from your daily exercise and tasks, which is also vital to recovery and progression. Furthermore, you produce a large portion of your growth hormone when you sleep, particularly in the first two hours. In order to build lean muscle tissue, increase strength and burn fat efficiently, we need growth hormones, and as your growth hormone levels decrease gradually in your late twenties, the importance of sleep then increases.
Sleep also produces Melatonin in the pineal gland and is involved in energy metabolism. It also balances your cortisol levels (the stress hormone that is part of our survival mechanism), and your levels of your insulin (the major hormone that controls your blood sugar levels), which is vital for your body to be able to rest and recover from your activity during the day. So, make sure that you are prioritising consistent, high-quality sleep – it is a gamechanger to your strength progression and overall health.
Active Rest Days
Rest days are vital to your routine and something that should not be taken lightly. You do not need to train five to six times per week to make great progress, and doing so can in fact be damaging. Two to four resistance training sessions are perfect for building up strength, adding muscle, and burning fat – anything more than that is not only unnecessary but also unsustainable and arduous. The process should be manageable, enjoyable, and effective – training too hard is going to lead to your body being exhausted and overworked.
During the resistance training sessions, you will be breaking down muscle tissue, but the real progress happens in your recovery. This is when your body replaces old muscle tissue with new ones and continues to burn fat, so long as you are in a calorie deficit. What many people don’t realise is that you still burn calories from the recovery of your session the next day. Therefore, as long as you are doing a form of steady-state cardio every day (eg. walking, cycling, swimming), you will still be burning plenty of calories on non-training days too. So incorporate rest days into your routine but still aim to make them active, so that you can recover well for your next session.
The final key area for recovery, outside of training and nutrition to focus on is hydration. Getting enough water in throughout the day is a huge determining factor in how your body will function, both in terms of health and fitness. Your body is 60% water, so it is vital that you stay hydrated. When you wake up in the morning, more often than not, your body is dehydrated, so make sure you have a couple of glasses of water as soon as you can. This will allow important nutrients to flow through to important body parts, flush toxins out of your body, help deliver oxygen all over the body, allow your body’s cells to grow, reproduce and survive, and act as a ‘shock absorber’ for you brain and spinal cord.
When it comes to fat loss, water plays a big role because it helps you feel full and satisfied throughout the day, which leads to less temptation to snack on other foods. Often when you wake up in the morning and you think you are hungry, you are actually dehydrated, so drinking water first thing will also help you delay your first meal if that is something you like to do. Drinking plenty of water also boosts your metabolism, the chemical process inside your body that turns food into energy, which is vital for recovery and efficient fat burning.
So, if you want to get great results and have a healthier, more sustainable body, you have to prioritise your recovery. To improve this, make sure you have a sustainable, effective training plan, balanced nutrition, regular sleep of high quality, two to four active rest days per week, and are hydrating regularly. Make these regular habits in your everyday routine and you will find that your recovery improves drastically, leading to higher quality training and better progress towards your goals.
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