Beginners Guide to Rest and Recovery Chapter 2: Factors Influencing Recovery
As you go about your day to day lifestyle, there are a number of different elements that can cause recovery to occur faster or slower than you would like.
Being aware of these elements then will help to ensure that you can take steps to be maximizing the recovery that you are getting.
Here are the key points that you should know about.
The very first factor is your nutrition. Since nutrition is what basically provides the raw materials that help your body make the proper recovery you need, this one is a big element in the recovery game.
If you aren't feeling your body enough food (such as if you are on too intense of a fat loss diet) or you are not feeding it high quality nutrients in the right quantities, you are going to be suffering from a slow and sluggish recovery.
Think of building a house but only getting 10 bricks a day to build that house. It's going to take much longer to get it fully built back up than if it hand a 100 bricks per day that were all top notch quality.
Nutrition is the driver of good recovery and while you will recover to some degree with just rest in place, it is SIGNIFICANTLY enhanced with the right nutrition. Read this article here about foods that aid in muscle recovery .
This is also one reason why pre and post workout training meals are so imperative to your success.
Next, you also need to look at your sleep quality. The period of sleep is when the body goes into deep recovery mode and really kicks the repair process up a notch.
When you are sleeping soundly, your body is going to be releasing hormones (growth hormone and testosterone) in order to move the recovery process along nicely and ensure optimal strength gains. In fact, in a recent Netherlands study, the more sleep a person had (while trying to lose weight) the more fat they lost!
If there is a lack of sleep, you won't get as strong of a hormonal response occurring and in addition to that, your body wont' get the full time it needs to be doing the repair and recovery process.
The end result is that you aren't going to develop the strength you otherwise would.
Those who are doing intense workouts should be aiming for at least 7, if not 8 or 9 hours of sleep each night for full repair.
The next factor influencing recovery is your stress level. If you are highly stressed out on a day to day basis, you are going to be secreting more of the hormone cortisol in the body, which is the exact hormone you want to be avoiding as far as recovery is concerned.
High levels of cortisol are going to serve to break the muscles down as this is a catabolic hormone, and what you want to have happening is an anabolic process (the process of building something up).
So basically, high stress works directly against your efforts. If you are stressed out, it can in fact put an immediate stop to recovery or slow it down significantly so that you take far longer between each session to recover.
Cortisol is also released during intense exercise training as well, since it is the stress hormone associated with tissue break-down, so you must be making sure that you are minimizing it as best as possible during recovery.
You do this by leading a lower stress lifestyle.
The next recovery hindrance is alcohol. The big problem with alcohol is the fact that it acts as a toxin in the body. So as soon as you put it into your system, your body has one priority to oxidize it off.
It must get that toxin out of the body as fast as it possibly can.
As such, all other processes including recovery come to a halt.
So if you do an intense workout and then go out for a night of drinking, this is going to mean that your body temporarily breaks from any and all recovery processes happening, sending your recovery levels crashing.
Only once the alcohol is out of your system will recovery take place. Now, don't get me wrong, a few social drinks with your family, wife/girlfriend, or buddies is fine but once you cross that line and go overboard, it will have a negative impact on your recovery process.
If you are a big drinker, you can see how this is going to be a big influencer over time.
Daily Activity Levels
Your day to day activity levels are the next factor that can impact the recovery ability that you make with your workout protocol.
If you are someone who is constantly on their feet all day, stressing out your joints, muscles, and body as you are moving around performing labour work, as you might imagine, this isn't going to give your body the level of down time that would be ideal for a full recovery.
The more you move, the less rest that is taking place which may or may not mean that more rest is required between your workouts.
Obviously you cannot likely control how active you are due to your career, but you can control the other additional activities that you choose to participate in.
For instance, if you are playing team sports four nights out of the week and doing three full body workouts each week as well, you aren't exactly tending to the recovery element of your protocol so well.
You don't have to play team sports that often so cutting back would improve recovery.
Of course this all does come down to personal decisions if team sports is what you love and why you are doing strength training in the first place, it may be your workout sessions that get cut back instead.
Whatever the case, just note that your overall movement throughout the course of the week is going to be a big influencer in the degree of recovery that you make.
Finally, the last influence over the recovery that you are making will be your gender as well as your age. Males do tend to have better recovery rates than women do simply because of their higher testosterone levels.
Testosterone is the primary muscle building hormone in the body, so when it's higher, you will see greater muscle building, strength gains, and protein synthesis taking place.
At the same time though, males also tend to do more volume with their workout sessions, so there is a trade-off. More volume and more weight possibly means more time to recover from each session.
Secondly, older individuals tend to have a slower recovery system as well because again, their hormonal profile is starting to change (testosterone is decreasing) and their body simply can't take as much intensity and volume as it used to. When I was 24, I could move a tremendous amount of weight. I'm 43 now and I'm lucky to move a pair of 40 pound dumbbells from the rack to the bench press.
If you are wise with your program and don't attempt workouts that have you doing 30 sets per workout and in the gym for 60 minutes each time, you can significantly enhance your recovery.
Likewise, if you have trained well in your earlier years and your body is accustomed to doing more total volume and work, your recovery will be better as well.
But generally speaking, just note that older individuals will need to be more mindful of taking steps to ensure optimal recovery. Younger individuals can get by without having to do too much because their younger body can bounce back more easily (I know, it sucks).
So there you have all the main factors that are going to be influencing your recovery ability. Now let's move forward and talk about how you can make sure that your workout protocol is properly designed to foster optimal recovery.
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