There are many different elements that contribute to the build of a successful athlete, but few are as important as preparedness.
Make no mistake; athletes must perform with great attention to detail at every stage of their journey, from the pre-workout nutrition that they consume to the way in which they warm and cool down their muscles.
Not only do these details help to optimise your athletic performance, but they also play a pivotal role in aiding your post-workout recovery. This is crucial, as regular, high-intensity workouts can leave you walking like a Dalek and struggling to mount the stairs if you're not careful.
In this post, we'll take a look at some actionable recovery tips for athletes, while asking how they can help you to steal a competitive edge in your chosen field.
Don't Skip on Stretching – Warm your Muscles up in the Right Way
Like the rest of us, athletes live busy lifestyle, particularly those who are not professional and must combine their endeavours will a full-time job.
This may encourage some to cut corners when training, with the underrated warm-up arguably one of the first routines to be dispensed with.
This is a false economy, as stretching your muscles and warming up thoroughly prior to your workout is crucial if you're to optimise your performance and aid recovery.
For example, let's say that you fail to stretch your calf muscles or ankles before participating in a body pump class. This will leaves your ankles feeling extremely tight, while making it almost impossible to go deep enough in a squat and reap the benefits of this particular exercise.
The same principle can be applied to different muscle groups and workouts, while the failure to warm-up adequately can even cause injury in the worst case scenario.
So why exactly is stretching and the often dreaded warm-up so important? In simple terms, it gently prepares the body for high intensity workouts, initially by increasing your heart-rate and circulation levels.
This increases the blood flow to the muscles and enhances performance, while also minimising the risk of experiencing strains or tears as your exercise.
Stretching is particularly important, as this can be an extremely effective way of relieving muscular tension and reducing the time required for individual muscles to recover. This will also reduce soreness and stiffness, while simultaneously reducing cholesterol levels in the human body.
The key, apart from making time for the warm-up of course, is to include a combination of stretching exercises and cardiovascular activities prior to exercise.
This helps to create a physical and mental state that supports an intensive workout, as well as aiding short-term recovery and enabling you to train regularly at the optimal level.
CBD for Recovery – How Supplements Aid your Physical and Mental State
If you're unfamiliar with Cannabidiol (or CBD), this is a natural compound derived from hemp that is increasingly used as a dietary supplement.
In fact, its popularisation among athletes has seen demand soar throughout the world, with the U.S. market alone set to drive sales of $512.7 million by the end of 2018.
One of the main benefits of consuming CBD oil is that it actively aids both physical and mental recovery post-workout, particularly in terms of your diet and managing conditions such as inflammation and fatigue.
We'll explore this in further detail, as we consider the precise role that CBD can play in aiding recovery.
1# Use CBD to Control and Regulate your Appetite
When it comes to diet, the types and quantities of food that you consume must be tailored to suit your training and performance regimes. The issue is that intensive training can create a ravenous appetite, which may in turn encourage you to consume calories of any description post-workout.
The consumption of CBD supplements can help with this, as it naturally curbs your appetite and ensures that you seek out high protein and low fat food items rather than the nearest edibles you can get your hands on!
This allows you to strike the ideal balance between consuming an optimal amount of calories and minimising your fat or sugar intake, improving performance and maximising energy levels in the process.
It also ensures that you're able to effectively manage your weight during intensive training and competition, even in instances where your calorie intake increases markedly.
So how does the consumption of CBD help to achieve this? Interestingly, it stimulates the CB2 receptors located throughout the body as part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), impacting directly on the function of organs such as the brain, liver and pancreas. It even interacts with fat tissue, creating a deep of involvement with numerous aspects of your body's metabolism.
2# Consumer CBD to Combat Post-workout Inflammation
On a similar note, some studies have proven that CBD can play a pivotal role in improving insulin function, thanks primarily to its ability to combat chronic inflammation. This is considered to be a key trigger for insulin resistance, which can contribute to the onset of conditions such as diabetes over time.
The relationship between CBD and inflammation is certainly an interesting one, particularly to an athlete who places their body under physical strain in the pursuit of competitive goals.
In general terms, inflammation is considered to be a perfectly normal and healthy cellular process. In fact, it's how our body defends us from infections, as white blood cells are quarantined and flooded with toxic chemicals in order to destroy foreign bodies and parasites.
For athletes who train intensively and compete frequently, however, there's a significant risk that inflammation will be stimulated regularly and over a sustained period of time.
In this instance, it can quickly become chronic, causing long-term damage to tissues and cells and potentially triggering the onset of conditions such as arthritis and heart disease in extreme cases.
In this respect, both THC and CBD can help to minimise inflammation in the human form. These compounds are ideally suited to tackling different types and triggers of inflammation, however, with the latter effective at managing digestive issues and, most prominently, muscle recovery.
CBD, which unlike THC is a non-psychoactive agent, certainly has the capacity to affect DNA expression in a way that leads to the suppression of inflammation, protecting the joints and muscles in the wake of intense exercise.
We must also remember that the CBD interacts frequently with the CB2 receptors located throughout the body, effectively acting as neuromodulators for numerous human processes.
Your immune response represents a relevant case in point, meaning that the consumption of cannabidiol can minimise the risk of infection in first instance and negate the impact that fatigue or illness can have on your training and performance regimes.
With this in mind, CBD is capable of maintaining the optimal function of your immune system at all times, helping you to prepare effectively for competition and drive recovery during periods of downtime.
Unfortunately, science has yet to find a way of eliminating fatigue or those pesky common colds. Even finely-tuned athletes are not completely immune to illness, ailments and the onset of inflammation, but cannabidiol can at least help them to manage their recovery and achieve their individual physical goals.
More specifically, CBD enables athletes to assume greater control of various processes that impact on their recovery, from controlling their appetite to optimising immune responses and reducing inflammation.
Get Serious About Pre-workout Nutrition – Feed your Body Right
We've already touched about the importance of fuelling your body with the right number of calories, but it's also important to ensure that your diet includes the requisite nutritional levels to support your workouts.
Make no mistake; the foods that you eat prior to working out or competing are crucial, as they help to regulate energy levels while also pre-empting the tissue-rebuilding process and optimising your powers of recovery.
It's also important to note that digestion is a relatively complex and lengthy process, and the foods that you consume prior to working out will continue to circulate throughout your body for a considerable period of time.
This is why the type of food that you consume is key, as is the timing of your pre-workout meal.
We'd recommend eating around two to three hours prior to exercise, as this helps you to leverage the nutritional value of the foods that you consume and avoid any digestive cramps or discomfort. This is key to performance, and the quality of your recovery after the warm down.
In terms of the type of food that you eat, striving to consume a balanced meal with lean protein and complex carbohydrates is pivotal.
This is particularly true if you're about to participate in an intense workout, during which you'll need to rely on glycogen stores as your main source of energy.
Glycogen represents the way on which the body processes and stores glucose, primarily in the liver and muscles.
This is why complex carbohydrates play such a pivotal role in your pre-workout diet, as they are effectively turned into glucose (or blood-sugar) in the body and subsequently utilised as energy for exercise.
Complex carbohydrates are often found in food items such as beans, whole grains and green vegetables, so you should strive to use these frequently as part of your pre-workout diet plan.
The Post-workout Shake – Fuelling your Recovery
Most athletes face a challenging conundrum post-workout, as while they're hardly inclined to prepare a balanced and healthy meal they also to consume quick and nutritious calories having not eaten for a few hours.
So how do you tackle this issue? The answer lies in the delightful form of the post-workout shake, which provides you access to quick and effective sustenance that replenishes your body's resources and aids muscle recovery.
More specifically, consuming a protein-based shake in the first 30 minutes following a workout can begin to repair any micro-tears that may have appeared in specific muscle groups.
This not only drives short-term physical recovery, but it also ensures that your muscles grow strongly and consistently over a sustained period of time.
Protein is clearly the most popular ingredient in any post-workout shake, thanks largely due to the fact that it's convenient, easy to mix and provides a rapid absorption rate that helps you body to recover quicker.
This should be combined with simple carbohydrates, either as part of the same shake or a subsequent alternative.
This is because simple carbs effectively kick-start the recovery and muscle growth process, particularly following a harsh or intense workout.
Depending on your bodyweight, you should aim to consumer between 20 and 50 grams of protein following each workout, while it's recommended that women operate at the lower end of this spectrum.
You should also strive to consume between 25 and 35 grams of simple, fast-acting carbs, which will also help to replenish your glycogen levels and restore your flagging energy levels.
This will have a significant impact on the quality of your recovery, and you'll definitely begin to notice the benefits over time.
Take the Plunge and Get into an Ice Bath
Last, but not least, we come to the dreaded ice bath, which is arguably the least popular aspect of any post-workout recovery.
Unfortunately, it just so happens to be one of the most effective, and one that athletes like Andy Murray have come to swear by as part of their fitness regime.
The physical benefits of an ice bath are as comprehensive as they are diverse, as this process immediately reduces any swelling that you've experienced during your workout.
It also flushes any excess lactic acid out of the body and tired muscles, preventing cramping or unnecessary soreness.
This is because the cold causes your blood vessels to tighten, revitalising your muscles in the process and driving a far quicker (and more efficient) recovery.
So, while it may be the very last thing you want to do after an intense workout or contest, it remains one of the most effective ways of aiding muscle recovery.
The Last Word
So there you have it; our guide to driving a quick and efficient recovery as an athlete!
These simple, actionable steps will help you recover in the right way following an intensive workout, while also aiding sustained muscle growth and improved performance over time.
The key to remember is that recovery is influenced by a number of different factors, from the food that you consume to the use of CBD supplements.
So, preparation is key, with attention to detail often separating great athletes from underachievers.