Hockey, soccer, football, tennis, and virtually any sport on the planet utilizes your body and places stress upon it. Whether it be through your legs from running or your arms from throwing or swinging a bat, sports place unique stressors on the human body and its associated tissues.
While stress in the typical sense is bad, the stresses the body endures during sports actually promote increases in overall health. Stress upon muscles causes microtears which are a necessary component of muscle growth. Weight-bearing exercises place stress on bones which causes bones to respond by increasing in density. Aerobic exercise places strain on the circulatory system which results in better blood flow and blood pressure.
While exercising incites all of these changes, it is during the recovery phase that the body actually gets to work improving the tissues of the body. Because this is the period of time after exercise or a sporting event is important to get right. Below are eight tips for taking care of your body after exercise. With proper recovery, you ensure your body is getting the most out of every workout and that your body is prepared to work hard again.
When playing a sport it is important to stay hydrated as water loss through sweat increases as physical activity level increases. With a large percentage of the human body consisting of water, it is important to ensure your body has the appropriate fluid levels. Blood pressure, skin moisture, and the digestive system require water to function appropriately.
An equally important reason as to why you need to stay hydrated is to facilitate better recovery. Water is considered to be the universal solvent because it can dissolve many different compounds. Within the human body, water is utilized heavily as a means of transporting molecules throughout the body. When cells need to be repaired, they need a high amount of building blocks and ways to get rid of waste products. Staying hydrated allows the body to efficiently heal because the cells are getting all the assistance they need.
Post activity nutrition
Like hydration, there is a large emphasis on the importance of nutrition when you are physically active. Ensuring you are getting enough calories is important to function at your best, but this is only a small part of sports nutrition.
The human body requires a large number of different molecules, vitamins, and nutrients to function at its very best. This becomes especially true when your body enters the recovery phase. Many crucial components to the healing and recovery process require good nutrition to undergo efficiently. If you are deficient in one or more nutrients, it could lead to suboptimal recovery and prolong the process.
In addition to getting adequate nutrition, the timing of getting this nutrition also matters. Post-workout nutrition has gained quite a bit of attention lately and for good reason. When you work out, your body relies on energy from the foods that you consume before a workout. During recovery, your body needs the building blocks like amino acids to build back muscle. By focusing on a post-workout meal you are making these building blocks readily available to these cells that need them which could potentially aid in recovery.
While eating a heavily nutritious meal is ideal in this situation, it isn’t always the most feasible. A great way to get assistance with your nutritional needs is to find reputable supplements to help give your body the nutrition it needs. MitoQ for instance is a great daily supplement that rejuvenates the energy centers of your cells known as the mitochondria. Recovery is an energy-intensive process and by taking MitoQ you allow the mitochondria within your cells to meet energy demands necessary for recovery.
Rest is perhaps the most important part of recovery. As stated, exercise places stress and micro damages to the body. When rest is foregone and strenuous exercise is continually endured it can increase the risk of injury and hinder your recovery. While it is generally okay to have back-to-back exercises, it is important to schedule rest days.
It can be easy to skip rest when you are passionate about your sport but it is a crucial component to allowing you to enjoy it for as long as you can. Even the strongest and most elite athletes schedule periods of rest as it plays an important role in the recovery process.
Rest is important because it limits the amount of further damage and allows your body to have the time to properly heal, recover, and grow. While the standard rest period consists of inactivity, there is emerging evidence that active recovery is better suited for the best recovery.
Active recovery is essentially taking your rest day and adding some kind of low-intensity exercise. Active recovery is thought to improve healing through increasing fluid flow across tissues. As a general rule, active recovery should be relatively non-intense and only get your heart rate to about 50% of its maximum while you work out.
Getting enough sleep is important for many aspects of your health. Getting enough sleep is linked to more energy, a stronger immune system, mental clarity and focus, and better overall health.
Quality sleep is also an incredibly important aspect of recovery following a sporting event. Preceding and following a big game it is important to give your body the time and resources it needs to function at its best. Sleep is one of the best ways to accomplish this.
When you sleep the body undergoes a number of restorative processes. These restorative processes seem to include some that are needed for recovery. One study even hypothesized that a decrease in sleep resulted in hindered muscle recovery.
Getting a good night’s sleep following a sporting event is an effective and easy way to take care of your body after a strenuous game or event. Give your body the rest and sleep it needs to recover and function at its very best.
While nutrition through the foods you eat is the best source of vitamins, minerals, and nutrition; it isn’t always feasible to get absolutely everything your body needs through diet. One great example is those that are vegetarian. Vegetarians avoid eating meat that contains the essential vitamin known as B12. Without meat or other animal products, many vegetarians choose to supplement B12 through a multivitamin.
Vegetarians and B12 are just one instance in which supplements are utilized. Whether you are too busy to plan out meals or are looking for beneficial molecules supplements can be extremely helpful especially during recovery. Supplements for sports recovery for instance have the ability to fortify your body with the building blocks your cells need to recover effectively without having to prepare a complex meal. While supplements are not substitutes for a healthy diet, they can be incredibly helpful in ensuring your body has the tools it needs.
Promoting blood flow
There are many different stereotypes surrounding recovery that seem to have contradicting messages. One of the most controversial of which is the utilization of cold therapy vs heat therapy. You have more than likely seen athletes take a cold plunge in an ice bath immediately following a tough game or event. While this can lead people to believe that icing promotes healing and recovery, in reality, it does little to actually assist in the recovery process.
There are many different stereotypes surrounding recovery that seem to have contradicting messages. One of the most controversial of which is the utilization of cold therapy vs heat therapy. You have more than likely seen athletes take a cold plunge in an ice bath immediately following a tough game or event. Taking an ice bath is most commonly utilized as a means of reducing inflammation following intense activity which can reduce some of the discomforts an athlete encounters.
Another way to support recovery is to promote blood flow to the affected tissues of the body. Compression, active recovery, and massage are all ways that an individual can promote blood flow. This in addition to heat therapy like a hot bath can help promote blood flow.
The increase in blood flow works by increasing the exchange of nutrients, minerals, and other essential molecules with the affected cells. A great way to think about the healing process is to think of the recovering tissue as a worksite. The faster you are able to deliver materials and remove waste products, the more efficient the process of building becomes.
In summary, sporting events can be a fun and exhilarating way to get in your physical activity. While it is fun, it is important to understand that participating in sports should be treated in the same manner that you would a workout. Your body is being tried and tested and needs time and resources to recover and grow properly.
By staying hydrated, eating well, taking rest periods, getting adequate amounts of sleep, the use of supplements, and promoting blood flow you give your body the best chance of recovering successfully.
Reviewed by: Kai Man Yuen/ BSc., PGDipSci., MSc.