In the last recovery Blog post, located here, we talked about some great recovery techniques, including stress reduction, sleep, meditation and breathing, and restorative yoga.
Today, I am going to share with you what I think are the most important points regarding nutrition, hydration, supplements, and home remedies as it relates to recovery.
Tidewater Physical Therapy and the Tidewater Performance Center are pleased to offer a nutritionist, Tracy Conder, that works with us out of the Performance Center. I hear she does an excellent job. She’s degreed, certified, a group fitness instructor, mother and well respected sports dietitian. Therefore, I am not going to go into too much detail here on daily eating or the specifics of what foods to eat. Tracy can do that for you in a highly personalized way. Learn more about her services here.
Instead, I am going to briefly talk about the importance of eating around your workouts and its impact on your recovery.
Proper recovery nutrition happens all day long, but is especially important prior to and immediately after your workouts. We want to make sure that we have enough energy to complete the workout so we need to have a plan for the specific workout we are going to engage in. The plan should support your body in the energy sources that you’ll be using during your workout. For example, if we are engaging in a higher-intensity workout, we’ll want to make sure that we take in enough fluid and carbohydrates to ensure that we don’t create a massive glycogen deficit. If we use too much glycogen and don’t have enough fuel to make more, it will be much harder to overcome and will ultimately interfere with our recovery efforts.
Your “recovery window” is open widest in the first two hours after exercise. Specifically for carbohydrates, the more you consume in the first 30 minutes after exercise will lead to higher glycogen levels than if you wait the full 2 hours after the workout. Therefore, it’s important that we have an appropriate recovery snack and that it is timed well. The recovery snack should include: carbohydrates to supply and replenish energy in the form of glycogen, proteins to deliver amino acids for rebuilding muscle fibers, and fats to help carry vitamins to the cells.
Again, for more specifics on the above information or anything else nutrition, please contact Tracy Conder through the Tidewater Performance Center at 757.223.5612.
There is an old tried and true adage that helps us to check our levels of dehydration….checking our urine. For appropriate hydration, we should be in the light-colored or almost clear area. If the urine is yellow or even brown, it can indicate dehydration. The only problem with this is that it is too reactive in nature. By the time we see that we are urinating yellow or brown, we are already dehydrated.
Dehydration definitely leads to poor performance. When we are dehydrated, our heart rate rises to pump smaller volumes of blood to working muscles. Therefore, our effort feels harder than it really is. It is very important to hydrate both during and after workouts. The best way to hydrate during workouts is to let thirst be your guide. When you feel like you might be thirsty, drink. Be sure to have water or other sports drinks with electrolytes readily available.
After workouts, we need to replenish the fluids that we lost. The best way to do this is to weigh ourselves before and after our workouts. For every pound lost, we should be drinking 16-24 ounces of sports drinks that help us to replenish water and other electrolytes that we lost during the workout. By staying properly hydrated, we can combat overtraining and be sure to perform at our best during the next workout.
As far as supplements go, the logic in taking them is to cover deficiencies in your diet. One big thing to remember is supplements are not subject to Food and Drug Administration approval. Supplements on the shelf at the store most likely have not undergone rigorous testing because producers are not required to substantiate claims about their proposed effectiveness.
Yet, there is a third-party nonprofit organization called US Pharmacopeia (USP), which tests a products purity, strength, and manufacturing standards. Look for the USP seal on supplements before you buy them. I’m not saying this is absolute, but if I had a choice of buying one brand that has a USP seal versus another that doesn’t, I’m going to buy the one that has been tested every time.
What you need to know is that with all the research out there on the millions of supplements at GNC and Vitamin World, there are really only a few that actually perform as claimed. They include creatine, caffeine, sports drinks/bars/gels, and protein supplements.
Creatine is best used to help in muscular recovery for high-intensity low duration type workouts or sports. For example, creatine might work better for a football player or a hockey player than it would for a marathon runner. Protein supplements have been debated as to whether or not they are truly necessary. Many think that a good diet of lean protein from healthy sources tends to be enough for even a very athletic individual. In my opinion, if you are a weight-lifter and your goal is to build more lean muscle, protein can help. If you end up taking too much, no worries, you will just eliminate it.
Compression clothing, such as Under Armour, can actually help with our recovery. Lower extremity compression clothing aims to improve venous return by enhancing the natural pumping action of the calf muscles. This may not be as useful for the upper extremity clothing because the venous return is much better due to location of the arms in relation to the heart as well as the smaller size of the vessels in the arms.
Some studies have been done on the compression clothing, where the garments were found to contribute less to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) if worn following exercise. In my opinion, if you like the way the material makes you feel because it wicks sweat away and should keep the skin at a better temperature, you go ahead and use it. Another thing to keep in mind is how long the garments will maintain the appropriate compression. Keep compression garments for about 6 months or 50 washes, depending on how often they are used and washed.
I love hearing patients ask me about creams such as Ben-Gay, Icy-Hot, and Biofreeze. They are usually used for minor aches and pains. These creams DO NOT HEAL. The effect they have is usually to confuse the nerve endings at the site of application, drawing attention away from the original issue and to the skin. Again, if you like the way this stuff makes you feel, go ahead and use it. Just remember, these creams WILL NOT HEAL YOUR PROBLEM.
I also like hearing about soaking feet in Epsom salts. Usually the people who are talking about soaking their feet have increased swelling and should not be leaving their feet in a dependent position (below the heart) at the end of a long painful day of walking. Instead, these people should be icing their feet in an elevated position to decrease inflammation.
As far as taking total body baths in Epsom salts for recovery purposes, I’m not totally against the practice, but I’m not sold on its true benefits either. In essence, the bath itself, not the salts, may have the best recovery effect. The water’s natural hydrostatic pressure can help your body reduce inflammation and swelling after an intense workout. In addition, a warm bath is relaxing and can be great for your mind. Apparently, the addition of salts can heighten the feeling of floating in the bath. Bottom line is taking warm baths for recovery is great and using a cup or two of Epsom salts won’t hurt you.
In the next Blog post, we will discuss active recovery, cold and heat, massage, and tech aids.
Remember, pain-free first, then performance.
Sometimes you need to go easy to go hard. Always live lift stronger.
*Michael Satterley is a doctor of physical therapy and the Director of Sports Therapy Programs at Tidewater’s Performance Center / Oyster Point Physical Therapy Clinic in Newport News.