By, Mark Wine BA; CSCS; USAW; NASM PT, PES, CES
Do you feel sore, stiff, exhausted, and broken down after every workout? If this is you, or even if this is not you, start paying attention to your recovery tactics with superior attentiveness.
Resistance Training and other variations of fitness / athletic training can cause elevated levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can lead to depression and cell destruction (catabolic). Training can also lead to extreme levels of lactic acid and/or hydrogen ion build up, which causes immediate and delayed fatigue. Lastly, training can lead to inelasticity within the soft tissue, tendons, and ligaments by training within a short range of motion (ROM); training with improper technique; and repetitive training of the same movement. No matter what the result may be from training sessions, we know that recovering post-workout is almost as essential as the training session itself.
First, it’s essential that you ingest whey protein powder with a high concentration of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) post-workout. When performing resistance training, weightlifting, and/or any form of explosive training make sure to include a high dosage of the Amino Acid leucine afterwards. 3-5 grams of leucine, at minimum, should be supplemented post-workout.
Another benefit of ingesting whey protein is in relation to cortisol and testosterone (T) levels; particularly free T. Metabolic stress significantly increases cortisol levels and can decrease free T levels. It is necessary to balance the levels between the two hormones. The goal is to rid the body of cortisol and increase free-T levels. Supplementing with Vitamin C post-workout has proven successful in clearing out cortisol levels within the body. To increase free T levels, supplement with Zinc, Vitamin D, and magnesium. Low free T levels can last for up to a couple days. Supplementing with the supplement “ZMA” can aid in replenishing free T levels.
Second, performing self-Myofascial Release (SMR) post workout is an essential step in recovering by creating greater levels of soft tissue elasticity. SMR is better known as “foam rolling.” Foam rolling should be like any other workout regimen, progression must be incorporated. Start with a “hard foam” foam roller for your first time rolling. The pain and discomfort you feel is adhesions and knots within the soft-tissue layer. These painful spots can only be broken up through foam rolling or deep-tissue massaging (i.e. ART). Once the “hard foam” roller seems to cause little to minimal discomfort, than the time has come to progress to a hard rubber or plastic roller. These rollers can even include trigger point technology.
Foam rolling is simple and complex at the same time. Post-workout foam rolling directions are as follows:
- Slowly roll along the muscles entire length.
- Stop and hold on any painful or tender spots until the pain has slightly subsided; approximately 30 seconds.
- Continue to roll along the entire muscle until all the spots have generally subsided.
- Static Stretch with 30 second holds.
The soft tissue therapy followed by static stretching will not only decrease soreness but it will lead to greater performance in the long run. And did I forget to mention that it can significantly reduce the risk of injury?
Third, a common misconception is that strength/hypertrophy/power increases are created during the lifting session. In actuality, these changes in muscle integrity are made during rest & recovery. Increasing blood flow to trained muscles is a common practice to aid in muscle recovery. The FireFly recover device stimulates the peroneal nerve (located near head of fibula) and deliver painless vibrations which leads to an increase in venous, arterial, and microcirculatory blood flow leading to a quicker recover for the Lower Body. Adding a FireFly device to your recovery routine will accelerate the return of Creatine Kinase to baseline levels, there for accelerating recovery and letting an athlete return to training faster (firefly).
Fourth, recovery between workouts is extremely important. Metabolic stress causes acute fatigue to the muscles that were most active during the workout. Sprinting, for example, causes lactic acid build up that can dramatically affect repetition performance. It can take up to two hours for lactic acid to completely clear out of the muscles that were exhausted. However, does this mean that you are able to repeat the same performance with the same power output two hours later? Not quite. A by-product of metabolic stress is creatine kinase. Creating kinase is a good tell of muscle damage and can be elevated throughout a 24 hour period post-training. Strength and power outputs will be significantly lowered because of the muscle damage.
Damaged muscles can take days to recover, particularly leg muscles. Training on damaged muscles and/or fatigued muscles will result in reduced performance and a heightened risk of injury. Therefore, it is important to the following four things:
- Supplement with the right nutrition (i.e. whey and BCAA) post-workout to recover and decrease soreness.
- Foam roll and stretch to increase elasticity and blood flow within the muscles.
- Utilize blood flow therapy, such as FireFly Recovery, as a stimulator to accelerate recovery
- Take at minimum a couple days in between similarly trained / focused workouts. Ex: do not perform two days in a row of resistance training on the legs; do not perform two days in a row of Plyometric or sprint training.
- Sikorsi, E. Changes in Perceived Recovery Status Scale Following High Volume, Muscle Damaging Resistance Exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: 2012.
- C. Martyn Beaven, C. Cook & D. Grey, et.al. “Electostimulation’s Enhancement of Recovery during a Rugby Preseason.” International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 8, 2013, 92-98