We live in a do more, not do less society, so it becomes engrained in us to ultra perform. How many training sessions can we fit in a week, how many events can we sign up to in a year! However by doing this, are you hindering your progression? I used to think that doing more would help with injury prevention and progression, but I’ve recently realised that it’s all about volume management and a structured training regime that aids recovery. My years of teaching classes and being physically active, alongside training clients for triathlons and marathons have taught me that rest is sometimes more not less! Every time I have seen either myself or a client go into overload, its always lead to an outcome of burn out or injury. By finding the right balance you can perfect your training needs and your results.
Let’s take a look at reasons why refuelling and resting can get you further than you think….
Rest day reasons:
- Tissue Repair
- Replenish Energy
- Prevents Burn out
- Decreases risk of injury – less volume
- Makes for a happier athlete
Building recovery time into any training program is important because this is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place. Recovery also allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Exercise or any other physical work causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen) as well as fluid loss.
Recovery time allows these stores to be replenished and allows tissue repair to occur. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise.
Keep in mind that there are two categories of recovery.
There is immediate (short-term) recovery from a particularly intense training session or event, and there is the long-term recovery that needs to be built into a year-round training schedule. Both are important for optimal sports performance.
So let’s talk about ensuring your body is well oiled fuelled machine and ready for the exercise you’re about to take on…
Just as a car runs best with a full tank of gas, your body needs the right kind of fuel from food in order to perform at its best. A balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, and water will give your body what it needs for peak performance. Let’s look at the early-morning exerciser, who hits the gym soon after jumping out of bed. It has been hours since his last meal, and his blood glucose is at the fasting level, this person is running on empty. When your “gas tank” is on empty, your body starts to break down amino acids from your muscle mass and converts them to glucose for energy. Instead of burning fat, you’re in danger of breaking down valuable muscle tissue.
To tap into those dreaded fat stores instead, eat something nutritious before you exercise, something slow releasing like oats would be ideal. People often assume that the best fuel for exercise—especially strength training—is protein. While protein plays an important role in muscle building and repair, carbohydrates are actually what keep your body energised during long workouts.
Carbohydrates are one of your body’s best fuel sources due to the efficient way they use oxygen. In fact, they use less oxygen for every kilocalorie of energy produced than either fats or proteins, which make them an important part of your diet if you are physically active, especially if you are an endurance athlete. So, how exactly does your body use carbohydrates?
The glycogen stores in your liver and muscles depend on your carbohydrate intake. Your body converts glycogen to glucose (a type of sugar), which your muscles use as a primary source of fuel during exercise. This means that your ability to exercise is limited by the amount of glucose in your body. After about 90 minutes of exercise, your body’s supply of glycogen is completely depleted, which puts you at a risk for “hitting the wall”, or feeling lethargic during your endurance event. If your body doesn’t have enough glycogen to sustain you, it will start to burn fat for energy. Fat burns at a much slower rate than carbohydrates, which will slow you down. All the more reason to eat some carbs before working out
It’s also essential to refuel after exercising with nutrients and a hydrating beverage, this is when you’ll want to bring protein and carbohydrates into the equation. Think of your body as a sponge after your workout: it is in an optimal state to absorb nutrients and begin the repair process. The muscles will be craving glycogen, electrolytes and water. Glycogen fuels your muscle cells and is transported to the muscles with water. So make sure you hydrate and add some electrolytes to your diet.
Don’t forget protein. Research has found that adding a small amount of protein—approximately 15 to 25 grams—to a recovery meal will speed your muscle recovery, and protein is critical if you skimp out on the recommended carbohydrate intake of 0.5 grams/pound needed to recover properly. Consuming protein in addition to carbohydrate will help repair muscles, increase the amount of protein in your muscles, and help you adapt to your training (i.e. the next time you tackle the same, hard effort, it will feel a little bit easier). Did you know that muscle rebuilds over night? Getting some quality protein in your evening meal is a must do after a training day. Try greek yoghurt or cottage cheese as these contain casein which is a slow releasing protein.