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Whilst training is a key factor in the success of an elite athlete, recovery is another aspect which cannot be ignored. Neglecting to perform the appropriate recovery following a training session can have detrimental effects on athlete performance in the following days.
Effective recovery includes multiple physical and nutritional components and is a process that can prevent negative consequences for up to three days post exercise.
WAIS physiologists Martyn Binnie and Paul Goods said the after effects of a training session can take up to 24 hours to be felt but can then be evidenced for up to 48 hours after depending on the training type, intensity and duration.
"Resynthesis of collagen (structural protein in connective tissue of bone, tendon, ligament, etc.) can be impacted up to 36 hours post-exercise, and muscle soreness (also known as delayed onset muscle soreness [DOMS]) typically manifests from 24 to 48 hours post-exercise, and even up to 72 hours post-exercise in some cases,” Binnie said.
Thus it is clear that even though you may not feel the need for recovery directly after a session, it is crucial that it is still performed in order to stop or minimize the delayed onset of soreness and help avoid the accumulation of negative impacts over the course of the training week.
Research has found that the physical recovery methods which should be used following a weights session differ from those which should be used after a high intensity/impact session, due to the purpose of each type of exercise.
"Cold-water immersion has traditionally been the recommended gold standard recovery from most sessions. However, new evidence shows that cold water may actually blunt some of the adaptations from strength training and the use of cold water therapy must be more strategic” Binnie said.
WAIS physiology provided the example that following a weights session it is recommended that athletes engage in recovery methods which gently flush blood around the body, promoting movement around large muscle groups. Some possible methods include:
- 15 – 20 minutes of active recovery, such as a walk or cycle.
- Hot/cold contrast water therapy with more time in the hot bath, eg. 2 minutes hot to 1 minute cold.
With non-strength based sessions, it has been found that as the impact or intensity of the training heightens, it is important that there is a higher focus placed on recovery in order to reduce side effects such as inflammation. Good forms of recovery for high impact/intensity sessions can include:
- Hot/cold contrast water therapy with more time in the cold bath, eg. 2 minutes cold to 1 minute hot.
- 10 – 15 minutes straight in the cold bath.
- Light active recovery, such as a walk or cycle, with stretching (if water therapy is not available).
In conjunction with physical recovery methods, WAIS sports dietitians recommend athletes consume a recovery snack within 20 to 30 minutes of finishing their training session.
This snack should contain both a protein and carbohydrate source to aid in muscle recovery, whilst it should be low in fat, as fat slows down the speed of absorption.
If a snack is not consumed within the 20 to 30 minute window the recovery process can be delayed as the muscles have time to continue to breakdown, slowing their ability to repair.
Some good recovery snacks can include:
- Up and Go Energise
- Chocolate Flavoured Milk
- Cereal and Milk
- Smoothie made with milk, yoghurt and fruit.
- Tuna on Toast or Crackers
- Yoghurt with Fruit
- Banana and a Glass of Milk
Hydration is also crucial to recovery straight after a session. Sports drinks, water and milk are all good sources for immediate rehydration.
Martyn Binnie highlighted the importance of wide-range of methods to best assist post-session recovery.
"The recovery process is long (up to 72 hours) after a training session, so attention must be given to your food and fluid intake, sleep, and musculoskeletal system (ie. Stretch, foam roller, trigger point, etc.) to limit the residual impact of training carrying over into your next session,” he explained.
In the one to two hours following a training session WAIS Sports Dietitian Terreen Stenvers suggested that athletes eat a healthy balanced meal containing a protein and carbohydrate source, in order to continue the recovery process. They should also continue to regularly hydrate throughout the course of the day.
WAIS Physiologists say that sleep is one of the most important forms of recovery together with the scheduling of rest days. This is important as it allows the body to return to relative equilibrium prior to restarting the training process.
"The more sleep the better,” Binnie said. "Some professional athletes such as Roger Federer and Lebron James report getting 11 plus hours of sleep per night.”
With work and study commitments making this range difficult for many athletes, Binnie recommends that athletes aim for nine to ten hours of sleep per night, using short (less than 20 minute) naps during the day to add to the daily sleep total.
"As a rule of thumb, try to nap before 3pm, to avoid impacting the night’s sleep onset and keep them short to avoid dropping into a deep sleep cycle where you can end up feeling worse,” he advised.
The final step in the recovery process begins ahead of your next training session.
Origonalypublusihed by the West Australia Institute Of Sport - Annika Lee-Jones
UWA Sport Marketing Communications and Events
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