Recovery is the backside of the fence of reaping maximum performance and health rewards from exercise. The three pillars of healthy lifestyle: sleep, nutrition, and hydration are essential to optimize you gains from exercise in muscle strength, size, and endurance. They also shorten your recovery time between workouts and likely reduce your risk of injury.
On a physiologic level, dehydration leads to reduced blood flow to the contracting muscle, alterations in muscle metabolism, and impediments in thermoregulation. In terms of function, decreased hydration decreases strength, power, and high intensity endurance (2,3). Small studies suggest that dehydration during exercise also correlates to increased muscle damage. (4) Increases in the severity of muscle damage are in turn linked to prolonged recovery.
Fluid loss with exercise ideally should be replaced during exercise, particularly if exercising for more than 1 hour, and definitely after exercise. Water flushes toxins out of the body, transports nutrients into the cells and helps regulate body temperature and pH balance. Studies suggest that hydration status is an important variable in minimizing exercise related muscle damage and maximizing recovery, but more research needs to be performed to fully characterize the benefit.
Optimal sleep is a cornerstone of exercise recovery. Sleep plays a critical role in emotional health, hormones including growth hormone and testosterone (5,6,7), immune function, and muscle recovery. During sleep, your body produces Growth Hormone (GH) which is largely responsible for tissue growth and repair.
Sleep duration correlates to performance, including reaction time, sprint time, strength, and endurance. Increased sleep time by 1-2 hours has been shown to increase energy, increase sprint times in running and swimming, and increase muscle endurance.(8) Decreased sleep is strongly associated with increased risk of musculoskeletal injury. Sleeping less than 7 hours per night for 2 weeks or longer is linked to a 1.7 fold risk on musculoskeletal injury. (9)
Ideally, you should get 8 hours of sleep each night. It is also best to go to sleep before 11 PM and at a consistent time each night.
Clean and balanced nutrition is a key element in optimizing your response to exercise. Clean nutrition includes
-1 lean protein (lean chicken, non-shellfish, lean turkey, tofu, nonfat Greek Yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, egg whites, legumes, quinoa),
-2 vegetables (excluding starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes) and some preferably low glycemic fruit (ex. Berries or kiwis), and
-3 healthy unsaturated fats (ex. non-shellfish, raw nuts, avocado, and olive oil)
Remember that all human minds follow the path of greatest convenience. Plan and prepare you snack and meals at the beginning of a week. This makes it easier to follow the nutrition plan that will maximize your benefit from exercise
Pre-workout nutrition (1- 4 hours before the workout) should include protein and a slowly digested, low glycemic index carbohydrate. For example, high protein wheat bread and peanut butter or turkey and 8 ounces of water. This combination of nutrients ensures adequate nutrient stores and avoids a surge in insulin before a workout that may lead to hypoglycemia. (10) Some studies suggest that combining protein and low glycemic carbohydrates before workouts may increase endurance (11) and speed (12).
Post-workout nutrition -within an hour of exercise- should include a larger snack or meal that focuses on protein, carbohydrates, and hydration. The body is constantly synthesizing and degrading muscle. The two factors that favor muscle synthesis are exercise and protein ingestion. Particularly in this period of muscle recovery you want to have adequate protein to favor muscle synthesis. We recommend consuming 25 – 40g of protein post workout. The ingestion of carbohydates replenishes our bodies carbohydrate stores that exist in the form of glycogen. It is important to note that there is significant variation among individuals and within an individual over the span of decades. Also the data on nutrition and exercise performance is limited and correspondingly, should be lightly held.
Dr Brad Rabin and Dr Hiroyu Hatano provide concierge primary care medicine for patients throughout the Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Los Altos, Woodside, and Portola Valley. The goal of the practice is to integrate nutrition and exercise physiology along with innovative diagnostics to provide the best preventive concierge care in the Bay Area.