The Importance of Recovery

Recovery is an integral part of any workout schedule. It can come in the form of rest days, active recovery days or a whole week break from exercise. It enables your body to repair itself, allowing for improved performance. It prepares the body for the next session and decreases the chance of injury.

Skipping rest can lead to fatigue and burnout from overtraining. If after working out for the week, your muscles feel fine, your central nervous system might still be fatigued. This can affect your form, resulting in bad movement patterns, leading to injury.

 

Factors effecting recovery

Sleep

woman, asleep, girl

A lack of sleep affects the regulation and production of hormones for recovery.

When we sleep the pituitary gland releases growth hormone, this stimulates muscle repair and tissue growth. However, lack of sleep or quality of sleep can lead to reduced production of growth hormone. A lack of sleep can also lead to increased cortisol, which is a stress hormone. This reduces testosterone production, decreasing muscle protein synthesis. Both hormones will affect physical performance and recovery.

 

Mental Fatigue and Stress

laptop, woman, education

Mental fatigue and stress go hand in hand, they can have a huge impact on physical performance and recovery. This study shows that mental stress not only affects recovery but slows it down by several times. We know that stress is unavoidable due to life circumstances. If you feel stressed it may be a good idea to take it easy for a few days as the injury risk is increased. This is linked to cortisol release, as it is a stress hormone, which lowers testosterone, impeding recovery.

 

Hydration

glass, water, drink

Many people drink adequate water whilst training, but other than that they don’t drink enough water. Not only is water approximately 70% of the body, but it helps with many bodily processes. It is important to top up on fluids every few hours, and you should aim for a gallon (4 Litres) of water a day. It is recommended to drink a glass of water with each meal as it assists digestion. Water is also essential in regulating body temperature and maintaining blood volume. A low water consumption affects muscle repair and workout performance.

 

Nutrition

salad, figs, cheese

Nutrition will differ for each person, to suit their body type, fitness goals and training schedule.

However, a few factors to consider for your nutrition are:

 

Protein

Protein is an essential building block of muscle. It is recommended that you consume 0.7g-1g per pound of bodyweight a day. This is proven to be sufficient to help increase muscle mass and strength. Consuming protein right after a workout or just before bed is most effective for muscle growth and maintenance.

 

Fats

Fats will need to take up a healthy amount of your daily caloric intake. For example, if on a weight loss regime, they should account for 20-35% of your calories. Fats are essential for the regulation of hormones, controlling your mood and weight regulation.

 

Carbohydrates (Carbs)

Carbs are often over-looked when people are creating a nutrition plan. They are the body’s primary energy source, allowing you to smash your workouts. However, too high a carb intake can lead to fat gain, as the unused carbs will be stored in the body.

 

Supplements

Zinc is integral in the production of testosterone and immune function. Testosterone is vital for tissue repair, muscle building and strength improvements. The better your immune system is functioning, the less you are likely to get sick. Meaning there is less chance you will have to skip a workout due to illness and halt your progress.

Omega 3 fatty acids, these are found in fish oils or can be bought in capsule form. Omega 3 has acts as an anti-inflammatory, reducing inflammation and accelerating the healing process after working out.

Magnesium is not as recognised as a useful supplement. It promotes muscle relaxation, bone health, nerve function and synthesis of proteins and fats.

 

For a more in-depth nutrition guide on a weight loss journey, check out our other blog post 6 Ways to get Lean Today.

 

Signs you need a rest day

Aching muscles for longer than 2 days

Irritability- Usually due to higher stress levels.

Low Motivation- Especially when it comes to workouts.

Lack of focus

Sustained injuries- Especially if they are affecting your workouts

Trouble sleeping- Often leads to grogginess in the morning, making it harder to get up.

 

How many rest days should you take?

This will depend on the type of training you are performing.

 

Running

running, woman, race

If your choice of training is running for example, you’ll need more rest, a recommended 1-2 days a week. This is to allow your joints to recover as you will often be putting them under immense stress. This is due to the impact when running on hard ground. However, other cardio exercise such as swimming, won’t require as much rest. As the joints won’t be put under much stress as there is not body to ground impact when swimming. However, it is still recommended to take at least 1 day of rest a week, to let your muscles recuperate.

 

Weightlifting/Powerlifting

gym, lift, training

Other training methods, such as weightlifting or powerlifting, won’t require much rest. This is due to the workout schedule working out different muscles on different days. For example, when you’re training your upper body, your lower body will be resting and vice versa. Although, it is still recommended to take 1 day of rest a week at least, to allow your nervous system to recover.

If you’re doing a full body workout, we recommend doing this every other day, so you’ll be training 3 times a week. This may not seem like enough, but full body workouts are usually longer and more taxing on the body. Training 3 times a week provides the body with adequate rest time to repair for your next session. As well as supporting growth and strength improvements.

Exercises like walking and yoga are more gentle on the body and there is no problem doing these sorts of activities every day.

 

What to do on rest days

A great way to utilise rest days in by taking part in active recovery sessions. Activities like yoga or light walks are perfect for active recovery. It’s all about increasing blood flow, which in turn flushes out the lactic acid that has built up from working out.

Foam rolling and stretching is also great for muscle recovery, although often a painful one! Benefits range from increased joint range of motion, alleviating muscle soreness and flushing out lactic acid from muscles.

Benefits of rest days

Reduces risk of injury

Without regular rest days, your body will quickly become over worked, impeding on your performance. This can be shown by a loss of form, often leading to injury. Overuse of muscles will also lead to injury, as they won’t be able to recovery from the repeated stress of training.

 

Prevents muscle fatigue

Rest days enable your body to restore glycogen levels in your muscles. Glycogen is essential for your muscles to operate. If the levels are too low, you will experience muscle fatigue which will affect your workouts.

 

Allows muscle repair and growth

Working out creates tears in muscle tissue which is only repaired when the muscle is allowed to rest. The muscle’s energy source, glycogen, is also restored during rest. The repaired muscle is now stronger and prepared for your next session.

 

Improves performance

A lack of rest has a detrimental effect on energy levels. This leads to reduced muscle endurance, making you unable to reach your goals for the session. You may feel less motivated to make that last rep or last sprint, hindering your progress. Sufficient rest increases energy levels, allowing you to push that bit extra, required for progression.