Strategies to Recover
Jeremiah Chapman CSCS, SCCC, Pn-1
As the new year begins, many people have the common goal to get in better shape. Unfortunately, for the majority of the world they have no idea where to begin. Most will get a gym membership and hit it hard until February, only to give up and fall back into their old routines.
As a high school athlete you are fortunate that your coaches are prescribing workouts and pushing you during your off-season. The program is written by your coaches and you have little say in the matter. In reality, if you want to be on the team, you have to workout in the off-season with the rest of the team. With workouts prescribed by your coaches and your teammates holding you accountable, you have a great opportunity to get in great shape and make “dem gainz” you so desperately wanted at the turn of the calendar.
The only obstacle standing in your way is your ability to PRODUCE the results. How you eat, sleep, and recover from workouts will ultimately determine how close you can be to obtaining your goals. Every kid in America is working out during the off-season. Most are working (at least in their minds) hard! The investment you make in your nutrition, sleep, and your recovery habits are what will separate you from everyone else. Below we will cover some important strategies for athletes to use everyday to improve their ability to recover.
Staying hydrated and drinking enough water is the first priority. Consuming half of your body weight in ounces is the starting point for all athletes. Since your body is nearly 65% water, this will ensure that you are able to function optimally. Do not count the amount of fluid you drink during workouts, practice, or games, as this is more than likely lost through perspiration. Most athletes know the importance of staying hydrated to avoid cramping, but hydration is critical for every daily function your body carries out. Avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks, as these are unnecessary if you are staying hydrated, eating properly, and getting an adequate amount of sleep.
Once you have your H2O intake under control, focus on getting quality proteins throughout the day. The amino acids found in protein are the building blocks for every tissue in your body. Pretty important! Consume some form of protein with every meal and any snacks. Think of protein as a way of giving your body the raws materials it needs to create new tissue and cells. Just as a carpenter needs wood to frame a house, your body needs protein to create a bigger and stronger version of your current self.
Another ideal time to consume protein is post-workout. Training causes microtrauma, which is simply small stresses (tears) in muscle tissue. The body responds by building bigger, stronger muscle(s) as a means to prevent this from reoccurring. In a well-organized training system you will continue to grow and get stronger by utilizing progressive overload and feeding your body the nutrients it needs to recover. Post-workout consumption of protein, along with some simple carbs (fast absorbing sugars), will give your body the nutrients it can use to start the rebuilding process.
Aside from protein, athletes should be eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates after training or competing, and quality fats. Fruits and vegetables are the best way for athletes to get the vitamins and minerals needed to function optimally. As a general rule of thumb, try to have diversity in color when eating fruits and veggies. Each color will allow for different minerals and antioxidants for your body to utilize. Complex carbs include oats, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, quinoa, and other whole grains. These should be consumed around your workouts (pre and post) and practices. Lastly, healthy fats have several benefits ranging from joint lubrication, cardiovascular health, brain optimization, and even cellular repair. Try to include a small portion of healthy fats with every meal throughout the day. This would include salmon, tuna, egg (yolks included), avocado, olive oil, nuts, and coconut oil.
Using your hand provides a simple way to measure how much food you should be eating. The great news is this doesn’t require you to carry a scale to weigh food or make you count calories on the go (ain’t nobody got time for that). Your hands are portable, always with you, and proportional to your size.
Size of your Palm = Serving of Protein
Closed Fist = Serving of Veggies
Cupped Hand = Serving of Carbs
Thumb Size = Serving of Fat
It is recommended that guys eat two servings of each category during meals, with girls leaning towards one serving from each. See below for a sample of my New Year’s Day dinner to give you an idea of what this looks like on a plate.
Although it is often overlooked by most young athletes, sleep plays a critical piece of the recovery puzzle. During sleep your body is able to grow new tissue and repair damaged cells by producing growth hormones that are crucial to help you recover from the previous day’s work. In order to function optimally athlete’s need to aim for at least 8 and preferably 9 hours of sleep at night.
Train, eat, sleep, grow, repeat.
Use self myofascial release to aid in the recovery process. i.e.) foam rolling, stick massage, lacrosse ball for trigger points. This will help alleviate stiffness in your muscle and lead to an increase in range of motion by increasing blood flow and restoring restricted tissues.
St. Pierre, Brian. Hand Serving Sizes. Digital image. Precision Nutrition. N.p., 12 July 2016. Web. 3 Jan. 2017. <http://www.precisionnutrition.com/calorie-control-guide-infographic>.