In order to become a bigger, faster, stronger athlete you need to push your body past its own limits. Training hard is only half the battle. Recovery is just as important as the training itself. The real gains are made when you are resting and not when you are in the gym. By training to become an explosive athlete you should be doing plyometrics, lifting heavy loads, olympic lifting etc. all of which puts a ton of stress on the body. However, recovering from the stress with sleep, sympathetic activities, proper nutrition and a little supplementation is just as important as being a beast in the gym. The sooner we can recover from our workouts the faster we will progress towards our goals.
Food = Performance
Proper nutrition is absolutely vital and oftentimes overlooked or misunderstood in the recovery process. As athletes you need to fuel the machine when training and performing. If you don’t fuel the machine your training, performance and progress will suffer. Eating enough food helps you recover quicker and builds muscle mass. Many athletes who want to increase their power in baseball whether in hitting, throwing or running need to build more muscle mass. Mass x acceleration = power. We can’t influence acceleration or speed as much as we can mass. Some athletes just naturally are not that fast. You can influence absolute speed a little bit, but once that peaks you need to influence other factors. If you maintain or slightly increase your speed or acceleration while drastically increasing your mass you have the potential to be one powerful athlete. However, you need to have your nutrition and training game on point if you hope to succeed in this. You can write whole books on nutrition, but to keep it simple make sure you are getting your nutrients from whole foods in their unprocessed form. For example, lean meat for protein, potatoes for carbs, green vegetables and avocado for healthy fat. Obviously there are a lot more options, but that is just a small example. When training hard make sure you are in a caloric surplus or to make it simpler, weigh yourself and then in a week weigh yourself again. If you are not at least 1 lb heavier you need to eat more food. Period.
Recharge The Neuromuscular System
Sleep and parasympathetic activities are needed to rebuild and recharge. We can break our daily activities up into two categories, sympathetic and parasympathetic activities. Sympathetic activities are stressors that will negatively effect recovery while parasympathetic activities are relaxing activities that help restore and recover. As we talked about earlier training stresses the body and doing other stressful activities adds to the stress and effects recovery. Obviously, you can’t avoid all the stresses in your life for example going to work, paying bills, dealing with relationships in your life etc. are all unavoidable and necessary, but the key is finding how to balance them with relaxing activities that will greatly improve your recovery process. Sympathetic activities allow the central or neuromuscular system to calm down. If you leave the central or neuromuscular system firing at all times it will shut down and your recovery and performance will suffer drastically. By doing activities like yoga, stretching, meditation, sauna, a relaxing bath, massage etc. for at least 30 minutes a day you reduce stress, improve recovery, oxygenation and lymph circulation. Of course every athlete has heard the benefits of sleep, but not every athlete knows the benefits of sympathetic activities. However, Sleep is HUGE for recovery. So, skip the late night movies and video games! Make sure your are getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night, your body needs it to recover and repair.
Supplements Aren’t S#@!
Supplementation is the last because it is really not that important. People spend thousands of dollars on supplements when they should really be at the grocery store buying whole foods and preparing awesome meals to eat throughout their week. Eating whole foods is where you are going to see 95% of your gains whether in building muscle or losing fat, if you are eating the right way. Supplements might account for maybe 5%. You will never see drastic gains by just concentrating on supplements you need to make sure you are getting your calories, protein, carbohydrates and fats in to build muscle and improve recovery. Once you have a solid meal plan and eating habits then the supplements start to help. For example, supplementing before and after workouts or adding scoops of protein powder to yogurt as a snack are awesome ways to help you meet your protein and carbohydrate requirements. Furthermore, supplementing with protein, carbohydrates and essential amino acids before, after and even during workouts have been shown to increase increase lean muscle mass, improve recovery and improve performance. In the study Independent and combined effects of liquid carbohydrate/essential amino acid ingestion on hormonal and muscular adaptations following resistance training in untrained men by Stephen P. Bird, Kyle M. Tarpenning and Frank E. Marino they find, “the major findings of the present investigation were that CHO + EAA ingestion enhances muscular and hormonal adaptations following 12 weeks of progressive resistance training to a greater extent than either CHO or EAA consumed independently. These findings provide a link between acute changes in the pathway of adaptation to the chronic adaptations of resistance training, as proposed by Volek (2004), demonstrating that the exercise-induced hormonal profile can be influenced by nutritive interventions toward a profile more favorable for anabolism, therefore optimizing the skeletal muscle hypertrophic adaptations associated with resistance training. Furthermore, these data provide evidence that skeletal muscle anabolism is mediated, at least to some extent, by the ‘‘anti-catabolic effect’’. Such a regulatory role is an important component in the pathway of adaptation, linking nutritive interventions to the acute and chronic responses of resistance exercise.” In other words, carbohydrates and amino acids help you get into an anabolic or muscle building state after resistance training workouts. Obviously, everybody knows that whey protein after workout helps improve recovery and build muscle. So, supplementing with a protein, carbohydrate and amino acid shake before and after workouts helps the recovery and muscle building process, but remember just supplementing gets you nowhere it is all about the real food!
Pitching Recovery Conclusion
In conclusion, make sure you have a proper nutrition plan in place in order to gain muscle and improve recovery. You need to be eating a lot of calories, protein, carbs and healthy fats and if your goal is to gain muscle, make sure you are gaining at least 1 lb a week on the scale and if not then EAT MORE FOOD! Use sleep and sympathetic activities to relax the central or neuromuscular system and improve recovery. Supplement before workouts, after workouts and in snacks, but make sure you are eating a lot of real food! It is more important then supplementing. If you follow some of these rules you should see your recovery and your performance improve. Good luck!
- Bird, Stephen P., Kyle M. Tarpenning, and Frank E. Marino. “Independent and combined effects of liquid carbohydrate/essential amino acid ingestion on hormonal and muscular adaptations following resistance training in untrained men.” European journal of applied physiology 97.2 (2006): 225-238.
- Andrews, Ryan. “All About Recovery | Precision Nutrition.” Precision Nutrition. N.p., 24 Aug. 2009. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.