Water, Food & Sleep: Your Best Recovery Tools
How you eat, sleep and recover from workouts will ultimately determine if you are able obtain your goals during your off-season. Every athlete in the country is training and working just as hard as you. What will determine the difference between you and everyone else? It simply comes down to the investment you’re willing to make in your nutrition and sleep.
“Effective performance is preceded by painstaking preparation” — Brian Tracy
Staying hydrated and drinking enough water is the first priority. Consuming half of your body weight in ounces should be the starting point for all athletes. Your body is nearly 65% water and 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, or 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 also be eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates and quality fats. Fruits and vegetables are the best way for athletes to get the vitamins and minerals needed to function optimally. Try to have diversity in color when eating fruits and veggies as each color will contain 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 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. This would include avocado, olive oil, nuts, coconut oil, etc.
Now that you know what you should be eating, we can talk about how much food an athlete should consume at meal time. Your hand provides a simple way to measure food and doesn’t require you to carry a food scale or have you count calories. Your hands are portable, always with you and proportional to your size. While this may fluctuate depending on your individual goals, it will give you an idea of what a serving size should look like from each category mentioned above.
We recommend that males eat two servings from each category during meals, with our female athletes leaning closer to one serving of each.
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 stressors. 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.
These simple strategies will allow you to fully recover from your training and ensure you get the most out of every day. Check out our previous blog posts, If it were easy, everyone would do it and Sleep Breeds Success for more tips on how to maximize your training.
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>.