Recovery a key part of performance

In sport, recovery is an essential component of successful, healthy play during both off-season and in-season periods.

In sport, recovery is an essential component of successful, healthy play during both off-season and in-season periods.

Training requires enduring physical and psychological stress and athletes must allow the proper amount and quality of recovery before initiating the next session of training. Otherwise, your body will not improve its ability to perform and may even begin to break down. But recovery is not a simple process; it’s a multidimensional concept that should be understood by athletes and coaches.

Recovery involves dealing with a number of different types of fatigue: metabolic (muscles and energy systems), nervous system, psychological and emotional fatigue as well. The role of recovery should be to normalize physical structure and mental states but also to super-compensate (above normal levels) the energy systems and protein, collagen and other soft tissue and bone components.

The proper nutrients, hydration, sleep, post-game or workout regimen, and mental recovery strategies need to be put in place for the whole competitive season.

Post-game/workout nutrition should focus on a mixture of carbohydrates and protein if the training session was demanding enough on the tissues, or if the athlete has another event that day. Tournaments often require two or more competitions in a single day and post-game meals and hydration become even more important in these cases.

Eating carbohydrates within 20 minutes after exercise will result in much more glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates) storage than if it is delayed until later. The amount of glycogen in the muscles and liver determine the how long and intensely the athlete can perform. Adding protein to the mix amplifies the glycogen storage rate. The optimal ratio is four grams of carbohydrate to one gram protein and the total amount of 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight during the early window right after exercise. For example a 150 pound (68 kg) athlete would require 102 grams of carbohydrate and 25 grams of protein. One cup of yogurt or cottage cheese contains about 25 grams of protein. A piece of tropical fruit contains about 25 to 35 grams of carbohydrate, as does one cup of fruit smoothie. One cup of dried fruit contains about 90 grams of carbohydrate. If you choose an energy bar for a post-workout snack, just be aware of the fat content along with the carb:protein ratio.

Recovery should ideally incorporate light aerobic-type activity with stretching activities immediately after games or hard workouts. Heart rates of about 50-60 per cent of maximum for 10-30 minutes (depending how hard and long the exercise session was) will help facilitate blood flow and the removal of waste products while providing an optimal amount of oxygen to repair tissues.

As far as hydration goes, men and women need three to four litres of water a day without exercise, and up to as much as 10 litres if you are exercising in hot and humid conditions.

Since repair of the body’s tissue systems optimally occurs during sleep, athletes should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep at night depending on the age.

And finally, one of the most difficult recovery processes to quantify is the psychological and emotional rest. Every athlete is different. Some strategies might include taking breaks away from competition at different points in the season, finding alternate activities that don’t use the same muscles or energy systems or spending time with relaxing endeavors. Training intensely all year for one sport may not only lead to injury but may cause mental burn-out for the sport.