Step 1: Active Recovery
One of the physiological processes that occurs during exercise is your muscles produce metabolic waste such as lactate. This is a good thing during exercise, however eventually the waste prevents your muscles from working as well.
Therefore, it’s important to remove the waste as quickly as possible, especially if you have multiple events in a single day, or are involved in competitions where you're required to perform on several occasions over a tournament.
Exercising at a low-to-moderate intensity speeds up the removal of metabolic waste products such as lactate, ensuring that your muscles are working optimally when you start exercising again.
Help your muscles out by taking 5-15 minutes of active recovery: moving your body at about 55% of your maximum heart rate rather than stopping completely and resting. You shouldn’t feel a burn, but you should be moving more than you do when not working out.
To estimate your maximum heart rate you can use this equation: Maximum heart rate = 217 – ____ (0.85 x your age) = ____ beats per minute minute (bpm)
Step 2: Rehydrate
Rehydrate with water. If you’ve been working out for longer than 90 minutes or in hot, humid conditions, you can add some carbohydrates and electrolytes to your drink. But most of all, focus on water. You need a lot of it to properly heal and grow. For specific recommendations, check out hydration for peak performance.
Step 3: Refuel
It’s time to get nutrients back into your system. Stick to complex carbohydrates, high-quality proteins, and healthy fats. If your workout is more aerobic, try a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. If you’re doing strength training or higher-intensity intervals, eat closer to a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. For specific post-workout recommendations, check out post-exercise nutrition.
Step 4: Regeneration
When muscle fibres are damaged, inflammatory cells move to the area and help break down and remove damaged tissue. Inflammation after exercise is a critical healing process. Your body needs the process of breaking down, experiencing inflammation, and making the repairs in order to develop and improve!
And guess when the majority of the rebuilding process occurs? That’s right - during sleep. Make sure you’re getting 8-10 hours each night in order to repair your body from that day’s workout, and to prepare it for the next day. Check out sleep and athletic performance for more information on why sleep is so important.