KEY POINTS:

1. Your body will adapt faster, you will have fewer injuries, and you'll be healthier if you follow the 4 key steps of recovery and regeneration:

2. Active Recovery: 5-15 minutes of low-moderate activity at the end of your workout helps clear out the waste products that have accumulated in your body during exercise.

3. Rehydrate: Make sure you're rehydrating with water following your workout. If you're exercising in hot, humid conditions, you can add some carbohydrates and electrolytes to your drink.

4. Refuel: Refuel with healthy carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. If you've completed an aerobic workout, have a meal with a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. Following a strength workout, the ratio should be closer to 2:1.

5. Regenerate: Give your body time to breakdown and then repair after a workout. A simple guide to follow is 8-12 hours for light workouts, 48 hours for strength or interval workouts, 24-48 hours for long cardio sessions, and 48-72 hours for sprint training.  

Want to know one of the greatest secrets to being stronger, swifter and fitter? Hint: it’s not about lifting more, running faster or adding extra workouts!

Let’s assume that you want to step up your activity from where you currently are. And you’d like a little boost in taking that step. You want to be 1% better, and you’re looking for some tips. One way to becoming fitter is to apply the science of recovery and regeneration.

The healing and repair process is as important, if not more important, than the actual exercise or training. To raise your endurance, increase your muscle mass, develop stronger bones and even build a better brain, you need time to rest and recover. Your body will adapt faster, you’ll have fewer injuries and you’ll be healthier.

Here are my steps to getting the most out of your workouts – after your workouts

Step 1: Active Recovery

Warm down slowly and properly to clear your body of waste products that accumulate when you exercise. 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. You could cycle, walk fast or run slowly.

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.

Step 3: Refuel

It’s time to get nutrients back into your system. I believe that post-workout nutrition should improve your overall health, hence my objection to chocolate milk. Stick to any of the healthy foods we have already discussed: complex carbohydrates and high-quality proteins and 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.

Step 4: Regenerate

This is where we need to geek-out a bit and talk about physiology. That’s because if you understand inflammation and its role in helping the body to repair after exercise, you’ll know how to regenerate. So here’s the science.

When muscle fibres are damaged, inflammatory cells move to the area and help break down and remove damaged tissue. The inflammatory process in the muscle also involves increased flow of fluids to the exercised areas, which can cause swelling and soreness. Our bodies also produce a powerful hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). This hormone instructs satellite cells to initiate repairs to damaged muscle fibres and begin producing new ones. This whole inflammatory process can take up to 72 hours to complete after an intense workout, which is why mixing hard and easy days gives your body the time it needs for the inflammatory response to work its magic.

Inflammation after exercise is a critical healing process. If you interfere with it, you can limit your  progress as an athlete.

Anti-inflammation techniques like anti-inflammatory medicines (such as aspirin and ibuprofen), cold tubs which constrict blood vessels, or compression clothing may reduce post-workout soreness and pain. But they also slow your regeneration because they block or impair the inflammation process that signals the body to rebuild itself in response to the training stress.

Your body needs the process of breaking down, experiencing inflammation, and making the repairs in order to develop and improve! That said, compression clothing and cold baths can be useful as you approach a race to decrease pain and blunt the inflammatory response when you are not in the development phase of your training. They can also be helpful if you are planning two workouts on the same day or two hard training days back-to-back.

But unless you’re a high-performance athlete on a rigorous training program, you really don’t need to use techniques that “speed” recovery from intense exercise. Slow is best.

Here are some basic regeneration times to hold in mind: for light workouts, 8-12 hours is enough. Strength or interval workouts that make you sore normally require about 48 hours. Long cardio sessions that drain your glycogen stores require about 24-48 hours. Pure speed and sprint training sessions take 48-72 hours to recover from.

Today's Power Up: Practice the 4 Steps

1. Finish your workouts with 5-15 minutes of light cardio.

2. Then have a drink of clear, cold water.

3. Follow that with a healthy snack.

4. And finally - get some sleep!

You'll feel better and your performance will improve exponentially!