How do you become faster? Just keep on running, right?
It might be counter-intuitive, but the recovery phase of exercise is almost equal to the actual exercise itself. If you’re the kind of person who just can’t resist going for another 10k or hitting the gym one last time this week you might be disappointed to know that taking a day or two off might be the best way to get faster, stronger and fitter.
Well, I’m certainly not complaining.
Why is Recovery important?
Whether it’s running or lifting weights, we’re damaging our muscle tissue fibres during exercise. The recovery process is essential as it allows our muscle tissue to repair and rebuild, making them stronger in the process.
Depending on how hard you’ve pushed it, your muscles can take between 24-48 hours to repair fully. Constantly training without giving any time to recover can result in overtraining, exhaustion and setbacks and that’s no fun.
Running when you haven’t recovered properly is a really common mistake among runners (and all athletes!) and it’s very easy to run into trouble with injury and set yourself back ever further.
Having a good recovery plan can help you get the most out of a run - - yadda yadda
Stretch Before and After Your Run
Maybe it’s a sign of getting older but stretching both before and after running plays a key role in recovering optimally. Warming up prior to running should be more dynamic and less intense. Just get your limbs loose.
Stretching after running is far more critical and can really help get you in shape for your next run. Focus on long, slow stretches lasting between 45-90 seconds and try get all of your major muscle groups, not just your legs.
Stretches don’t have to be done just after exercise too, you can fit more stretching in throughout the day. Maybe whilst you’re watching the latest Game of Thrones on the sofa or sat at work, a few simple stretches can help minimise muscle soreness.
The hardest part of recovery for many of us can be getting enough sleep and honestly, if you don’t sleep properly, you’ll never recover properly.
Sleep plays a hugely important role at every level of our health. Effects of sleep deprivation include:
- Slower recovery
- Mood suppression
- Increased levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol.
- Reduced mental and physical performance, especially when it comes to concentration
- Heightened sense of exertion, which can lead to reduced efforts during exercise.
The deepest part of our sleep cycle is when the majority of the Human Growth Hormone (or HGH) is released. HGH stimulates muscle growth, repair and fat burning too.
Sure, getting enough whey protein, essential amino acids or whatever vitamins and minerals are en-vogue this month is important, water is just as key.
Your body is made up of around 60% water and it supports every metabolic function in the body and is critical when the recovery process gets going.
You lose a heck of a lot of water during exercise. While it’s important to make sure you stay hydrated in general, immediately after a run it’s recommend you consume between 500ml to 1000ml of water. A proper recovery drink with additional salts to replace those lost through sweat can be even better.
Fuelling after exercise is one of the key cornerstones to getting the most out of your recovery.
While broadly speaking the most important aspect of recovery is a full and varied diet, what you eat immediately after you run makes a big difference.
Protein & Carbs
Eating after a run is often the last thing on your mind, however the period immediately preceding a big run can be the most important and getting enough of both carbs and protein within 30 minutes to an hour of your run can make a surprising degree of difference.
During any extended period of exercise we deplete our body’s glycogen stores, glycogen is a form of carbohydrate stored within the body that’s an excellent source of energy for exercise.
Protein is essentially the building block of muscles and is made up of around 22 amino acids. These proteins can’t be stored in the body in the same way as carbohydrates so they need to be topped up after exercise to provide your muscles with the resources they need to repair.
A snack containing a healthy balance of carbohydrates like our Oatein High Protein flapjack bars or Protein Cookies are ideal to increase your protein intake immediately after your run.
Made using whey protein, our protein flapjacks provide ‘complete proteins’ which contain all of the essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids that our body requires for optimal muscle growth.
Recovery on a Plant-Based Diet - Vegan Protein
There’s always been a little bit of controversy surrounding whether you can successfully recover or be a successful athlete at all if you follow a plant-based diet.
Most of this stems around the idea that you can’t get enough protein through a vegan diet, especially ‘complete’ proteins. This simply isn’t true. While very few forms of vegan protein are ‘complete’, it isn’t hard to get all the essential amino acids you need through a varied and healthy diet.
Until very recently, snacking post-run was a lot more difficult for vegans. However, there are now a growing number of protein snacks like our very own Oatein Millionaire Crunch, which is vegan, low sugar, gluten free and palm oil free too. It’s perfect for after your run if you want to feel you like you’re treating yourself to a little coffee stop treat. #ONEINAMILLION
Importantly, we’ve enriched the recipe with 15g of soy protein, which is the only vegan-suitable complete-protein.
Don’t Rest Too Hard - Keep Moving With Active Recovery
A number of recent studies have shown that active recovery might be the best way to optimise recovery, especially if you’ve smashed a race or marathon-effort the day before. No more excuses for lying on the sofa all day I’m afraid.
That doesn’t mean it’s time to get out for a serious run or anything of the sort. A good walk would be perfect. Maybe change things up and get out and do something different. Go for a (light) tootle on a bicycle or try some yoga.