Updated: May 21, 2021
After you exercise and put stress on any muscle or muscle group, the body will start to recover. When it recovers, it wants to adapt to the new strain and grow strong enough to be able to handle it in the future. That is part of human nature and a simplistic version of how our bodies grow. You may have heard of the phrase “use it or lose it”.
If you accept that premise, then after a workout you’ll want to make sure that you help your body in the best way possible to maximize that growth period. There are two broad (and not the only) aspects to this recovery that I’m going to highlight: Nutrition and Sleep
Keep in mind that these ideas also apply when the body is recovering from an injury. The body is rebuilding and re-enforcing areas that have been hurt. It doesn’t matter how they were hurt; whatever the recovery process your body chooses, it still needs sleep and good nutrition.
In order for muscles to grow they have to have the right materials. Protein is a part of that and I think society does a great job drilling that home; however, you also need other nutrients. There is lots of information about proper nutrition out there, but a simple way to look at it is, eat things that are nutrient dense. This means that they have a high ratio of nutrients that your body needs relative to other foods. Foods that are generally nutrient dense vs nutrient poor are:
Nutrient Rich Foods:
Fish, Lean meat,
Peas and Beans, and
Nuts and Seeds.
Empty Calorie Foods:
Sodas and Sweetened Beverages,
Cakes, Pastries, Cookies and Pies,
Sugar or Sugar Substitute blends like, syrup, honey, molasses and sweet toppings,
Frozen Milk Desserts.
When my training increases and I’m worried about injury I like to start making a green smoothie to have throughout the day. I want my body to be able to easily find the resources it needs and be able to focus on recovery. The main thing is putting in either spinach or kale and lots of it, then adding some fruits and other vegetables like cucumber, grated carrots, beets, etc. If you have seeds like flax, chia or hemp hearts you can add those in. Ginger and lemon are also great. Other fruits can be added for more flavour.
You can also make salads or just fry up spinach with garlic and maybe some cheese if garlic and spinach doesn’t sound appealing. Remember, you’re not doing this because it's going to taste amazing (that's a bonus if you happen to be a good cook and can do it), you’re doing this to help prevent injury and allow your body to recover and rebuild properly.
Keep in mind this is my experience and I’m not a nutritionist. I’ve talked to friends that argue that having a green smoothie doesn’t actually add enough nutrients to make it significantly easier to your body to find the resources. They believe that your body is efficient at storing nutrients. I’m not an expert, so do your own research. But for me, this analogue helps motivate me to have more veggies which consistency comes across in research as aiding recovery.
Your body needs nutrients to grow and build or recovery from injury.
Eat nutrient rich foods to give your body access to adequate resources.
It doesn't need to taste amazing (thats a bonus).
As you increase your daily or weekly workload, your body needs more resources, plan accordingly
Nutrition is not the only part to great recovery. Your body needs to be in a relaxed state to be efficient at recovering, especially when you sleep.
Next Article: Injury Prevention - 5. Recovery: Sleep
Previous Article: Injury Prevention - 3. Stretching
Nutrient Rich Foods - https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/how-can-i-eat-more-nutrient-dense-foods#:~:text=Vegetables%2C%20fruits%2C%20whole%20grains%2C,without%20consuming%20too%20many%20calories.
Empty Calorie Foods - https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/beware-empty-calories#1