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Improving Workout Recovery

CrossFitRecovery

In any typical CrossFit gym, you have athletes that will come in and hit a good, hard WoD. Then after, mix up some protein from Progenex, SFH, or even Wal-Mart and down that on their way out the door, all the while thinking “Yes, workout recovery done.” This is definitely not the case. In fact, good solid workout recovery actually starts BEFORE you workout.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some science and throw in some practical examples of how you can improve your workout recovery. If you’re able to properly recover from a workout, then you’ll be able continue to give it 100% on your next workout as well.

Pre-Workout

  • Hydrate, hydrate, drink some water, then hydrate some more. It will take you about an hour to get good and properly hydrated. 3-4 8oz glasses in that time period should suffice.
  • Dynamic stretching/mobility work prior to the WoD will help get your blood flowing into the muscles. Target the muscle groups that you will be working out with that day.
  • Foam Rolling is actually better post workout, but the reason most people are doing it pre-workout is because they didn’t do it post-workout the day before. But, if you are sore, from a previous workout, foam rolling can help increase the blood flowing back into those muscles again and help you “roll out” soreness.
  • 5g Creatine + 3g Beta Alanine + 5g Citruline Malate
    Drink this one the way to the gym (assuming about a 20 minute drive) and consider this your “pre-workout” shake. These three natural compounds have been found to work synergistically togther. Creatine will help rebuild your ATP stores, think of it like a quick fire battery, it’s only around for a few seconds. Long enough for you to do a heavy lift, but then it has to recharge. Added 5g pre-workout helps it recharge faster. Beta Alanine helps fight the build-up of lactate acid and Citruline Malate helps increase your oxygen transport and aerobic metabolism.

During Workout

  • STAY hyrdated. Just a 2% drop in your hydration level can lead to a significant drop in performance. For most workouts less than 10-15 minutes, you should be fine. Anything longer or more intense, or if it’s 100+ degrees outside, just have a bottle of water with you to sip on during the WoD. Don’t wait until you absolutely need it and then down the whole bottle. Drink from it as you go.
  • Consider having coconut water with you either during or pre-workout. It can help improve workout recovery by keeping you hydrated and replenishing electrolytes – just like Gatorade but without all the sugar. A lack of electrolytes can lead to muscle cramping.

Post-Workout

  • If you are performing multiple WoDs in one day or you’re at a competition, consider maintaining your carbohydrates as that’s typically better than exhausting your supply and then replenishing. Good carbs: Banana, orange, grapes. I also workout with a guy who buys powdered carbs (from potato starch) and mixes that with protein for his post workout drink. Drink this in between WoDs for competitions or immediately after for single WoD days.
  • Stressing one more time: Carbs for energy and recovery. Bananas really are the best, and simple to take the gym. You want a minimum of 30g of carbs post-workout.
  • 1:1 Carb to Protein ratio. If you’re doing 30g of carbs, make sure your post-workout protein shake has 30g of protein. You can normally drink the protein within 20 minutes and still have positive effects. You need to go immediately with the carbs, again, bananas make this easy.
  • With protein, Hydrolyzed Whey is the best option, it’s the most rapidly absorbed by the bloodstream. I like Progenex myself, but you use whatever you see fit.
  • RE-hydrate. Coconut water is more expensive but has the benefits that I talked about above, or just stick to straight from the tap water. you need 16oz for every lb of body weight lost. Typically 2-3 for tough WoDs. So yes, more than 1 water bottle full. Keep in mind your body cannot repair muscle tissue without water. Tissue that is not repaired will not grow.
  • Active Recovery after the workout, aka the “cool down”. A good cool down can help clear the metabolic by-products from muscle tissue, can help initiate gluconeogensis, or the recycling of lactate acid into glucose in the liver & heart. Your core temperature comes down smoother with an active recovery than without it.
  • Post workout recovery suggestion: 5-10 minutes at 40-50% effort on the AirDyne or rower (I prefer rowing, I hate AirDyne’ing)
  • Foam rolling: has similar effects on the muscles as a deep tissue massage. It encourages blood flow into the muscles and blood contains nutrients that your muscles need post workout, clears lactate acid from the fatigued muscles and breaks up scar tissue in damaged muscles. Foam roll the large muscles groups: calves, quads, back
  • Stretching: Lengthens muscles back out (most workouts involve some form of muscle contraction). Stimulates blood flow, although foam rolling is better at encouraging blood flow, the two together however are a great combo. Helps build/maintain range of motion.

So this may not be a fully comprehensive list or even a prescriptive list of “Do the following movements everyday for a warm-up” but, think of it more like a collection of the thoughts and bits of information that I’ve picked up regarding warmup/postwork to help improve your workout recovery. There is science involved, but everyone’s body chemistry is a just a little bit different so you may have to tweak to find out what works best for you.

What are your favorite ways to improve your workout recovery?