Double Down on Recovery For Maximum Results

By Dr. Spencer Nadolsky

Health-conscious people know that fitness isn’t just what you do in the gym. Just as important is the time you spend resting. Maximizing your recovery is key to consistent, sustainable workouts.

Working out when you’re already tired or stressed doesn’t just make the workout harder, it puts you at risk for injury. Imagine what each workout could be like, if you felt fresh and energetic every time you walked into the gym.

I’m actually glad to be writing about this on Girls Gone Strong, because I really like The Modern Woman’s Guide to Strength Training. Instead of trying to constantly push you to do more, it takes a refreshing approach — reducing volume to aid recovery.

Taking steps to ensure your body is getting enough quality rest will make give you more energy, improve your workouts, and seriously cut down on stress.

Combined with a smart workout, it lets you get stronger without having to worry about increased rick of injury, achy joints, or other problems that come along with hindered recovery.

Sleep: Quality and Quantity

sleep-electronics-tablet-ipad-in-bed-450x300Getting enough quality sleep is the first step to maximizing your recovery. Your bedroom should be a comfortable and quiet place to sleep. Minimize light sources before bed and avoid using electronic devices 30-60 minutes before bed. Darkness will increase production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sending you to sleep.

Don’t get on Facebook or check your work email as you’re getting ready for bed (yes, most people actually do this!). Instead, dim the lights, get rid of noise, and then relax and lie down. If anxiety or intrusive thoughts are keeping you up, consider keeping a journal. Writing in a diary before bed can help you "empty your noisy mind" so that you can deal with all those thoughts later and just focus on getting a good night’s sleep.

Diet and Recovery

What you eat determines a lot of what happens in your body. If your body can’t keep up with your workouts and you start dreading the gym because you’re sore before you even grab a towel, it’s time to reassess the situation.

If you’re on a low-calorie diet, you need to be extra careful about your recovery.

Eating too little and exercising too hard can be counterproductive if your muscles don’t recover in time to repair themselves and get stronger.

recovery-woman-eating-BAS-Salad-450x300If you’re counting calories and focusing on protein, but feel yourself lagging in the gym, try bringing a shake or sports drink with you. Sipping on a drink containing carbohydrates will provide your muscles with a source of fuel, keeping you alert and in control.

In general, emphasize fruits and vegetables in your diet, and drink plenty of water. You don’t need to micromanage, just focus on healthier choices that will leave you feeling better in the long run.

Healthy eating isn’t just about food choices, it’s also about consistency. Minimizing mindless snacking and having meals at the same time every day helps to encourage healthy eating habits, whether you fast or eat three square meals a day.

The Cherry On Top: Supplements

Let me be clear—as a medical doctor, my first thought is always on lifestyle. That means what we’ve already covered: sleep and diet. Still, you may have read the recommendations above and thought, "But I already do all that! What else can I do?"

Sometimes stress gets in the way of sleep or work gets too busy to eat as healthy as you’d like. If you’re already maximized your recovery by focusing on healthy lifestyle changes, but you need a boost, consider one of the supplements below.

  • Protein supplements are great for when you’re on the go and don’t have time to cook a healthy meal. Protein powder is relatively inexpensive, safe, and comes in a variety of flavors and protein sources (whey, egg, pea, hemp... you name it). Sometimes, it’s nice to be able to drink a chocolate shake that counts toward your protein goals.
  • If you practice intermittent fasting, you can replace protein supplementation with branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) before a workout, to keep the calorie count lower while helping you achieve your goals.
  • Melatonin is a popular supplement and sleep aid. Supplementing melatonin can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. If your head hits the pillow but you’re still tossing and turning an hour later, try it out. If you’re tossing and turning because of anxiety or racing thoughts, consider lemon balm supplementation.
  • Adaptogens are herbal supplements that fight stress. These herbs include ashwagandha, Panax ginseng, and Rhodiola rosea. Supplementing with an adaptogen before a stressful event can actually prevent the physical symptoms of stress from manifesting themselves. Adaptogens work by causing a small stress response in the body when you supplement them, so by the time the real stress rolls around, your body is already used to it. Adaptogens can also be used to alleviate daily stress, the kind that builds up over time and results in feelings of burnout.

Supplements should only be used if there are no lifestyle changes left to make to improve recovery.

Modifying your diet and forming healthy habits is way more affordable and far more sustainable than supplementation. If you choose to supplement, start with just one supplement. Adding additional supplements should be done at least a week apart. Starting to supplement two or more supplements at once makes it difficult to tell which supplement is producing an effect.

Taking time to focus on yourself and your recovery will improve your day to day mood and energy. Plus, you’ll be worry-free and confident in the gym because you’ll know you’re at your best — because you’ll feel your best!

If you think you could use some guidance integrating recovery strategies into your training program, we can help!

Want to learn how to get the results you've always wanted — without extreme diet or exercise?

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  • How to set yourself up for success (not failure) from the beginning
  • Why meal plans don't work (and what to do instead)
  • Why more exercise isn't better (and what to do instead)
  • How to overcome two major roadblocks concerning your hunger and cravings
  • The "secret sauce" for long-lasting, life-changing results — even when you're busy, injured, or unmotivated
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About the author:  Dr. Spencer Nadolsky

Dr. Spencer Nadolsky is a family physician who pushes lifestyle before pharmaceuticals (when possible). He’s also a key team member at—a website dedicated to honest, science-supported, and up-to-date information about supplements—and is one of the editors behind The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide. Learn more about Dr. Nadolsky on his website, or find him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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