Health May 13, 2015
Body Repair Shop
The Importance of Muscle Recovery

Are you training for the Sun Valley Half Marathon, the hike to Alice Lake, or the grueling 17-mile Fisher Creek mountain bike ride? Whether it’s after a big event, strenuous hike, mountain bike ride or even a kick-butt session at the gym, recovering properly from strenuous activity is the clincher to keeping your body healthy and happy. 

EAT AND DRINK

When recovering after a big workout, our bodies need carbohydrates, protein and, of course, plenty of water. Workouts take a lot of energy, and our body pulls that energy from glycogen that gets stored after eating carbohydrates. Once we have worked out and have used that energy up, it is time to replace it.

“Eating a quality form of carbs like fruit or grains will help replenish our energy for the next workout,” said Emily Fiero, a Wood River Valley nutrition consultant. “We all know that protein is important for muscle growth—this is because when we work out our muscles are actually being broken down and torn—eating protein within 30 minutes of a workout will repair the existing muscle and help it to grow even more,” added Fiero. For your post-workout meal, Fiero recommends chicken, brown rice and a salad or a shake with yogurt and berries. In addition, she advises water before, during and after your workout. 

PROMOTE CIRCULATION

Maria Morris, L.Ac., owns and operates Nourishing Roots, Community Acupuncture.  In this community acupuncture setting, several patients are treated at once, creating a collective energetic field that is soothing for many patients.

“Acupuncture is very effective for speeding recovery after a workout and for enhancing sports performance overall,” said Morris. “After a big workout during which muscles can get strained and tighten up, athletes commonly experience a feeling of stiffness and soreness—this comes from the micro trauma within the muscle fibers.”

By promoting increased circulation of blood and energy, acupuncture treats adhesions where scar tissue has formed deep within the muscles, speeding recovery and allowing the potential for training sooner and pain free. “The body can better assimilate nutrients and get rid of cellular and systemic waste, which in turn improves stamina, boosts immunity and provides more energy to do workouts,” Morris explained.

Acupuncture also affects the mental component of training by reducing stress and anxiety, increasing body awareness and promoting feelings of calm and well-being.

STRETCH, REST, REPAIR

Besides the mentally beneficial qualities of yoga and stretching, a yoga session after a strenuous activity can help muscle recovery by reducing lactic acid buildup and help increase circulation.

“Doing yoga post activity will improve your mobility and flexibility, which will, in turn, increase your movement efficiency in all activities,” explained Gather Yoga Studio instructor Beth Stuart. 

Giving your body the rest it needs is as important as the workout itself. Local masseuse Alison Rosen of Sun Valley Remedies said that allowing our bodies to recover is essential. Some of the benefits of a therapeutic massage after a strenuous activity include: increased relaxation, increased circulation and blood flow, reduction of tension and anxiety, reduced inflammation, increased range of motion and the flushing of lactic acid.

Rosen’s organic-lotion company, Sun Valley Remedies, produces a product that complements a post-workout massage. “Knots Anymore is a blend of essential oils that increases circulation, reduces inflammation, and has a slight analgesic effect,” Rosen said.  “It’s a great way to relieve the post-workout exhaustion and leaves your joints feeling more relaxed, often within minutes of application,” she added. 

After a strenuous day, you’re physically depleted, dehydrated and mentally exhausted. “What you do immediately afterwards has a big impact on your fitness gains,” offered Connie Aronson, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist at the Wood River Valley YMCA. First, Aronson recommends recovery nutrition. “Affordable, low-fat chocolate milk is an excellent choice for many athletes,” she said. Second, she touts foam rolling. Two bouts of 60 seconds per area can help reduce muscle soreness while helping tight muscles regain their full range of motion.

“One recovery technique most often overlooked, however, is sleep,” Aronson said. “You need lots of it, up to 10 hours, research shows, because without proper sleep, you simply don’t recover from exercise.” 

This article appears in the Summer 2015 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.