We work so hard while we train, we want to see those results. Did you know that you only grow and change during your sleep, and not actually during your workout? Therefore, recovery is just as important as your training routine. If you aren’t sleeping enough, you aren’t allowing enough protein synthesis to happen for you to then see the changes you’re working so hard for. This can see you start to fatigue, lose interest and motivation, become frustrated and eventually even completely run down.
Know your limits
It’s super important to understand where you are in your health and fitness journey, so that you can determine what you can expect from your body at each stage. A first timer in the gym is going to have a very different experience to an advanced athlete. Beginners will feel DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) much more frequently and intensely than advanced athletes, the feeling you get in your muscles around 24-72 hours after doing a good session. This is a good pain (if there is such a thing!) as it tells you that your muscles have been sufficiently worked out. Reworking these muscles straight away while you’re still experiencing soreness and stiffness isn’t a great idea as it will increase your risk of injury, or require your body to compensate and technique be compromised which will build poor habits long term.
Stretching and massage therapy
Stretching straight after a workout while your still warm is essential. It lengthens your muscles and can reduce some of the DOMS that you will otherwise feel later. Sitting down straight away will just see you feel more stiff and sore to move. Stretching and massage can also create better posture and overall body alignment, especially if you sit all day working in an office or at home. Tight muscles will lead to some muscles contracting and others stretching to compensate, which if not addressed can result in poor posture and even injury. Massage is great for improving blood flow around the body, better muscle recovery, better sleep habits and a reduction in tension and stress.
How sleep affects your immune system and weight
Now, be honest, who’s ever complained about not sleeping well, or getting enough sleep? We all do it, because it’s often one of the most overlooked necessities of life as we lead increasingly busier and more digitally engaged lives. Not getting enough sleep prevents the body from strengthening the immune system and producing more cytokines to fight infection. This can mean a person can take longer to recover from workouts, but also illness, and eventually even develop an increased risk of chronic illness. A lack of sleep can actually affect body weight. There are two hormones in the body which control feelings of hunger and fullness: leptin and ghrelin. The levels of these hormones are directly affected by sleep. Sleep deprivation also causes the release of insulin, which can lead to increased fat storage and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Insufficient sleep can affect hormone production, including growth hormones and testosterone in men. This is critical for people wanting to improve overall health and fitness, without adequate hormone production your body will just simply not change. You’ve probably heard a million and one ways to improve your sleep, but the fact is, sleep doesn’t always come as easy to some people as it does to others. Factors include: stress and anxiety, sleeping habits, breathing and body temperature. Meditation and breathing techniques can help you sleep better, but this is something you need to be consistent with over a long period of time, and build into your lifestyle. Set aside extra time at night to practice breathing and meditation before bed and try to be as consistent as you can with the time you go to bed each night.
Performance supplements are a great healthy way to assist with your body’s recovery after a workout. BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) are a mixture of the three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine, which are the building blocks for protein and muscle. Anyone looking to gain lean mass or improve their recovery time, especially if you’re on a caloric deficit diet should look into using BCAAs to prevent your body from going into a catabolic state — your body eating your own muscles! You can purchase BCAAs in the form of a powder that you mix with water to drink and it comes in yummy flavours like pineapple and raspberry lemonade.
Another amino acid that plays a vital role in protein metabolism is l-glutamine, important for anyone looking to build or maintain muscle. Naturally found in meats, dairy products and beans, this one is a non-essential amino acid, which means the body can actually produce it by itself. 60% of our glutamine is located in our skeletal muscle while the remaining is located in the liver, lungs, stomach tissue and brain. After intense exercise, glutamine levels in the body can decrease by almost 50%. Glutamine has many amazing benefits like decreasing muscle catabolism post-workout, encouraging nutrient assimilation, controlling protein synthesis, enhancing growth-hormone production and improving the immune system in general. Taking it as a supplementation ensures that the body does not remove glutamine from your muscles post-workout. Like BCAAs, glutamine is available as a powder to mix with water or juice, or throw in with your BCAAs or protein shake as it has little to no flavour.
Self-care to me is more than drinking Acai smoothies, beach days and short term getaways! True self-care needs to be practised everyday.
We need to look deeper and start making changes that make our lives more abundant. We need to stop relying on short term fixes in order to have our minds and bodies in check.
So... let’s help look after YOU better!