But if the movies had it right, they’d also show the hero kicking back with a glass of chocolate milk — when it comes to getting in shape or improving performance, recovery time is just as important as working out. Exercise creates micro-tears in muscle fibers. The body repairs those muscles, making them stronger than they were before the workout. But muscle repair takes time. If you exercise before your muscles recover, you increase the damage. Over a period of time, you’ll actually sabotage your performance by repeatedly breaking down muscle without giving it a chance to rebuild.
The faster your body can recover after exercise, the stronger you’ll get, because you’ll be able to exercise at a higher level more frequently. Here are some tips for improving muscle recovery for better performance:
* Fuel your muscles. Muscle recovery starts right after a workout, so you should give your body the nutrients it needs to rebuild muscle as soon as possible. Drink water and electrolytes immediately after exercise. Exercise uses up muscles’ glycogen energy stores, so replenish them with simple carbohydrates. Make sure to eat protein within two hours after working out. In one study, those who drank chocolate milk after exercise recovered more quickly than those who drank a sports beverage, probably due to milk’s balance of minerals, carbohydrates and protein.
* Increase circulation. The more blood going to your legs, the better. Stretching and massage can help your muscles release toxins. You may also want to try a pain-relieving liquid, such as Absorbine, Jr. (www.absorbinejr.com). The natural herbal formula provides temporary relief from muscle aches by improving circulation and reducing pain, so you can speed up your recovery time and get back to your sport.
* Rest. Getting a full eight hours of sleep will help your body recover. On a similar note, give your body time to rebuild between workouts. Most athletes include one or two recovery days in their training programs, when they will either not exercise or will perform a low-intensity activity, such as walking.