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How to maximise recovery after a gruelling workout

Friday January 12, 2018 at 7:05am
Tips to help recovery after a gruelling workout

Have you started 2018 with a new gym membership? If it's a yes then chances are your muscles are aching from all the lunges, squats, press ups and bench pressing you've been doing. This can not only interfere with daily life but can also stop you from getting the most out of your next workout or at worst put you off altogether. Find out how eating the right things after a workout can help speed up your recovery.

Magnesium

Magnesium is involved in a lot of processes that affect muscle function including oxygen uptake, energy production and electrolyte balance. As such, the relationship between magnesium levels in the body and exercise has received significant research attention. This research has shown that magnesium deficiency impairs exercise performance and amplifies the negative consequences of strenuous exercise i.e. oxidative stress.

Exercise also leads to the natural depletion of electrolytes and trace minerals in the body, so replacing magnesium lost during exercise can aid muscle recovery and lessen potential soreness and aches after an intensive work out. 

Foods rich in magnesium include dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, bananas, nuts and seeds, dried apricots, fish, legumes, natural yoghurt and dark chocolate. Or alternatively consider a convenient and easy to take magnesium supplement

Curcumin

As we know, during intense exercise muscle cells are often subject to trauma which results in inflammation, soreness or even damage to muscle cells. So, to maintain optimal health and continue being physically active its important to minimize damage to muscle cells.

Curcumin, the active component of turmeric, is known to combat oxidative stress and inflammation and has been shown to help alleviate joint pain and increase recovery time. In fact, studies have proven that turmeric is just as powerful as some anti-inflammatory prescription medications.

In a study published last year, a research team at the University of North Texas found that enhanced curcumin could help reduce markers of inflammation and muscle damage after excessive exercise. The study had individuals take either 400 mg of an enhanced curcumin supplement or a placebo for two days before participating in a leg press exercise. They then followed the participants for four days afterwards. 

The results showed that both groups had an increase in creatine kinase (a marker of muscle damage), but it was 45% lower in the participants who took the curcumin supplement. These results show potential for curcumin supplementation in helping to speed up muscle recovery and improve muscle function in future workouts.

In another study, by Italian researchers, the potential benefits of curcumin for muscle recovery was also shown. The study had participants take either a curcumin extract or placebo for two days before taking part in a strenuous downhill run. Results showed the supplemented group reported less pain in the lower limbs and also had fewer instances of muscle damage and inflammation. In both studies, the curcumin supplement has shown significant results for muscle support.

There are numerous ways you can introduce turmeric into your diet, whether that's sprinkling it over your  scrambled eggs or blending it into a smoothie in the morning; adding it to your lunchtime bowl of soup or tossing it with roast veggies at supper time, however it's notoriously difficult for the body to utilise it for its beneficial properties (bioavailability) so if you are cooking with it remember that it needs fat for optimal absorption. 

Just Vitamins' Turmeric with Bioperine® Tablets contains added Bioperine® (black pepper extract) in its formulation because it increases the bioavailability of the Turmeric supplement by 2000%. This considerably enhances it's potency and effectiveness, a claim supported by recent research.

Omega 3's

Omega 3's can not only speed up your workout recovery and help you hit your new gym goals, but they are also necessary for cardiovascular, brain, joint, eye and skin health.

Omega 3's are powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that help muscles to recover after they have been damaged by intense exercise.

Another benefit of omega 3's inflammation-fighting properties is its ability to stop delayed onset muscle soreness - that's the ache that leaves you wincing two days after you hit the squat rack. In a study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, omega-3 supplementation markedly reduced men’s levels of perceived pain and their range of motion 48 hours post exercise. 

Apart from speeding up exercise recovery, omega 3's provide the added benefit of fending off workout-ending injuries by preventing tissue degradation, easing inflammation, boosting blood and oxygen flow to muscles, increasing range of motion, and relieving joint tenderness.

Omega 3's come in three types:

  • eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA),
  • docosahexaenoic acid (DHA),
  • and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

Long-chain fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are found in fish, fish oil supplements, and algae extract. The short-chain form, ALA, is found in plant sources like nuts, flax seed, chia seeds, avocado, and olive oil. 

An important thing to note here is that the body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids on its own and it can only use the long-chain omega 3's - in other words it needs to convert ALA to EPA and then into DHA. This process is extremely inefficient and requires a high consumption of fatty fish to achieve. Even those adhering to a healthy diet can find this difficult so it's worth considering an omega-3 supplement to boost your performance.

Antarctic Krill Oil is a pure, natural source of omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA), choline and the natural occurring antioxidant astaxanthin. Studies have shown that phospholipid omega-3s are better recognised and utilised by the body compared to triglyceride-based omega-3s, such as those found in fish oils. This is because triglyceride omega-3s have to be converted by the liver before they can be used by the body’s cells.

Just Vitamins' Red Krill Oil (Superba™) Capsules are sourced from the clean and unpolluted waters of the Antarctic from Aker Biomarine, where sustainability and eco-harvesting is also hugely important.

Montmorency Cherries

A clinical study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition by researchers from Texas A&M University uncovered the benefits of Montmorency Tart Cherry Powder supplementation for exercise recovery. A short-term dose helped to accelerate recovery from muscle soreness, slow strength decline during recovery, and reduce markers of muscle catabolism in the resistance-trained participants.   

The research team used a well-established double-blind, placebo-controlled testing method to examine if short-term consumption of a powdered tart cherry supplement before and after intense resistance-exercise alleviated muscle soreness and recovery from strength loss. 

The study looked at 23 healthy, resistance-trained men (matching them based on relative maximal back squat strength, age, body weight and fat free mass). The subjects were then assigned to receive either capsules containing 480 mg of powdered Montmorency Tart cherries or a placebo over a period of 10 days. 

According to results, those taking the tart cherry supplement reported a significant decrease in post-workout muscle soreness compared to the placebo group. Blood tests also revealed significantly lessened post-workout markers of protein catabolism, indicating muscle recovery benefits following exercise in those supplementing with tart cherry extract. 

This study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the beneficial use of tart cherries in post-exercise recovery. 

Just Vitamins' Montmorency Cherry Juice Extract Capsules contain a market leading 435mg of freeze-dried Cherry extract from 4350mg of whole fruit in an easy to swallow vegetarian capsule.

Stretching

In order to reduce recovery time following a workout, make sure you’re doing more than just passive stretching. With passive stretching, you rely on your body weight, gravity or a prop, such as a strap or stretching device, to stretch a muscle. In an active stretch, you stretch a muscle by contracting the muscle that performs the opposite function.

Focus on each joint of your body working the full range of motion spending concentrated time on each. Having an increased range of movement will improve movement efficiency and help prevent injury at the same time boosting workout recovery times.

 A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found that active stretching produces greater gains in range of motion when compared with passive stretching.

As babies we are born with full range of motion and as we get older due to inactivity and lifestyle, this range of movement decreases. Research published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation indicates that older individuals can significantly improve their functional mobility by performing active stretches.

Sleep

The good news here is that exercise promotes good sleep but if you're hitting the gym hard all week and not getting enough sleep then it can lead to increase in the stress hormone cortisol which can delay recovery after a workout.

Try to facilitate the onset of sleep by switching off all technology two hours before bed (blue light emitted by smart phones and tablets produce blue light which suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin).

Interestingly, montmorency cherries contain good levels of melatonin and recent research has shown a possible link between consuming cherry extract and improved sleep patterns.

Magnesium may also facilitate better sleep - on a chemical level, magnesium aids the process of relaxation by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for getting you calm and relaxed.

It regulates neurotransmitters, which send signals throughout the nervous system and brain as well as regulating melatonin, which guides sleep-wake cycles in the body. Magnesium also binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. GABA is the neurotransmitter responsible for quieting down nerve activity (it is the same neurotransmitter used by some pharmaceutical sleep drugs) - by helping to quiet the nervous system, magnesium helps to prepare the body and brain for sleep.

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