3 Strategies to Recover from Exercise FAST

Whether you’re an athlete by trade, an athlete for fun or someone who spends any amount of time in the gym, you likely already know that rest and recovery are essential.

Or maybe you’ve heard that it’s important but aren’t exactly sure just how essential nor do you really know what to do about it.

A protein shake after your workout and a good night’s sleep is likely the extent of what you’ve been told.

If that’s the case, you’re honestly not in too bad of a position. Going from no recovery strategy to adding in a bit more protein and focusing on quality sleep could completely change how your body looks and feels.

Let’s take this a bit further and put together an intentional strategy to help optimize your recovery. 

First, let’s quickly revisit why rest and recovery are so important. I’ve written a couple of times on the Stress-Recovery-Adaption cycle (also here)but here’s the high-level overview.

Our bodies adapt to change only after it has had the opportunity to recover from a stressor.

So, what you’re doing in the gym isn’t important for today, it’s important for tomorrow. 

When you train your body, you are providing a stressor or a stimulus. And if you’re doing it right, you’re trying to increase the intensity just a bit more than your previous session (e.g., more weight, more reps, slower reps, etc.). 

What you’ve done is you’ve given your body something it hasn’t experienced before. This is where it’s important to remember that your body cares as much about you having a six pack as your great-grandmother cares about Snapchat. Your body only wants to survive, and your grandmother just wants to make sure you've eaten today.

That stressor created damage. Now your body needs to heal. And it’s through that healing process that your body will be able to adapt and better be able to handle that same stressor the next time it sees it. If it doesn’t heal or recover properly, both physically and neurologically, then the adaption never occurs. 

And that leaves us sore, tired and stuck.

No Bueno.

The stress-recovery-adaption cycle is just that: a cycle. You can’t go straight from stress to adaption. Recovery is the link that holds the two together.

The good news is that your body is going to go through its inherent protocol on its own.

But with a little intention and the right strategy, we can help our body optimize its ability to recover.

Here are the three pillars, from a nutritional standpoint, to help your body recover fast.

Pillar 1: The Fundamentals - Do More Of This

If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Leave the hype and hyperbole at home. Let’s focus on mastering the basics. You know, the things that work.

Focus first on eating enough high-quality food. Make sure that you’re getting the right amounts of fats, carbohydrates, and protein at every meal and focusing on getting them from the best sources you can comfortably afford.

And don’t forget a mountain of fruits and vegetables. Get as much of your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables as you can and again make sure to include some at every meal.

Pillar 2: Reduce Inflammation - Do Less Of This

Inflammation has a pretty bad reputation so let’s quickly give it the credit it deserves. Inflammation is important. It’s your body’s natural healing response. Without it, well, we’d have no way of healing up.

What isn’t so good is chronic inflammation. This is where we go past the healing benefits and into breakdown territory. It’s a delicate balance.

So what we want to do is not contribute to the inflammation through the foods we eat. This will help make sure we have the right level of inflammation for healing and recovery. If we are eating categorically inflammatory foods, then our body has to deal with those foods and not healing our bodies.

Do this by removing any foods that you suspect you might have a sensitivity or intolerance. The most common culprits are milk, wheat, eggs, nuts, and shellfish.

Also reduce your intake of processed sugar, alcohol, and caffeine and cut out alcohol entirely if you can.

Pillar 3: Supplement - Do Some Of This, As Needed

Done right, Pillars 1 and 2 should take care of the bulk of us. But I’ll be honest, we’re talking about optimizing here and playing around with supplements can be fun.

Just don’t go right to this Pillar without addressing the first two and expecting magic results. It doesn’t work like this. The first two will take care of 80% of your recovery needs, now we’re in the final 20%. Don’t major in the minors. Don’t focus on that last 20% without the first 80%.

A few supplements you can try are:

Marine-Based Omega 3

I’ve linked all of these to their respective examine.com pages where you can dig a bit deeper to decide which ones might work best for you. I personally like Curcumin and Fish Oil so if you need a place to start, start there.

Bonus: Quality Sleep - Not Always "More," But Better

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that if your general recovery strategy was a protein shake and good night’s rest that you wouldn’t be in that bad of a position and I meant that. This is why I can’t leave out the importance of quality sleep even though this is largely nutritionally focused.

An extra hour of sleep is probably the best overall, overarching, sweeping recommendation that I can make to anyone regardless of their fitness & nutrition goals.

It’s when we’re sleeping that our body is doing all kinds of repairs, clean-up, and maintenance. Getting enough high-quality sleep, and “enough" usually looks like 6-9 hours of sleep a night preferably on the higher end, will almost instantly help you look, feel, and perform better.

To get the best night’s sleep possible, give yourself about an hour buffer dedicated to winding down. 

  • Don’t eat an hour before bed.

  • Avoid screens an hour before bed.

  • Do something calming about an hour before bed like reading, writing, or spending time with a loved one.

  • Then, make sure your bed is comfortable (fresh sheets work wonders) and is cool and dark.

These three pillars, especially the first two and the bonus, are crucial components of helping your body look and feel it’s best. Though never feel like you have to change all at once. Start where you are and figure out what you could do a little better. Then go do that. 

Remember, find what works and do more of that while finding what doesn’t work and figuring out how to do less. That one-two punch right there is the secret sauce of the Perfect Fitness Framework and will help you make lasting, sustainable progress toward your food and fitness goals.


Always on your side,


Evan CookComment