Archive for the tag - recovery

You Don’t Get Bigger at the Gym!

flexing guyHere’s a strange fitness truth: You don’t get bigger at the gym.

At the gym, working against resistance rip and damages your muscle fibers; it’s not until after the gym, when you go home or to work, that your muscles get a chance to rest, recover and rebuild. It’s through the rebuilding process that your muscles become stronger and larger.

In other words, rest is one of the most important elements in your workout plan.

Why is this important?

Because many people exercise the same muscles over and over again everyday. If you work the same muscles each day - even after they are still sore from the previous workout - then you are selling your results short. In fact, you may even regress by damaging already damaged muscles.

For these reasons, it’s absolutely crucial that you get plenty of rest and that you avoid training muscles that are already sore from previous workouts. If you’re doing total body workouts at the gym, it means taking a day off in between. If you train different muscle groups each day, as I do, then it means hitting each muscle group only 1 - 2 times per week.

The bottom line: Hit your muscles hard at the gym, but give them ample time to recover and rebuild for maximized results. When it comes to training frequency, more is definitely not better.

Chocolate Milk After Workout: Ultimate Recovery Drink?

chocolate-milkYour post-workout recovery snack is arguably the most important meal of the day. So what do you consume? A protein shake? Water? A sports drink?

According to new research, you may want to start opting for fat-free chocolate milk.

In a study presented to the American College of Sports Medicine, researchers enlisted the help of eight male runners. Following a series of runs, the participants either consumed fat-free chocolate milk or a carbohydrate beverage (like Gatorade) with the same amount of calories.

During recovery, researchers found that runners who drank fat-free chocolate milk had better muscle protein repair when compared to the carbohydrate beverage. A second study found that muscle glycogen levels were also higher for the chocolate milk group. Since glycogen is used for fuel during exercise, replenishing these stores is crucial.

But why?

After exercise, it’s important to consume both protein and carbohydrates; many exercisers make the mistake of consuming one but not the other. Sports drinks usually only have carbs. Powdered protein mixes usually only have protein. Since chocolate milk has a mix of both protein and carbs, it can be a wise choice. Moreover, it’s also inexpensive - and tastier - when compared to many pre-mixed recovery drinks.

There are a few things to keep in mind. First, you’d only want to use fat-free chocolate milk because fat content can slow digestion - and your body needs the protein and carbohydrates quickly. Second, just because chocolate milk is good for workout recovery doesn’t make it a healthy choice during other times of the day. Because quick absorption is crucial after a workout, it’s the only time when ingesting simple carbohydrates - like those found in chocolate milk - is healthy.

Personally, I usually opt for a whey protein powder mixed with simple carbohydrates. It’s not as tasty, but it’s quick, easy and effective. Nonetheless, it’s great to know that chocolate milk is an inexpensive alternative to traditional recovery drinks.

What do you drink after a workout? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Heal a Pulled / Torn Hamstring.

Just over six weeks ago, I had a vision. My Pilates instructor and I were discussing goals, and I immediately imagined myself flexible and limber enough to do a full straddle split. While I thought this flexibility would be particularly beneficial in the bedroom, it would also help my running performance and gymnastics.

And so I became a man on a mission - and worked tirelessly to stretch my tightened leg muscles. On one such occasion, I held a deep straddle stretch and timed it for five minutes. By the end, my brow was dripping in sweat and I knew that I had pushed myself. Perhaps, a little too far.

Muscles stretch best when warmed up, and so I always do cardio before any sort of static stretching. In this instance, however, my warm-up wasn’t enough and my stretch was too deep - and it soon became clear that my hamstring muscle was pulled.

First, I’m not a doctor - and so I’m not in the business of giving medical advice. I will share, however, how I was able to treat my pulled muscle using a popular method called R.I.C.E. It includes rest, ice, compression and elevation. I’d also add a “P” to the acronym, short for patience, and thus advise the “P.R.I.C.E.” method.

  1. Patience. I am six weeks into my pulled hamstring recovery, and I’m still not fully healed. It takes time. Lots of it. You must have patience with your body or else you’re going to experience a great deal of frustration.
  2. Rest. As an avid runner, having to skip cardio or leg workouts felt like a prison sentence. However, continual strain causes increased inflammation - and increase recovery time. You should rest until the pain is gone - and know that this may take many, many weeks.
  3. Ice. Icing an injury for 15 minutes, several times a day, is a great way to reduce inflammation. Go the the pharmacy and get yourself a decent, reusable ice pack. Wrap it in a paper towel and apply the ice pack to the injured area.
  4. Compression. An elastic bandage or tape can reduce the swelling that results from the inflammatory process.
  5. Elevation. Elevating your leg both aids in the waste removal process and decreases inflammation.

Of the five, I believe that patience and rest are paramount. They’re also the most difficult. I keep finding myself thinking, “Oh, a little run couldn’t hurt.” But in reality, you’re likely to just further extend and already long recovery time. Give your body time to repair, rebuild and recover.

Within another week or two, after missing nearly two months of cardio, I’ll be getting back into the game. I’ll enjoy working back up to my previous abilities… just don’t expect a split anytime soon. 😛

Have you ever suffered from a pulled hamstring? Let me know about it in the comments below. How did you recover?

Study: How Massages Heal.

Even with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, massages are proving to be more than just romantic.

Researchers from McMaster University have concluded that a short, 10-minute massage helps reduce inflammation in muscles. According to the researchers, massage may not just help athletes and exercisers improve muscle recovery - but also help treat chronic inflammation-related conditions like muscular dystrophy or arthritis.

To conduct their study, researchers followed 11 men in their twenties. After a number of tests, the men exercised until the point of exhaustion. After resting for 10 minutes, a massage therapist applied oil to both legs - but then only massaged one leg for 10 minutes. Muscle biopsies were then done on both legs - and then repeated after 2.5 hours.

Researchers discovered that even a short 10-minute massage triggers the biochemical sensors that send inflammation-reducing signals to muscle cells. Moreover, massage causes the cells to build more mitochondria - which may also play a significant role in healing.

For the researchers, the surprise was really the dramatic effect that just 10 minutes of massage had on the muscles. According to one researcher:

I didn’t think that little bit of massage could produce that remarkable of a change, especially since the exercise was so robust… It is clearly potent.

Obviously, this study is really just a first step in determining treatments for muscle recovery and injury, but it’s yet a another reason to take some time - even if it’s just for a few minutes - to engage in a massage, even if it’s not Valentine’s Day.

P.S. Can’t hire a masseuse? Check out my Davey Wavey Fitness YouTube video to learn how to self-massage.

Avoid Fats After Your Workout.

Consuming protein and carbs after your workout is a good thing. Eating fat is not.

I love fats. Eating healthy and essential fats is an important part of any diet.

But there is one part of the day, in particular, where consuming these fats should be avoided. And that time of the day is just after your workout.

We know that it’s important to consume both protein and carbohydrates after you complete your workout. And it’s important to get them fast. In fact, the quicker the better. This is why whey protein isolate is so effective and why simple carbohydrates like dextrose are recommended - both get absorbed quickly.

Fat, on the other hand, tends to slow down the digestion process - which means that it takes more time for your body to get the proteins and carbs that it so badly needs. For this reason, most personal trainers and nutritionists will warn against consuming fat with your post-workout recovery shake or meal.

Bottom line: Essential fats are an important part of any diet - just avoid eating them after your workout.

6 Best Tips for Recovering Faster from Exercise.

Hey Davey,

I live in NYC and often go for 2-5 mile runs in Central Park. My only problem is that I’ll feel sore for at least 2 days. What is the best way to a quicker recovery?


Hey John,

First things first, a little soreness is a good (and generally unavoidable) thing. Delayed onset soreness, like what you’re experiencing, is perfectly fine, healthy and normal. If you are immediately sore, it means you have injured yourself - and that’s a whole different cup of tea.

New research shows that conditioned athletes recover faster, so one of the best things you can do is challenge yourself with a hard, heart-pumping workout. As your current fitness level increases, your recovery time tends to decrease. It’s a great long-term strategy.

Having said that, there are some things you can try that may help you recover a bit faster. They include:

  1. Warming-up. Our muscles need to be warmed up before they engage in exercise, otherwise the risk for strains, injuries and the like increases. Cold taffy breaks, but warm taffy stretches. Our muscles are the same way. A warm up need not be overly time consuming, but spend a few minutes getting your muscles ready for your workout. Before running in central park, for example, do a three minute jog.
  2. Cooling-down. Following your run in Central Park, dedicate 3 - 5 minutes to cooling down. Jogging at a gentle pace will remove some of the lactic acid from your system and help prevent stiffness.
  3. Drinking lots of water. Staying hydrated will help flush out toxins and aid in muscle recovery.
  4. Getting your post workout protein and carbs. We know that in addition to protein, it’s important to consume some post-workout carbohydrates. Doing so will help rebuild and repair you muscles, and studies have shown that it also reduces soreness.
  5. Resting! Your muscles rebuild and repair more during sleep than when you’re awake. Levels of HGH increase during sleep, so make sure you’re getting your full 6 - 8 hours.
  6. Try a cold/hot shower or massage. Some people report that a post-workout hot or cold shower can help reduce soreness and decrease recovery time. In addition, some people believe that a sports massage will help decrease recovery time, though more research is needed. It was speculated that a sports massage would help remove lactic acid, but this has been disproved by science.

You’ll notice that stretching is missing from the list. Though we’ve all been told (myself included!) that stretching helps prevent and reduce soreness, some very surprising research is proving otherwise. If stretching does have a preventative effect on soreness, it is very small. And while it may help temporarily relieve some post-workout soreness, the relief is short-lived. Stretching is great - and it may boost your performance - but its effects on recovery appear quite minimal.

In a nutshell, these six tips may help improve your recovery to some degree - but really, muscle soreness comes with the territory. On days when your legs are sore from running, do some strength training exercises involving other parts of your body - like your arms, back, shoulders, or core. Use those “sore” days as opportunities to train other muscles.

Moreover, switch up your runs. Instead of running for five miles at one pace, do 15 minutes of interval training where you jog for 90 seconds and then sprint for 60. Your body will react differently to the different workouts.

Hope that helps!


Shocking But True: Your Body Needs Carbs After Exercising.

You know that it takes protein to build muscles like these - but did you know it takes carbs, too?

Yes, I said the dreaded c-word. I know what you’re thinking: “Carbs are bad! Carbs are terrible! Get that Kool-Aid away from me!” But hear me out.

Many people adhere to low-carb diets to maintain a lean build. And it works. Low-carb diets can be extremely effective. Even so, there is one time when all people need to consume carbohydrates - and that is after a workout.

After a workout, most fitness enthusiasts know they need protein to rebuild and repair their muscles. As such, there’s a full spectrum of quality protein powders available. But marketers are savvy. Realizing the bad rap that carbohydrates get, most of these protein powders pride themselves on being low-carb or carb-free. While this might seem like a great selling point, it flies in the face of science and post-workout research.

When taken after a workout, carbohydrates restore muscle glycogen. And if you don’t eat carbs in your post-workout recovery meal, your body may actually break down muscle for this very same purpose. Uh-oh.

After you finish exercising, your body needs carbs - and it needs them fast. Simple carbohydrates, like the ones you might usually avoid any other time in the day, are absorbed quickest by the body, and thus they’re the ideal candidate. 40 - 70 grams of carbohydrates usually do the trick, which is basically a bottle of Vitamin Water. Nothing too crazy, though some trainers might advise upwards of 120 grams.

Here’s the bottom line: After you exercise, take a protein shake. And, in the likely event that your protein shake doesn’t provide enough carbs, grab a quick sugary drink or even a dextrose supplement. Yes, Davey Wavey just told you to drink a sugary drink. I promise, this is the only time!

What is Active Recovery?

Adam van Koeverden, Canada's gift to gay men and straight women everywhere.

You’ve probably heard a trainer or two mumble the words “active recovery”, but do you know what it means?

When you’re at the gym or training in your home, you probably push your body hard. But you can’t push your body hard all the time. You need to give it time to recover and for muscles to rebuild. No news here. However, recovery need not translate to a complete lack of physical activity.

Active recovery involves a low level of exertion during your “breaks” in between workouts; it’s light activity. Things like hiking, walking, or playing a game of pick-up with friends. For example, I may spend 90 minutes in the gym in the morning, but then go canoeing or swimming in the afternoon.

This sort of light activity actually speeds up your recovery by improving blood-flow to your muscles. There are also some psychological benefits, like better relaxation, according to an article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

After a hard workout, walk it off. Literally. Or hit the pool, play sports with a friend - or anything else to keep your butt moving. You’ll recover faster and enjoy better relaxation.

What to Eat After a Workout.

I just read an e-mail from a confused blog buddy that needs some post-workout nutrition guidance. Here’s my best shot.

Admittedly, it can get confusing - especially when marketing comes into play. Dozens of workout shakes are pushed our way, not to mention a whole slew of protein bars. So what’s one to do?

First things first, there is one thing that you definitely don’t want to eat after you exercise: Fat. Even “good” fat. Obviously, all of us need fat in our diets, but immediately following a workout is not when you want to consume it. Fat slows down digestion - and after a workout, your body needs to be replenished quickly. This is why I tend to avoid “muscle milk” which is actually quite high in fat.

There are three things you do need after a workout:

  • Hydration - I prefer water.
  • Carbohydrates.
  • Protein.

And how soon do you need them? Very quickly. I try to get my initial post-workout feeding within 20 or 30 minutes of exercising. Definitely within 1 hour.

When it comes for protein, we know that not all proteins are created equal. You want a high quality protein that is absorbed quickly by the body. This is why I tend to mix some whey protein powder for my initial intake as a shake. I recommend that you try the same - whey protein (ideally, whey isolate instead of concentrate) is as good as it gets! If you need deeper guidance, find out how much protein you should be consuming over the course of a day.

You also need carbs. Thanks to the likes of Dr. Atkins, women and many gay men alike try to avoid carbs like the bubonic plague. But carbohydrates are super important to your post-workout recovery. In fact, they restore muscle glycogen - and if you don’t have carbs, your body may break down muscle to perform the same process. So, make sure your post-workout meal does contain carbs. There are several formulas to calculate the exact amount, but they generally point to a range of 30 - 70 grams, depending on body weight and workout length and intensity.

If you want to get fancy, try a chicken sandwich or egg white veggie omelet with toast. But really, a good protein shake powder will generally do the trick. You can even bring the powder with you to the gym - or leave a scoop in your protein bottle and just add water on your way home. It’s a great way to help you make the most of your workout and get the results you want!

What do you eat after you workout? Let me know in the comments below.

Protein Bars Put to the Test: Davey’s Top 3 Picks.

Protein bars are an effective and convenient way to recover after a hard workout. They can fuel muscle recovery and boost your energy for the day ahead. But when it comes to both taste and nutrition, some protein bars are better than others. I decided to put a dozen popular brands to the test.

Here are my top three picks:

  1. Pure Protein - Chocolate Peanut Butter
    Davey’s Grade: A+

    This bar is delicious and healthy. It’s packed with protein, low in calories, moderate in carbohydrates and low in saturated fat and sugar. It’s definitely my bar of choice for workout recovery.
    Serving Size 50g, Calories 200, Calories from fat 60, Total Fat 6g, Saturated Fat 3g, Cholesterol 10mg, Sodium 200mg, Potassium 140mg, Total Carbs 16g, Dietary Fiber 1g, Sugars 2g, Protein 20g
  2. Clif Builder’s - Peanut Butter
    Davey’s Grade: B+

    This bar tastes way too good to be nutritional. It does have quite a bit of sugar and the sodium is high. Still, not a bad choice.
    Serving Size 68g, Calories 270, Calories from fat 70, Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 5g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 310mg, Potassium 210mg, Total Carbs 30g, Dietary Fiber 4g, Sugars 20g, Protein 20g

  3. PowerBar ProteinPlus High Protein Bar - Chocolate Brownie
    Davey’s Grade: B-

    High in sugar and not too tasty, the PowerBar ProteinPlus bar is substantial in size - if you can get it down. It’s chewy and very dry. But, it will give you a substantial 30 grams of protein.
    Serving Size 90g, Calories 360, Calories from fat 100, Total Fat 11g, Saturated Fat 4.5g, Cholesterol 5mg, Sodium 240mg, Potassium (not listed), Total Carbs 33g, Dietary Fiber <1g, Sugars 30g, Protein 30g

For a nearly exhaustive comparison of popular protein bars and their nutrition information, check out this resource.

If you use protein bars to recover from your workout, which is your favorite? Let me know in the comments.