Recovery is crucial for athletes competing at all levels – from weekend warrior to professional. The quicker you can recover, the quicker you can get back to your regular rhythm.
There are a few things you can do after a competition (or strenuous training) to help with quick recovery.
Few things are more important for your performance and recovery than hydration. Dehydration can cause muscle fatigue, lack of coordination, and muscle cramps – three things you don’t want to experience on competition day. Water is essential for every cellular process in your body (including recovery), so it is important beyond just the athletic components. Webmd.com suggests that you should drink between half an ounce to an ounce of water per pound. For a 150 pound athlete, that means between 75 and 150 ounces of water a day is an acceptable range. Not sure if you’re getting enough water? Consider investing in a water bottle you really like, figuring out how many ounces it has, and keeping track of how many times you fill it up throughout the day.
Studies show that choosing foods or supplements rich in antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatories can help with delayed-onset-muscle-soreness (DOMs) after your workout, and can even enhance the recovery of the muscles themselves. (1) Consider adding a turmeric supplement to your regimen, and a few tart cherries (or tart cherry juice) per week. On competition week, up the tart cherry dosage to one serving per day. Tart cherries have antioxidant compounds that are believed to work their magic by decreasing excess inflammation. Less inflamed, less sore, and enhanced recovery sounds too good to be true.
Massage and foam rolling can help by getting blood flow to sore or fatigued muscles, which can reduce inflammation. Stretching aims at combating muscular tightness and range of motion. (2) Stretching can be static or dynamic, and in either case should not be done cold. Combining the techniques is a winning strategy – massage or foam rolling gets the blood moving and warms up the muscles to stretch and increase the range of motion.
An Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) bath can help promote muscle relaxation, allowing achy, cramped muscles to loosen. If you are bathing in hot water, your blood vessels will also dilate and release built-up cellular waste. (3) A hot bath will also help you sweat some of those toxins out. And a spell in the bath could do wonders for your mental relaxation, as well.
Cool it on the Booze
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it aids in dehydration. So while you may want to reach for a cold one after your competition, if you have more physical tasks to complete the following day (say, a second day of competition), you might want to pass or drink lots of extra fluids to compensate for the booze. You may not perform as well on day two.
Six to eight hours of high-quality sleep will help sustain you for competition. There are lots of biological reasons to get a good night’s sleep before and after your competition, including how sleep affects your metabolism, mood and fatigue (4). It may be harder for you to fall asleep after a competition. All the more reason to take a relaxing epsom salt bath before your head hits the pillow.