Very often when we hear about people ‘overtraining’ what we actually mean is that they are ‘under-recovering’. In other words, they are unable to recover from the stresses imposed from the training they are undertaking.
How can we better recover from training to avoid under-recovery?
This answer can be divided into 2 main areas: -
1) Improvements to sleep
2) Improvements to Nutrition and Supplementation
How can I Improve my Sleep?
If you are training hard then you will need even more sleep than the average person. The recommendations for strength trainees is upwards of 9 hours per night as an optimal amount of sleep. This can be obtained from one long bout, or with the addition of a nap during the day. Given that most of us don’t have the type of schedule that allows for a nap in the office, the focus should be on obtaining good quality sleep every night on a consistent basis.
So what can be done to assist with sleep and improve sleep quality?
Eat carbohydrates and protein before bed: One of the reasons I like to give carbohydrates in the evening is that carbs induce significant postprandial somnolence (after-meal sleepiness) and parasympathetic nervous system dominance (rest and digest mode). This effect of carbohydrates is sometimes called 'carb knock-out'. Carbs and protein can also increase the uptake of tryptophan to the brain, which converts to serotonin and ultimately melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that effectively tells your body it’s time to go to sleep. Rice and potatoes tend to be good choices here rather than wheat-based products such as bread and pasta. This is thought to be because of the increased digestive stress caused by eating such foods.
Avoid Strong Light Exposure Before Going to Bed: Strong light exposure prevents your body from producing melatonin and keeps you awake. The room you sleep in should be pitch black. If you want to use your phone or computer before bed then install f.Lux which removes the blue light from your screen.
Limit fluid consumption before bed time to avoid having to go to the toilet during the night
Ensure you have a good room temperature (this can be difficult without A/C). The optimal temperature is around 19 degrees.
Have consistent sleep and wake times: Try to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day (including weekends).
Avoid caffeine intake later in the day: Try to avoid caffeine after 2-3pm.
How can I Improve My Nutrition and Supplementation?
Eat carbs before bed (see above)
Avoid foods that cause any GI distress before bed: Try to eat white meat or fish pre bed rather than red meat. Eat rice or potatoes rather than bread or pasta.
Supplement with Melatonin: Take 3mg 30-60 mins pre-bed
Supplement with Curcumin: Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory and will help with the repair process after training.
Supplement with Magnesium: Take 200-400mg with food towards the end of the day. Magnesium has been shown to improve sleep quality. Magnesium deficiencies are extremely common in the developed world so is definitely worth taking for this reason alone.
Is there anything else that I can do?
Prior to your training sessions spend 15 minutes to properly mobilise your body. Use the foam roller to get rid of adhesions in the fascia. Common problem areas are the sides of the thigh (ITB), hip flexors, lats (side of the back), upper back, calves and quads.
Take Epsom Salt Baths: Epsom salts are magnesium sulphate that are absorbed through the skin if you bathe in them. They help to reduce pain, inflammation and tensions in muscles and joints.
In order to avoid burn-out, you need to seriously consider how you recover between sessions. Improving sleep will vastly improve your recovery. Aim to get 9 hours consistently every night. If you only get 6 at the moment then aim for 6 1/2 initially and keep trying to add time every week.
Take care and consideration over your diet. Avoid foods that give you any kind of GI distress, particularly before bed. Stick to white meat and fish pre- and post-training.
Limit fluid intake before bed, make sure your room is dark and a comfortable temperature. Supplement with melatonin, magnesium, and curcumin. Avoid caffeine later in the day. Stretch, mobilise and foam roll prior to sessions.
Take an epsom salt bath every now and again.
Take good care of yourself....