Americans love a deal! It turns out we approach our strength training the same way, always looking for maximum results. What some fail to recognize is that working out is only half the equation. While working out stimulates improvements in fitness, it’s the recovery phase (what you do between workouts) that allows improvements to occur. Combining the right nutrition, with adequate rest, puts your body on the path to maximizing results. Here’s three steps for getting the most from every workout.
Think Recovery Nutrition
Intense strength training produces microscopic tears in skeletal muscle. Under normal circumstances, your body attempts to repair this damage. The process of rest and repair, otherwise known as overcompensation, is what leads to a stronger muscles and healthier body. One of the most effective ways to enhance this process is to consume adequate protein. Post-workout protein takes advantage of the fact that your muscles exhibit an increased sensitivity to protein when your strength training. This explains why post-workout protein accelerates the building of new muscle tissue.
Both plant and animal-based proteins contribute to the muscle building process. However, animal-based proteins including beef, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and milk products (cheese, yogurt, etc.) are superior at building muscle. Consuming post-workout protein has also been shown to improve diet quality by displacing lower quality foods (i.e., processed foods that are lower in nutrition).
The Sports Nutrition Handbook published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the consumption of protein within 1 to 4 hours following a strength workout. Independent research has found that 10 to 30 grams of post-workout protein is sufficient to increases muscle protein synthesis in most people.
Additional high-quality protein options include low and non-fat milk, unsweetened low-fat yogurt, Greek yogurt, protein shakes (made with a high-quality protein supplement), nutrition bars, cheese, lean beef, poultry, fish, shellfish, cottage cheese, eggs, and veggie burgers.
Avoid Sleep Deprivation
Today’s fast paced world often contributes to sleep deprivation. Some people mistakenly view sleep deprivation as a badge of honor that demonstrates how hard they are working! This mindset aligns with the misguided notion, “you can sleep when your dead!” According to Bonnie Liebman of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “the average American sleeps one to two hours less per night than he or she did 40 or 50 years ago.”
If you’re not getting 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep every night, you’re not giving your muscles the opportunity to maximize growth. Getting adequate sleep often comes down to better planning. One of the best things you can do is develop a healthy sleep routine. Scientists refer to this as your sleep hygiene. Good hygiene contributes to the quality and quantity of your sleep. Given you have already invested time in your strength workout, the simplest thing you can do is make sure you get to bed on time!
Rest Your Muscles
In a country obsessed with doing more, focusing on rest can seem counterproductive. Yet, when it comes to building stronger, healthier muscles, rest is an essential ingredient. Without rest, muscle never has the opportunity to overcompensate. Overcompensation occurs when muscle growth exceeds muscle damage. The challenge Americans face is recognizing that overcompensation takes time, more time than they realize.
Full recovery from an intense, full-body, strength workouts (like the MEDFITNESS Workout) can take 3 to 4 days. That means you don’t achieve the full benefits of your workout for up to 96 hours. Working out before your muscles have fully recovered prevents overcompensation. Following the “more is better” approach (working out more often) is a VERY COMMON MISTAKE. If more was better, you should be able to strength train every day of the week while getting stronger and healthier. Of course, this just doesn’t happen. The only people that recover quickly are either genetic anomalies (less than 1% of the population), taking illegal drugs (i.e., steroids), or not training hard enough.
The best way to achieve full recovery (and full benefits) is to rest 3 to 4 days between high-intensity, strength workouts. This translates into two, full-body workouts per week. Adding a third strength workout to your week, interferes with recovery and strength gains (leaving you weaker). It also increases your risk of musculoskeletal injuries, a bad outcome when you’re trying to get healthier and stronger.
1. Unexpected Surprising Findings from the Last 40 Years, Bonnie Liebman. Nutrition Action Health Letter, January/February 2011.
2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2017. Sports Nutrition: A Handbook for Professionals, Sixth Edition.
3. Enhancing Resistance Training Results with Protein/Carbohydrate Supplementation. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 2013: Vol. 17/No.2.