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5 Important Keys to Exercise Recovery

by Nate Solomon

Even though you may be physically active, sometimes you may feel run down and out of energy. Here are five important areas of exercise recovery to help you remain optimally fit:

1. Make sure to get enough rest. You know your body. If you're feeling run down and out of energy all the time, the first thing to look at is the amount of rest you're getting.

As it gets hotter outside and you have more daylight to play with, you may tend to try and do too much in one day. Your body has to recuperate and requires sleep time. Try to shoot for at least 8 hours per night. Maybe your body only requires 7; that's fine, just keep tuned to your body's queues and recognize that you may need more. Without adequate rest, you'll be more susceptible to getting sick and will definitely not maximize your muscular and cardiovascular conditioning.

2. Nutrition is vital to recovery. You have to give your body the right kind of nutrients at the right time.

There are two, maybe three, critical timings for eating. The first is after you've been sleeping all night. You need to fuel-up your body. A well-balanced meal is a necessity. If you don't put fuel in your body when your tank is empty, your body will start breaking down muscle for its needed energy requirement.

The second is the post-workout meal. Within 30 minutes, you need at least some type of carbohydrate to start replenishing your lost glycogen stores. A piece of fruit, glass of juice, sports drink, etc. Since your muscles have been worked, it's also important to get some protein. Optimally, you need a meal that contains 3 grams of carbohydrate for every 1 gram of protein.

You also need to eat to fuel your workouts. About an hour to an hour and a half before working out, eat a moderate carbohydrate, low protein meal to fully saturate your glycogen muscle stores.

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3. Stretching is another good recovery technique to get in the habit of doing. Before heavy exercise, stretching gets blood flowing into your muscles and prepares them for activity. After exercise, stretching facilitates the movement of lactic acid (the by-product of energy production) out of your muscles and into your blood system to get broken down and passed out of your body. The lactic acid build-up is what causes muscles to become sore. want to do whatever possible to shuttle that bad stuff out of your muscle cells. Another good technique is massaging the muscles you just worked.

4. Be aware of the duration and intensity of your exercise sessions. You know when you get a good workout; you can feel it. It's a great sense of accomplishment. However, it is smarter and better for your body in the long run to factor in some lighter exercise sessions. Never dramatically increase the intensity of a workout. Especially in the case of cardiovascular training, you should not increase the intensity more than 10% per week. To do so would only be asking for an injury. Of course, the more "in shape" you are the better your body will be able to handle an intense workout.

5. A variety of supplements can help your body recover after a strenuous workout. They range from electrolyte/carbohydrate replacement drinks, meal replacement drinks, protein drinks. And, don't forget the numerous different kinds of energy/protein/replacement bars.

Personally, I use meal replacement drinks and energy/protein bars on a routine basis. Realistically, it's almost impossible to get good nutrition without having some kind of "easy fix" supplement at least during those inconvenient situations.

Follow these five principles on a regular basis to maintain your optimal health and fitness.

© 2002 Nate Solomon. Used with permission Nate Solomon has been a fitness/health enthusiast for over 20 years. A Certified International Sports Science Association (ISSA) Fitness Trainer, he has extensive knowledge in health and fitness through reading and personal application and has trained for weight loss/gain, a marathon, team sports and 100-mile bike rides. Check out his site Simplified Fitness.

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