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Train and recover: Why rest is more important than you think

Recovery is an important part of exercising and training because it's at times of rest that our bodies adapt and change to better prepare us for the next time we work out. It's this process of repair that makes us fitter and our bodies stronger. There's evidence to show that those who take it easy in between sessions of intense training see better results than those who consistently exercise without much downtime in between workouts. But how does it all work?

Why do we need to let our muscles recover?

The small tears our muscles experience when we exercise naturally start repairing when we stop over-working them. During this process, they'll compensate for any damage by physically reconstructing themselves to be bigger and stronger so they cope better the next time they're exerted. So if we don't allow for recovery time, we're essentially depriving our muscles of the chance to grow. In fact, the opposite can happen, and they can actually decrease in size and tone.

It's recommended to rest muscles for around a forty-eight-hour period in between weight lifting or other intensive muscle-strengthening workouts. And we should never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep, which is when your body does a lot of its repairing. That way, all the muscle tissue that's been broken down during the workout will get a chance to rebuild, with muscle glycogen (stores of energy) being replenished in times of rest. However, muscle glycogen does eventually run out while we're sleeping. If you want to avoid this and continue your muscle growth overnight, you should eat a protein-heavy snack before bed such as cottage cheese with whey protein.

What should we be eating to help us recover from workouts?

Eating plenty of protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. It's also important to replenish the sugars and nutrients we lose while exercising, which is why certain foods are great for a post-workout snack. Healthy carbs can help restore energy, so something like porridge is a fantastic option - it's loaded with protein and good carbohydrates, and is also an excellent source of fibre.

Almonds are a good source of protein and also include healthy fats, antioxidants and vitamins, so grabbing a handful of those after a training session will do plenty for your recovery.

Try the Simplyhealth post-workout smoothies

Smoothies are excellent for post-workout replenishment because they're quickly absorbed and can deliver a hit of different nutrients in one go. Try our very own work-out smoothie recipes next time you hit the gym for tons of restorative benefits. All you need to do is bung the ingredients into your food processor and whizz them up.

  1. Simplyhealth's Super Sassy Smoothie
    Coconut water, spirulina, apple, lemon, avocado, honey, ginger, spinach and chia seeds.

    This smoothie offers a great mix of replenishing nutrients. You've got protein from the chia seeds, iron from the spinach, lots of vitamins from the fruit and veg, and healthy fats from the avocado. Spinach is full of magnesium, which helps lower cortisol in the body. This is handy because cortisol levels peak after a workout.

  2. Body & Soul Saviour Smoothie
    Avocado, cacao, cacao nibs, chocolate protein, almond milk, Himalayan Salt, dates and goji berries.

    Goji berries are a source of energy as they give your body high-quality carbs, which can help your muscles recover properly. And cacao is one of the world's superfoods, filled with antioxidants that can help balance hormones, protect your heart, and prevent blood clots. Plus, almond milk is a source of protein that tastes great too.

Sources

  1. http://www.livestrong.com/article/110639-importance-rest/ 
  2. https://www.stir.ac.uk/news/2013/01/sports-science-study/  
  3. http://www.livestrong.com/article/110639-importance-rest/ 
  4. http://www.womensfitness.co.uk/article/fitness-tips/184/best-ways-recover-after-exercise
  5. https://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=6841&sc=128 
  6. http://www.livestrong.com/article/406021-when-do-muscles-grow-after-working-out-with-weights/
  7. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/Sport.aspx
  8. http://www.cosmopolitan.co.uk/body/fitness-workouts/how-to/a30990/9-healthy-post-gym-snack-meal-ideas/

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