Get More Out of Exercise with These Recovery Secrets
An amazing amount of what most people “know” about exercise is a myth. Ideas get repeated in the locker room over and over… and pretty soon, they become “facts.”
Take stretching, for instance. Most people “know” you should stretch before exercising. Other’s “know” you should stretch afterwards, instead.
But as I explained in a previous letter, studies show that stretching doesn’t prevent injury for most people – either before or after exercise. (The one exception: People who’ve been stretching before exercise for years.)
A lot of what we think we know about recovery has been proven wrong, too. Today, I’ll share some secrets that will help you get the most out of exercise by making smart recovery choices.
One thing almost everyone gets right is the need to rehydrate – both during and after exercise. The more you sweat the more fluid you need to replace.
For most people, water is a good choice. But if you work out hard – or if it’s particularly hot, and you’re sweating a great deal – then you might want an extra boost.
But carbohydrate replacement drinks aren’t really a good choice. Carbohydrates don’t help your muscles recover. And some people find these drinks can upset their stomach.
I’m not a big fan of commercial electrolyte replacement drinks, either.
But one trendy drink that is a good choice is coconut water. The liquid from young coconut fruits is high in vitamin C – helpful for mopping up the free radicals created by exercise. It also gives you a healthy dose of B vitamins. And you need more of these when you stress your body.
Plus, coconut water is loaded with the minerals your body loses through sweat. It’s an especially rich source of potassium. And studies show it rehydrates as effectively as plain water… but it’s even easier on your stomach. So you can replace lost fluids faster drinking coconut water.1
You probably know that your muscles can take a beating during exercise. But you may be surprised to learn what the best muscle-recovery drink is.
It’s chocolate milk.
In study after study, chocolate milk comes out on top for quick recovery after exercise.2, 3 it actually contains a good balance of the proteins and sugars that promote quicker muscle recovery.
And speaking of muscles… If you’re like most people, you cool down after exercise to prevent tight and sore muscles.
This isn’t a mistake… but it’s a myth. There’s actually no evidence that “cooling down” provides any benefit. However, there is evidence that it doesn’t help.
In a South African study, volunteers walked backwards downhill on a treadmill for a half-hour. This unusual form of exercise would normally result in sore muscles. And in this experiment, it did. But volunteers who cooled down for 10 minutes afterwards were no less sore than volunteers who didn’t cool down.
Cooling down doesn’t help with muscle tightness, either.4
However, if you’re used to cooling down after exercise, there’s no reason to stop. It certainly doesn’t do any harm.
But another post-exercise practice does do harm.
If you’ve ever been to a marathon, you’ve probably seen the massage tents that have become so popular. At the end of the race, runners stumble their way in for a free massage to help soothe sore muscles and speed recovery.
Except it turns out a post-exercise massage actually does more harm than good. A Canadian study recently proved that massage inhibits blood flow. And that slows the removal of waste products from the muscles… actually making your recovery take longer.5
So if you want to recover faster from a tough workout, skip the massage.
I see a lot more mature adults working out these days – and taking part in competitive sports. With these secrets, you can make your workouts a little easier… and your recovery a little faster.
Dr Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
Best Life Herbals
1 Saat M, et al. Rehydration after exercise with fresh young coconut water, carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage and plain water. J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2002 Mar;21(2):93-104.
2 Karp JR, et al. Chocolate milk as a post-exercise recovery aid. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Feb;16(1):78-91.
3 Thomas K, et al. Improved endurance capacity following chocolate milk consumption compared with 2 commercially available sport drinks. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009 Feb;34(1):78-82.
4 See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/15/health/nutrition/15best.html.
5 Wiltshire EV, et al. Massage impairs post exercise muscle blood flow and “lactic acid” removal. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jun;42(6):1062-71.