July 13, 2021 – It might have been Tom Brady’s infrared pajamas, but for many sports fans and weekend warrior athletes, the time when the science of “recovery” has reached new heights has come with a Instagram post by Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire. He was soaking in a pot of red wine. The caption read in part: “Recovery day! Red wine bath !! #King.”
He said the wine (mixed with water) calms his body and “creates more circulation in my red blood cells.” And who can say no?
But everyday runners, weightlifters and other recreational athletes seeking recovery advice from the elite ranks might do better with a little skepticism to protect their pockets. In the emerging art and science of post-exercise recovery, the sophisticated marketing techniques of a multi-billion dollar industry may leave you wondering: will this really help me recover from workouts? training?
Could this give me a performance advantage? Maybe avoid injury? In short: maybe – but it depends.
Why recovery is important
At an earlier age, we were advised to exercise and eat well to achieve fitness, adjusting the effort to achieve certain goals.
But now, from the world of elite athletes, science and marketing, the suggestions keep growing, often not reaching the level of general recommendation. That is, while one thing can help some people, it probably hasn’t been proven to be effective at all levels.
The recovery process is important for active people because it allows your body to rebuild itself from the stress of exercise and helps prevent injury. It helps us to avoid dangerous overtraining. Some studies link factors such as sleep to performance levels.
“The recovery period is crucial to maximizing the healthy changes your body undergoes in response to a workout,” according to The Mayo Clinic.
Good recovery also helps make you stronger and faster.
“If the recovery rate is appropriate, higher training volumes and intensities are possible without the detrimental effects of overtraining,” says Lance C. Dalleck of the American Council on Exercise.
From water to red wine baths
Here is a range of products and services, ranging from “seems logical” to “Oh, really? “
Hydration. We need water after exercise. But drinking too much water can be dangerous, even if it takes a long way to get there. Does that mean we have to gobble up Gatorade after every workout? Absolutely not.
To sleep. Professional athletes started talking about their sleep schedules a few years ago, proudly devoting time to serious sleep in addition to training. Despite what you might have been told in high school, getting up early to work out an extra hour might not be the best idea.
Warming up, stretching and cooling down. Before and after exercise, paying attention to your muscles can improve mobility and decrease delayed-onset muscle pain, or DOMS.
Days off. These can include “active rest” like yoga or light training.
Eat properly. Our body gets most of the nutrients it needs from a healthy diet, making most supplements unnecessary for most people. Pay attention to the levels of macronutrients you get. (This means grams of fat, carbohydrates, and protein.) Avoid processed foods and sugar, which can contribute to muscle weakness and decreased cardiovascular endurance.
Foam rolling and massage. Some coaches and athletes swear that these techniques help relieve DOMS and improve blood circulation. The science is less clear. If it makes you feel good and doesn’t hurt more than your wallet, then the decision is up to you.
Cold therapy. This means briefly exposing your body to extremely cold temperatures or submerging your body in cold water. It can ease inflammation, but inflammation is part of your body’s natural healing, and some experts say we generally shouldn’t stop it.
Compression clothing. Some people swear by them, and some claim that they can improve blood flow deeper into the muscles.
Red wine bath. See the top of this story.
Infrared sleepwear. Tom Brady could be the best quarterback in the NFL, even now in his forties. So naturally millions of people wonder what advice they can take from him. The GOAT website states, “This multitasking recovery garment is infused with minerals that return infrared energy to your body and restore muscle faster. The long-sleeved top costs $ 90 for men.
How to say what is what
Journalist Christie Aschwanden takes a skeptical approach to many such claims in her book “Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery”.
She says consumers should focus on the basics of personal care and be aware of the marketing that links celebrity privilege with the research being conducted by the company. If someone recommends a product or service – and will make money for it – then that’s a clue. And that can be said for everything from protein bars up.
“People are looking for a magic trick that will make their lives perfect, and marketers are ready. [to] capitalize on that and sell us what will improve our life or our athletic performance, ”she says. “Most of them are a waste of money.”
“Sleep is the first thing you can do to improve your recovery from exercise and sports. But it’s not something that most people tend to prioritize. ”
We don’t need protein powders, supplements, or sugary sports drinks claiming to offer “electrolytes,” which are just salts found in healthy diets, she says.
There is no “magic pill”
Dalleck, who is also a professor of exercise and athletic science at Western Colorado University, proposed “deliberate trial and error.” The former college runner suggests that each person should “find out what works for you” when it comes to rest and recovery.
Experts also advocate stress management, progressive training, vigilance against overtraining, and planned relaxation, such as meditation or daily quiet times.
“Stress is everything,” says Brett Rosenberg, MD, orthopedic surgeon and athletic physician in Atlanta. “Stress and anxiety really make people weak, and any way to deal with that is great for people who suffer from anxiety or stress.”
So while some might doubt the healing power of massage, for example, Rosenberg says that healing human touch can ease pain and help people feel better. Whether it really improves performance maybe doesn’t really matter.
Athletic physician Jonathan Gelber, MD, says he advises patient-athletes to “train smarter, not harder.”
To avoid overtraining – which can occur when we train too much without leaving any recovery time – Gelber recommends having another hobby outside of sport. And keep a training journal that you can refer to as a record of your progressive training, for those days when you feel like you’re not doing enough.
If you find a tactic – say, cryogenics or cupping, which was popularized by Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps – that makes you feel better or gives you a psychological advantage, then spend your money.
But for most people, he advocates rest, hydration, proper nutrition, and “listening to your body, not your ego.”
“If you can afford a tub full of red wine and you think that makes you a better professional athlete, then it’s probably a solid investment. But you’re definitely scratching your head at some of these things, ”Gelber says. “If there was a magic pill, we would all take it.”
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