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The three Rs of recovery: Rest, Refueling, Rehabilitative

May 11, 2018

The importance of recovery when it comes to exercise may be a bit understated. In fact, it may be a crucial component of overall conditioning. We’ve broken down the components of recovery into simply rest, recovery and refuel. For a bonus, there is a supplemental section at the end.

Rest – Who doesn’t love a rest day? The thing with rest is that we need adequate amounts of it to restore and replenish ourselves. Rest can be divided into rest and active rest. The typical rest we think of is resting without moving. This is where active rest comes into play. Active rest involves engaging in exercise that is very low impact and helps to remedy pain and discomfort associated with muscle breakdown. This can be as simple as walking which has been shown to be beneficial in both stress reduction and recovery from exercise.

Refuel – The role of pre-, intra-, and post-exercise nutrition cannot be overstated enough. During exercise, our bodies have to utilize various substrates and fuel to provide the energy to keep us going. While exercising, we lose electrolytes; both electrolytes and substrates have to be ingested post-exercise. The essential macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats) are all involved in providing our bodies energy during exercise. Carbs and protein provide us the most benefit post exercise especially if the exercise was either long in duration or extremely intense. In general fluid losses, and in cases of substantial sweat loss, fluid should be replenished at a rate of 24 ounces per pound of body weight loss. Remember when we said that the role of nutrition cannot be overstated enough? Well, depending on your goals and activity level, what is needed post exercise will vary. For instance, in aerobic endurance (think marathoners, cyclists, hiking) their carbohydrate and protein recommendations (8 to 10g of carbohydrate and 1.0 to 1.6g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day) will vary based on the duration of the activity. On the other side of the spectrum, in strength and power athletes, their recommendations are also a little different (5 to 6g of carbohydrate and 1.4-1.7g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day). As you can see, there is a little math involved when implementing individual nutrition goals, but it is a crucial part of the puzzle when trying to improve performance and or gains.

Rehabilitative – The common acronym utilized for rehabilitation is RICES, which stands for rest, ice, compression, elevation and stabilize. However, there are many other modalities that can be used for recovery such as heat, electrical stimulation, acupuncture or massage. There are many studies with conflicting evidence about alternative therapies for muscle recovery. A more recent study found that cryotherapy (and or cold therapy) was superior to that of other passive modalities. What the majority of these modalities do is to help both the pain and healing response.

Supplementation – Supplements are just that, supplemental. You should aim to get the majority of your nutrients through the food you consume throughout the day. However, if you do choose to take supplements, run it by your physician or healthcare provider to ensure it is the right approach for you. There is a lot of research surrounding supplementation and the research is mixed. I want to touch on two minerals in particular: magnesium and zinc. Magnesium is a cofactor in roughly 300 enzymes in the body. These enzymes regulate muscle contraction, oxygen delivery and protein synthesis. Zinc is also another important cofactor involved in multiple enzymes in the body, specifically those involved in muscle energy and protein synthesis. The results of supplement efficacies are mixed in well-nourished athletes, which again points to getting the vast majority of nutrients through your food.

Recovery is a topic of mass debate and is crucial to the development of the novice and advanced athlete alike. There is no one-size-fits all approach to recovery; we are all individuals and thus our requirements are vastly different. What works for you may not work for me and that’s fine. Just remember the three Rs when evaluating your needs in terms of recovery.

To learn more about the NCH Wellness Center, visit or call 847-618-3500.