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3 Tips for Better Performance Recovery

  Ever wondered which recovery methods will give you best results? The performance recovery industry has taken off in recent years, but it can be dizzying trying to keep up with the latest technology and trends. In this article I will outline the 3 best methods you can use today to get you in top form for your next game, practice or workout.

  1. Get Some Rest. 

In the recovery world, sleep is king. With all of the research and recovery modalities accumulating in recent years, sleep still remains the number one most important factor in performance recovery. No stat illustrates this point better than the image below. In his book, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleeps and Dreams, Dr. Matt Walker outlines the stats of, then, Golden State Warrior Andre Iggoudala during his 2014-15 playoff MVP season.

The image displays Iggoudala’s stats while playing after getting 8 hours of sleep versus when he did not get 8 hours of sleep the previous night. The numbers speak for themselves and make a compelling case for the effect a lack of sleep has on physical and cognitive performance.

For daily recommendations on hours of sleep for your age group, see the image below from the National Sleep Foundation.

  1. Eat for Recovery

Really?! With all of the new technology we have at our fingertips, I’m still rolling out sleeping and eating as the top two recovery strategies? That’s right. While many athletes are more consumed with the best supplement to take for a desired outcome, being most prepared for each game, practice and training session comes down to fundamental practices of nutrition.

First and foremost, athletes need to replenish their fuel stores following exercise to best ensure they have enough energy to get through upcoming bouts of training and/or competition. The daily consumption recommendation for protein is 1.6-2.2 g/kg/day and for carbohydrates is 3-6 g/kg/day. Every person is different, and different types of activity call for slightly different energy intake ratios, but the above listed numbers are rough guidelines for daily energy consumption. If you are doing heavy cardiorespiratory work, you want to fuel up with more carbs after your session to replenish muscle glycogen; conversely, if you are doing an activity that is more muscular strength oriented, you will want to recover with fuel that is more protein heavy to rebuild the damaged tissue. Regardless of the type of training you are doing, keeping up with your daily energy intake is paramount for top performance.

  1. Contrast Bath

Beyond sleeping and fueling for recovery, there is plenty of research (albeit with mixed results) on ways to aid the process of recovery for the muscle tissue and nervous system. These different methods are all intended to increase waste removal, improve range of motion, decrease muscle and joint stiffness and pain, and decrease inflammation.

An easily accessible, user friendly, way to accomplish this is by way of contrast hydrotherapy, or hot/cold shower/bath. Even on the road, in the hotel room, athletes have access to this type of therapy. An easy protocol is as follows: alternate back and forth between tolerably hot water (38-40℃ if you are bringing your thermometer) and cold water (10-15℃), 1-2 minutes at a time, for a total of 15 minutes.

In addition to hydrotherapy there are many other, more expensive, passive recovery modalities that have gained attention in the research and are widely used by athletes in various domains. Among the most popular are: electromagnetic stimulation (compex, marc pro, power dot), pneumatic compression devices (normatech, rapid reboot) and compression garments (compression pants, sleeves, etc.) to name a few. All of these modalities appear to have some merit, but will never surpass sleep and nutrition as essential to the recovery process. If you want to maximize your recovery and optimize your daily performance, dial in your sleep and nutrition habits first before looking for a quick fix for your fatigue.