Introduction As a pro natural bodybuilder, I have lifted more weights over the years than a forklift truck with 100,000 miles on the clock. But all this lifting can, and has, taken its toll on my body. At the ripe old age of....ahem...erm 30ish I do find myself taking more time and care on the recovery aspect of my training. Don’t get me wrong, I love smashing the weights and fully beasting myself, but I do also take the time to make sure I’m recovering and looking after myself, especially my joints.
Where does recovery start? For me, my recovery starts with warming up fully. It seems contradictory to start recovery this way but believe me it makes a huge difference. I have an upper body and lower body warm-up protocol I go through before I embark on any type of lifting. I fully contract and relax the major muscle groups, and go through the full range of movements. I also ensure that I perform warm-up sets of my chosen exercises as I believe there is nothing better than the actual exercise to prepare your body. Recovery also takes in your pre-workout food, if your body already has the nutrients in place before you train it’ll be primed to start recovery as soon as you've finished. I start my session 45 minutes before with a pre-workout such as GN volt, with some extra, HMB, beta-alanine, citrulline malate and creatine. I tend to have a small meal too which contains some whey isolate and a simple carb, often a kids cereal as it tastes great.
Intra workout While performing my sets and reps I constantly keep stretching and mobilising each joint so as not to get too pumped and locked out through that joint. Within my training, I tend to do opposing movements consecutively to concentrate on keeping balanced. Ie DB press and then bent over rows. My training sessions are legendarily long and hard work, over 2 hours, so I do take intra workout nutrition to stay on top of the recovery process. I try to stay anabolic by keeping my cortisol levels at bay. The best way to keep cortisol low is with insulin. To keep your insulin high you want fast carbs. My choice of fast carbs is highly branched cyclic dextrin. It can be a bit pricey, but for me worth every penny. You could just use plain dextrose or maltodextrin as it’s cheaper, but for me, it’s HBCD all the way. I also include EAAs and leucine. If your insulin is high the cells are receptive to uptake other nutrients so let’s get some aminos going along for the ride. Leucine is primarily used to ‘switch on’ the muscle protein synthesis pathways that are necessary for growth.
Post workout - Rest and eat. Simple really. Get your post workout food in within an hour or so. This could be your whey shake and simple carbs if you’re in a rush or it could be a decent whole food meal. It’s up to you. I tend to eat every 2-3 hours post workout until bedtime. Once I’ve finished training I like to sit for 30-60 mins just to let my body calm down. I find this hugely beneficial. I sometimes foam roll and often have a shower quite soon afterwards, these both stimulate blood flow and encourage recovery. There are a couple of other things that I take to aid my recovery. I swear by omega 3 tabs as they are hugely anti-inflammatory. I also take glucosamine for joint health as well as vitamin D and curcumin. And at the end of the day..... Well, at the end of the day we go to bed. I go to bed around 21:30-22:00 as I’m up at 5am daily so I need a minimum of 7 hours sleep. If you’re getting less than this you simply will not recover, and you certainly will not grow. 7-9 hours is optimal for most people, and getting some hours before midnight does make a difference.
To sum up Training and food are necessary to stimulate growth but rebuilding happens when you are at rest. Take care of your body and your diet, you cannot burn the candle at both ends. Training hard is great but you’ll have to rest as hard as you train or you’ll break. It’s a bit like a sports car, a Ferrari is a phenomenal machine that performs at the highest levels, but it needs the best fuels, oils, parts and an amazing set of mechanics to maintain it so it’s able to perform. If you want your physique to be the equivalent of a Ferrari then you need to look after your body and support your recovery.