We have all heard about how important it is to recover after a hard workout, a game, or a race in order to gain optimal performance benefits, be ready for your next workout and most important, help prevent sore muscles or injury. Here’s the scenario: You have just pushed your body to the limit, and a little voice immediately pops into your head and says, “I need to make sure that I recover properly from this.” But what does that mean? What does it mean to actually recover effectively from a workout or event in order to prepare yourself for the next time you have to push your body again?
From 30-minute nutrition windows to post-workout stretching, there are plenty of claims about recovery, but many of these claims do not hold true to science. Below are 5 common workout recovery myths debunked by the science of recovery.
Myth 1: It is beneficial to constantly consume antioxidants for recovery
Studies have found that while antioxidants allow for the repair of oxidative damage to the cells, too many antioxidants can actually delay muscle recovery and even affect muscle gains. The takeaway—consumption of antioxidants does help with recovery, but the old saying is true, “moderation is key.”
Myth 2: Ice baths are the best way to stimulate muscle repair
While ice baths and icing are considered a boilerplate method to aid muscles after a hard effort, the science behind icing actually sings a different tune. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has stated that “Topical cooling delays recovery,” while the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has said that “Ice may not be the best treatment for aching muscles—in fact, it could even be detrimental to recovery.” With more scientific studies being released about the negative effects of icing for recovery, it might be better to avoid the frigid temperatures post-workout.
Myth 3: Massages are not scientifically proven to help muscles recover
Massages not only feel nice, but have been tested in research studies with both animal and human subjects for effectiveness. In a study with rabbits in New Zealand, massage techniques were tested through ‘torque recovery’ to evaluate the effects of massage post- hard effort. The results illustrated that the rabbits experienced enhanced muscle function with massages right after intense activity as opposed to delaying massages after activity. Human studies using muscle biopsies have found that massages can decrease the inflammatory markers in the muscles. So go ahead, book that massage knowing that you are boosting recovery and training, not just getting some relaxing table time.
Myth 4: Compression socks can give the ultimate edge in performance and recovery
While compression socks are the latest fashion trend in the endurance sports world—who doesn’t love the knee-high sock look—there has been no current concrete evidence illustrating either positive or negative effects from wearing the socks. Even at different compression levels of 0, 10, 20, 30, and 40 mmHg, there have been no noted effects in terms of stroke volume, oxygen saturation, and oxygen uptake. While compression socks may not be the best way to maximize recovery, it doesn’t mean that the fashion statement has to end!
Myth 5: Rest is the best way to help the body recover after hard sports and workout efforts
While sleep can be a beneficial aid in sports recovery, the science behind sports recovery has repeatedly illustrated that active recovery produces significant decreases in blood lactate concentrations when compared to other recovery methods. Active recovery focuses on movements that allow the blood to move and decrease residual fatigue in the muscles. Active recovery exercises could include an easy bike ride, a walk, yoga, or for more dramatic results, using the Marc Pro to get the waste out of the muscles, and the nutrients into the muscles.
Recovery is an important element to every athlete and weekend warrior alike. However, understanding the science behind the myths and truths of recovery will guide you to better training, improved performance and keep you feeling as best as possible.