RECOVERY – take care of your muscles

One of the basics of a healthy and happy life is physical activity. It strengthens both mind and body. If something is not utilised enough, it becomes weak, withers and dies. This absolutely applies for our bodies, especially muscles, but also bones, tendons, joints and our cardiovascular system.

Text Carsten Vagn-Hansen

If we do not stay active, our bodies will perish quickly. Often we start depending on others. By using our so-called locomotor, we achieve several major health benefits and greater satisfaction in some areas. Many daily small problems become smaller or disappear, and life becomes easier.

Recovery. After the muscles have been used, it is necessary to set off time to recover; Especially if you have worked up a sweat. You should wait for one to two days before the muscle fibres are completely recovered.

Exercise and Fitness

Many people use their body too seldom and too little varied. Everyday life is for most people affected by a lot of sitting. That often causes pain and tenderness in muscles, tendons and joints. The nerves that set the muscles in motion will die if they are not used. Thus the muscles also die. It’s an ancient wisdom that pains in muscles while exercising will disappear with more exercise. We know that the muscles repair themselves when they are being used. The muscles also become bigger and stronger. New muscle cells are formed from the muscles’ stem cells, and existing ones grow.

Weight loss is another advantage of working out. The number of mitochondria, the cell’s “power plants”, increases when we exercise. This accelerates the energy production in the muscle cells. Thus we burn more fat. The best way to strengthen muscles and at the same time, burn more fat is to use heavy weights and take long pauses between the different exercises. Using lighter weights and shorter breaks help to improve your stamina.

To achieve or maintain a generally good physical shape, you need to exercise or workout two to three times a week, for at least half an hour at a time. You must make sure to get your heart pumping and to use as much of your body as possible. Are you training for a race or another sports performance, you should exercise four to six times a week, and when you reach the elite sports level 10 to 14 times.

Mental Recovery

A proper workout also has mental benefits. When you concentrate on maximal performance, you achieve mental restitution. The feeling of stress occurs when the brain has too many worries and tasks. Exercise and fitness strengthen the brain and generates more mental energy. More brain cells are created, and negative thoughts and depression are counteracted.

Physical Recovery

When you have used your muscles, a certain amount of time is required for proper recovery. Especially if you have given your muscles tough resistance or strained them, if you have too short breaks between the workouts, it will damage the muscles. It would help if you allowed the muscles to rest and rebuild for one to two days.

During recovery, fatty acids and amino acids are required for the muscles to rebuild and grow. The liver and muscles’ depot of glucose (energy storage) must be restored so that there is glucose available when the muscles are to be used again. If you want to lose weight, you should therefore be careful with fast carbs such as white bread, candy, sweet drinks etc. If you avoid those things, the body will use energy from one of the body’s depots instead.

If you consume sugar or fructose after working out, from, for example, juice, it will affect the production of growth hormones. They are important, for example, the production of new muscle cells and strengthening the existing ones. To refill your carbohydrate depots, it is better to eat, for example, bananas and whole-grain bread.

While working out, you will also lose salts and fluids. By weighing yourself before and after working out, you can figure out how much fluids you need to replace. Most people consume enough salts in their diet; however, if you sweat a lot and drink only water, adding sea salt in the water might be a good idea.

Building Blocks

When you are actively working out, you need more nutrients than normal to fulfil the body’s needs. Lack of nutrients will affect both the recovery and the beneficial effects of working out. During a tough workout, one will, for example, lose ferrous myoglobin. This is separated in the urine and can lead to iron deficiency. With men, iron deficiency is otherwise rare.

The large oxygen turnover in the muscle tissue causes oxidation of the cells with inflammation. Therefore the body will require antioxidants, including vitamin C, D, K and B and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Lack of vitamin D3 often causes muscle pains. Bioflavonoids from fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts are also necessary to ingest if you exercise intensively. Berries contain many effective antioxidants and can be used in smoothies together with other nutrients. Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for complete recovery and prevent inflammation. If you supplement the body with all the nutrients, it needs sufficient amounts, and you will have the maximum effect of the workout.

Proteins Accelerate Recovery

People who are aiming to improve their cardiovascular endurance will need extra proteins. Proteins, which are long chains of amino acids, are vital for the repairing and reconstruction of muscle tissue. Proteins are taken up in the blood after they are broken down to a maximum of two consecutive amino acids. Then the amino acids are transported by the blood to the muscles where they are used to build enzymes, myoglobin and muscle mass. Some of the amino acids are vital, as we cannot produce them ourselves; therefore, we have to ingest them through our diet as proteins of high quality. If your diet does not include plenty of proteins, you must supplement with more proteins, e.g. whey protein (from milk). Especially vegans need to be aware of this.

Creatine is a Natural Substance in the Muscles

This substance affects our ability to do momentary, intense muscle work. It exists in meat and fish, and the body can create it itself. Taken as a supplement, especially together with whey protein, it increases the performance ability when doing brief, intensive work, such as extreme sports etc. Creatine also provides a quicker recovery after physical strain and prevents acidification of the body. It prevents cell damage and inflammation following great physical strain, for example, a 30 km race (Santos et al. Life Sciences 75 (2004) 1917-24).

Resting is Necessary

Proper sleep and relaxation is an important part of the recovery. After a proper workout, a good nights sleep is necessary. How much sleep one needs varies; however, people who complete proper workouts typically need 8-9 hour of sleep. During the night, many factors strengthen the recovery—for example, the production of growth hormones increases. The Kenyan runners are among the world’s best. They spend a lot of time in bed. They run, eat and sleep.

Tips: Green tea helps increase fat loss in the stomach area after exercising (Journal of Nutrition, February 2009).

The Doctor

Carsten Cagn-Hansen is from Denmark, has been practising medicine for 18 years and is a lecturer and tutor in Practicing Doctors Centralized Postgraduate Education. He was the president of the International Society for General Practise. He has also received several awards, including The International Nature Medicine Honorary Price. He is the author of numerous books within health and fitness. To top it off, he has been a radio doctor in Denmark’s radio and a TV doctor on DR TV.