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The Importance Of Rest And Recovery

Man hydrating himself after a good run


Flash news: Muscles don’t grow while you're breaking personal records at the gym, but while you give your body some time off!

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Most fitness enthusiasts are committed to their workouts. However, for long-lasting results, rest and recovery should be a part of your exercise routine without fail. Bhaskar Shetty, a Mumbai-based certified personal trainer, says, “Most men are so focussed on the end-goal that they ignore the significance of giving their bodies the time to recoup and rebuild! They don’t realise or are ignorant of the fact that the muscle growth begins after the workout ends!” 

When we exercise our muscles are broken down and microtears occur, by a process labelled as catabolism. Working out for seven days straight without rest, therefore, means that your muscles are tearing constantly and with no time given to repair and rebuild. This increases your chances of injury. “Without a prioritised post workout recovery regimen, recovery will not occur efficiently and ‘gains’ will be an elusive dream,” warns Shetty.

The difference between rest and recovery

A rest day, in simple terms, is one where you skip the gym or any physical activity. Rest is physically necessary so that the muscles can—repair, rebuild, and strengthen. Recovery, on the other hand, can be defined as actions and techniques implemented to maximise your body’s repair. Exercise or any other physical work causes fluid loss, muscle tissue breakdown, and the depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen). Recovery allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues.

They are both equally crucial for your transformation

“Rest and recovery are crucial for your body to perform at its best. Like I had mentioned earlier, when we weight train or do any form of resistance training, our muscles are essentially breaking down. Taking a rest day allows those muscles to rebuild. Typically, one to two rest days should be taken per week in order to allow your muscles time to heal and rebuild,” adds Shetty.

If you are a newbie, add more rest days to your fitness schedule: Your body is new to this amount of strain and stress, and will need time to ease into a regular training routine.

Recovery days are just as important as rest days because sometimes our muscles need the extra support in their efforts to rebuild. “Good recovery day activities include—mobility exercises, stretching or going for a walk,” reveals Shetty. Body massages reduce muscle stiffness, and are a great way to spend your recovery day.

The rest and recovery checklist

1. Sleep: Make sure to get a minimum of eight hours of sleep daily , especially if you are training hard! One or two nights of poor sleep won’t affect your performance, but a consistent inadequate sleep cycle can cause changes in hormone levels—particularly those related to stress, muscle recovery, and mood.

2. Hydration: About 70 per cent of the human body is made up of water! So, naturally, staying hydrated (minimum two litres daily) is crucial. Hydration keeps you healthy, energised, enhances recovery and helps you perform at your best!  Apart from keeping your organs and muscles in top form, water also aids in flushing out the toxins produced during exercise!

3. Nutrition: Food is not your enemy. It’s the fuel that keeps all systems going.  When we exercise we burn fuel, so re-fuelling must take place in order to allow our muscles to recover.  Complex carbs keep your body optimized and restored. “Adequate intake of lean proteins keeps your muscles fuelled, and can actually make a difference in the time your body takes to recover,” reveals Shetty.

4. Stretching: Most people don’t have the patience to stretch. It’s important to do dynamic stretches before a workout and static ones after. Stretching removes muscular tension and reduces muscle soreness after exercise.

5. Massage: Massages can be a good way to improve recovery time after exercise. It increases blood flow, therefore increasing nutrient delivery and toxin removal to and from the muscles, and also decreases inflammation and stiffness of the muscles. While getting a professional massage may end up being a costly affair, you can release knots and stiffness using a foam roller either at the gym or at home!

To conclude, rest and recovery days have to be prioritized if you’re aiming for long-term results.


[Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock]