Davide Re at the 2018 Italian national championships (© Giancarlo Colombo/FIDAL)
Italian 400m record-holder Davide Re is also currently pursuing a medical degree. So who better to ask for advice on post-workout rest and recovery?
Taking on board the right nutritional intake after an intense workout is critical. Following an intense workout we create microtraumas in our body which need to be repaired. After an intense effort our muscles require energy (carbohydrates) to be able to initiate these repairs of the damaged tissue (muscle/protein). So, with this in mind carbohydrates and protein are vital to repairing the microtrauma. To also aid this process, nitrates and antioxidants can also be useful.
In general, proper nutrition not only significantly accelerate recovery but also the storage of glycogen within the muscle itself. We have to be careful about what we eat but in terms of sugars and carbs, fruit and bread is fine. However, after training it may be more practical to eat a sandwich. For proteins, I would consume foods with a high biological value such as red meat, eggs or dairy products.
For general well-being hydration is essential for multiple reasons. However, certainly before a workout hydration specifically helps the prevention of muscle cramps as water is an essential component of the muscle contraction and release cycle. After a training session/workout it becomes particularly important, because it facilitates the breakdown into amino acids and absorption. Furthermore, the waste products of protein metabolism increase diuresis, so drinking also becomes important to maintain the correct amount of hydration.
It is fine to drink plain water, but if you sweat a lot I would recommended fluids with salt replacement properties. Also, it is better to drink consistently rather than draining a full bottle in one go. The human body absorbs around 200-300ml at a time, the rest goes into the urinary tract or stays in the digestive tract. Some 20-30 minutes after training, however, I will drink at least half a litre of water.
Getting the right amount of sleep is very important because it is sleep that enables the body to recover from the day. In the so-called REM sleep, there is a total relaxation of the muscles and a reset of the nervous system. Stages three and four are the deepest in which you "cannot" be awakened and also contribute significantly to the recovery of energy expended during the day.
The recommended number of hours for sleep is around eight hours a day. There are some interesting studies that show that with the same calories and training those who sleep eight to nine hours a night develop more lean mass and less fat than those who sleep five or six hours per night, which seems a contradiction. It would be logical to think that if I stay awake for longer I would consume more calories. In reality, the alteration of the cicardian rhythms and the lack of sleep probably leads to hormonal imbalances that cause among other things the accumulation of lipids (fats). I consider myself very lucky. I typically sleep very well and without the need for special rituals.
Massage and jogging
The most important means to help the muscles recover from a workout remain adequate rest and proper nutrition/supplementation. However, a muscle cooldown that can be achieved either through massage or jogging can help this process. Note, there is no great scientific evidence that massage immediately after training can help recovery, the concept behind this would be to vascularise the muscles by increasing the supply of blood and nutrients, and eliminating the metabolites produced with effort.
But at the end of the workout the muscles are already extremely vascularised, so massage then is not so effective and could even increase the inflammatory state further. It would be better to leave the massage for at least a few hours to make the most of it.
Steve Landells for World Athletics