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Recovery As It Relates to Sports

One of the key words used in medicine following any type of medical procedure is the “Recovery” period. In fact, physicians spend adequate time explaining to patients how

important the recovery is for the procedure to be successful. In the field of Sports Medicine

that word is extremely important, especially at the adolescent level, where the human body continues to mature physically and mentally.

So exactly what is the recovery period relative to youth sports, and to what areas is it applied? I will break it down in three different realms: the physiological effect following a particular workout, the nutritional component during the phase of physical competition, and probably the most important relative to youth, the mental component as it relates to the soul. In this segment I will go over the first two realms with the objective of explaining the first realm as a metaphor so that the second can be easily understood by parents.

Every type of workout whether it is performed in the weight room, soccer field, football field, basketball court or on the track, requires an understanding of different energy systems, and how to achieve ultimate proficiency in each system pending the intensity and duration of the task. For this process to occur, adequate time in recovery has to be utilized correctly in order for each system to reach its highest potential. So, for example, if a student athlete is to engage in a top speed workout with the objective of being an efficient sprinter, he/she must do repeated bouts of sprints (5-10) between 10 and 55 meters with a 3-4 minute recovery time in between repetitions so that the ATP/PC, which is the fuel system required at that distance, can be adequately replenished and work in harmony with the neurological system. This procedure requires at least 3 to 7 days of recovery to occur before it can be repeated again. Repeating the workout in any less time could be detrimental to any gains.

The nutritional component, which is the nutrients required to make different types of fuel, also has a time sensitive window to be used, not only to replenish the muscle glycogen (storage of glucose on the muscle cells), but also the liver glycogen (storage of glucose at the liver to feed the brain). Replenishing the muscle glycogen storage system has to occur within 30 minutes of a workout or competition. For the liver glycogen to be adequately full, it requires adequate intake of the proper nutrients, carbohydrate to protein, 4-6 times during the day and especially right before bed time for the “recovery” component be adequate.

So, let’s try to place this concept into practice: Hydration is the vehicle in which these nutrients can be distributed to their proper organs and storage systems. 10oz of water with a pinch of unrefined sea salt underneath the tongue repeated 5-6 times during the day, 20 min before every meal and two hours afterwards is adequate to maintain the two oceans of water within our cells to be replenished. Meals should consist of a proper balance of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and fats heavy on Omega 3 at least 3x a day (breakfast being most important), with snacks consisting of a proper ratio of complex carbohydrates and proteins (raw fruits, nuts and dairy) before and after practices or sports events. Nighttime is crucial for the brain to be replenished and avoid metabolic stress. For that, raw, unfiltered honey or raw fruit provides the optimal 1:1 ratio of glucose to fructose. This type of meal plan would satisfy the body to properly “recover” after each workout, and would allow the body to benefit from the workout without any type of physical breakdown.

There is one more aspect I would like to touch on, that I convey to my students in class. Unfortunately, it is a tough one to get across given the nature of our society and its function. I personally don’t like to give protocols unless it provides an entry level that goes beyond, and that is to fully understand their body in its “created” fashion. Don’t get hooked on following a systematic generic fashion of “how” many ounces of water to drink or “ when” to eat certain food sources. Science cannot give you a concrete answer or formula for a body that is “ unique” in nature. Our student athletes need to understand and learn about their own body and study it. You have to live and own your workout as much you need to live and own what and when to eat.

In our next segment, I will explain the most important aspect of recovery, which is the mental component as it relates to the soul.