One of the biggest determining factors in an athlete’s success is the ability to recover. If you can recover more quickly, you can schedule workouts closer together, you train more in less time, and you improve at a faster rate. There are six factors that affect recovery. One is muscle glycogen replenishment. Obviously, after a workout, you’ve got to restock up what you’ve burned, the stored carbohydrates in the muscles, glycogen. Also, hormonal support. Exercise is a form of stress, physical stress. You’ve got to bring back down the cortisol that goes up after you exercise. Soft tissue repair is another one. Tendons, cartilage, ligaments. You’ve got to make sure those repair and rebuild after as well. Hydration. Obviously, during a workout, you sweat, you lose fluid, you lose electrolytes. You’ve got to replace that. After a workout, your muscles are inflamed. You got to bring that down to recover. Immune support’s a big one, often overlooked. Right after a workout, your immune system actually dips. You got to strengthen it, or you’re likely to pick up a cold or a flu. Inflammation is one of the greatest limiting factors to athletic performance. You’ve got to get it to go away right away. But there are two types of inflammation. There’s the normal type that’s to be expected, because of course, exercise breaks down muscle tissue. That causes inflammation. Your body overcompensates. You become stronger. It’s why training works. But then there’s the bad type, the inflammation that lingers for days. You want to get that to go down as quickly as possible, and you can do that by eating nutrient-rich foods. Foods rich in minerals, for example. They’re very alkaline-forming, which causes inflammation to go down. Also, omega-3 fatty acids, another big thing that will help the reduction of inflammation. Plus ginger and turmeric. That’s also going to help get it down quickly. All those things are going to help reduce inflammation, to speed recovery, and that’s going to help you become a better athlete in less time. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential. Deep delta phase sleep makes such a difference. People who do get that high-quality delta phase sleep consistently, they recover more quickly after exercise. Therefore, they reach their athletic goals quicker, and everything else falls into place. It’s so much easier when you’ve gotten a good, high-quality sleep. Keeping properly hydrated is essential. There’s a few reasons why. One: When you’re hydrated, your blood is actually thinner, which means more of it can be pumped throughout your body with fewer heartbeats. That is a huge advantage if you’re an athlete. In Clean Eating 101, I talked about the general benefits of that, but as an athlete, that means your heart rate is actually going to come down, so more blood can be circulated throughout your body with fewer heartbeats, and that dramatically and directly affects your athletic performance. Another factor. It’s not just about fluid. It’s not just the water. It’s the minerals as well, the electrolytes, so sodium, potassium, magnesium Getting those in is essential. Of course, when you sweat, you sweat all those out. You’ve got to put them back in. Water intoxication is actually when you get too much fluid in your system without enough minerals. That’s when the balance of fluid to minerals goes out. Not common in the average population, but for elite athletes, it actually is quite common. I first learned about this years back when I was training for my first Ironman. Even the week before, I started drinking more water, more water. As I was putting my wetsuit on, my feet actually cramped, so before the race even started, I was cramping. Why was that? I was drinking so much water. But the reason is because I flushed the minerals out of my system. Too much water, not enough electrolytes. The imbalance was created. From then on, I always made sure that when I replaced water, I replaced electrolytes as well, and I’ve never had that issue again. Your muscles will not cramp up, and they will move more fluently, which means you’re going to be more efficient and go further with less energy spent. To expand on what you’ve just learned about the importance of recovery, check out the supplemental materials on this page.