You May Be Sabotaging Your Recovery (Part 2 of 3)
If you missed Part 1, start here. Here are a few more factors that play into your recovery.
Excessive Calorie Restriction
“Eat less, move more” is the popular, inevitable refrain from fitness “experts” giving weight loss advice. They claim that reducing your calorie intake and increasing your activity will always lead to simple, easy, inevitable fat loss. And yeah, that’s one way to lose body weight, but there’s one big problem with this equation: you need calories to recover from your workouts. Not a problem if you just want to lose body mass at any cost. Disastrous, though, if you want to improve performance, get stronger, and get fitter, because you need those calories to refuel your muscles and restock your energy reserves.
Plus, inadequate calorie intake coupled with intense exercise sends a “starvation” signal to the body, causing a down-regulation of anabolic hormones. Instead of growing lean mass and burning body fat, starvation (whether real or simulated) promotes muscle atrophy and body fat retention.
Your muscles move you, which is why no matter what type of training you do – endurance, strength, hiking, dancing, Zumba, sports, – your muscles need to recover. Some workouts require less muscle recovery, sure, but every form of physical movement uses skeletal muscle. Muscle needs protein to repair itself and recover from exercise; this is perhaps the most fundamental concept in exercise recovery.
How much protein do you need to recover from a workout, exactly? Depends. Strength training probably merits more protein than hiking, for example. Everyone is different- and weight, body mass, and goals etc. can play a part in how much protein your body may need.
Being generally active puts greater demands on the body and increases the amount of “stuff” it must do to maintain health and basic function. Since every physiological function requires a micronutrient substrate – vitamin, mineral, hormone, neurotransmitter, etc. – and physiological functions increase with exercise and recovery, active people require more micronutrients in their diet. There are a couple key nutrients that working out especially depletes:
Zinc: Exercise, especially weight training, works better with plenty of testosterone on hand to build muscle and develop strength. Zinc is a key substrate for the production of testosterone, (yes, both men and women need this)
Magnesium: Magnesium is required for a number of physiological processes related to workout recovery, including oxygen uptake by cells, energy production, and electrolyte balance. Unfortunately, as one of the main electrolytes, lots of magnesium is lost to sweat during exercise. The same could be said for other electrolytes like calcium, sodium, and potassium. Getting enough magnesium, however, is a bit tougher, making magnesium deficiency a real issue for people trying to recover from workouts.
Sodium: Yes, salt! If you have every done a food challenge, or tried to eat more primally, paleo, Whole30 etc, or just sticking with real whole foods, your body could be lacking in sodium. If you get muscle cramps, are easily fatigued or get a foggy mind, you may be missing out on important nutrients! Try adding quality salt as a seasoning, or even just take salt water for some extra sodium.
...more to come.