By Ken Mannie, Head Strength/Conditioning Coach, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
A very frequently asked question I receive revolves around the crucial topic of post-exercise (or game) recovery. The following are just a few of our most important suggestions:
• Cool down gradually: This simply refers to slowing down gradually after a hard bout of exercise. It could be something as easy as continuing to walk for a few minutes and then performing some easy stretching techniques—either static or dynamic. Doing this may assist with waste removal from the working muscles and it could possibly have a mitigating effect on post-activity soreness and stiffness.
• Replace fluids: Water supports every metabolic function and is a vital vehicle for nutrient transfer. Most athletes understand the importance of hydrating during competition but continuing to drink liberally after a grueling workout or game is just as important. To introduce more carbohydrates into the system, sports drinks or fruit juices are also wise choices.
• Eat promptly and properly: Try to eat something nutritious within 60 minutes post-activity. Include at least 70 to 100 grams of carbohydrates and 20 to 30 grams of high-quality protein in this initial sitting.
• Rest: Proper rest and sleep are paramount during the 24- to 48-hour post-activity period. Not only does it allow for tissue repair and strength building, it can also aid the immune system in preventing illness and reduce a lot of the mental stress athletes must constantly endure. Most experts recommend seven to nine hours of sleep per night for athletes. If nothing else, it helps if they can get off their feet and at least ease into a relaxation mode.