Recovery – Brains or Brawn?

Observations

At this time of year, the only thing funnier than the speed with which athletes rush from their last set of weights in the gym to their pre-mixed protein shake, is the consistency of the facebook status’ and tweets the following day, each trying to outdo the other with their ridiculous exaggerations of how much DOMS they have. Don’t worry, I’m completely aware of the irony of me mocking someones use of social media when I have enough narcissistic tendencies to actually write an entire blog about myself, clearly my ego can’t be limited to just 140 characters.

But anyway, back to the protein shakes….

Post exercise recovery

Everyone KNOWS you need protein after training to give the amino acids you need to rebuild all that muscle you’ve broken down. Everyone KNOWS you need some carbohydrates to replenish your muscle glycogen, and cause an insulin response to push the amino acids into your muscle cells. Everyone KNOWS about the post workout window of opportunity, you’ve got 30 minutes to get some nutrition in or your not going to make all your gains.

Now if muscle protein synthesis is really the limiting factor in recovery, firstly you should probably be taking leucine, about 5g seems to increase post-training protein synthesis far more than whey alone, but is re-synthsizing your muscle really the limiting factor in your recovery?

Obviously there are some benefits to maximising your hypertrophy based response to training, but if muscle protein synthesis was the limiting factor on recovery we’d be looking at only about 24 hours between our important sessions. Considering that most athletic training programs are organised so as to give 48 hours between high loads on your central nervous system. If we could speed the recovery of our CNS then could we perhaps sprint flat out more often? Or by using the same programme perform every session with a higher quality?

So the key to high performance training is nervous system recovery, but why isn’t this talked about when talking about sports nutrition? I think the answer is that noone really knows, or at least nothing has been prooven by placebo double blinded trials. So we have to do a bit of thinking outside the box.

I think, and some much cleverer people than me seem to think, that although we don’t necessarily know how to speed this recovery, or exactly what this recovery entails, there are two main considerations, inflammation and myelin.

Inflammation

Obviously you will get some low-grade inflammation every time you train, you cause damage to your system and its part of the healing process. Removing this acute inflammation will alter your healing mechanisms and probably affect you further down the line when it manifests itself as a chronic problem. The Inflammation we want to remove is the chronic low grade inflammation you have constantly in your body due to crappy diet, sleep and general poor lifestyle management.

These are three big areas, which will probably require multiple blogs to cover each in depth, or hopefully I can get a film of my hour long presentation on athlete lifestyle which I’ll be giving in the next couple of week and save me a load of writing. But lets get it clear here, I’m not saying anything ground-breaking here, having a healthy lifestyle speeds your recovery from training!!!!! The importance comes in the details of what constitutes healthy….

Myelin

As i touched on in another post, the laying down of more myelin around nerve pathways speeds nerve conduction, and thus is one of the mechanisms by which we improve through training. Specific practice causing the used nerves to be targetted for this process somehow, I’m not sure how and haven’t been able to find a clear mechanism for this anyway yet. What I have also mentioned is how gluten based intolerances can cause systemic inflammation and retard this process (see that word inflammation again? it gets around). So adaptation to training in these high skill, high CNS activities becomes dependant on laying down myelin.

Again, the details surrounding this process don’t seem to have become mainstream, and I haven’t found anyone genius enough to give me the laymans explanation, (any help in this area would b greatly appreciated?!) but what I’ve heard is that it seems to be formed from mostly cholesterol and Omega 3 fats.

I’ve seen one study that showed people getting better strength gains from the same training programme depending on how many eggs they ate. More eggs, meant better strength gains, more eggs, more cholesterol? More myelin? I definitely don’t know enough to be sure on this but its interesting.

Maybe we should all get back on the old school Arnold programme, eggs and sweet potatoes post training? Thats how I’m rolling and I pretty confident its working, guess we’ll see come indoors.

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