Researchers believe that physical activity is healthy. It doesn’t seem to be associated with lifespan, but it does improve healthspan – or the number of years your body is free from disease.
But what makes it healthy? That’s a fascinating question.
When you measure athletes during exercise, their bio-signs don’t seem to indicate health at all. Instead, it looks like the physical activity is actually damaging them a little. Free radical production and inflammation seem to shoot up.
The benefit comes in the recovery phase. When individuals take time out from exercise, that’s when the magic happens.
Scientists call this effect hormesis. It’s the idea that a little bit of something that hurts you can make you stronger.
You see hormesis in the natural world all the time. Plants exposed to sunlight, for instance, will create more pigment in their tissues to defend against UV rays. Likewise, animals exposed to cold will sometimes add more insulating fat to their bodies to protect them.
Exercise is just like this. Our bodies suffer a short-term shock from all the physical activity but bounce back stronger afterward. It’s semi-miraculous how it works.
While it might sound like a strange concept, scientists know the mechanisms by which it works. Getting exercise right seems to douse inflammation and help people avoid the ravages of getting older to some extent. It also upregulates various cell recycling activities, preventing tissues from becoming dysfunctional.
Unfortunately, if you’re not recovering from your workouts, you aren’t experiencing any of these benefits. That’s the thing with exercise: it’s the dose that counts. Too little or too much is bad for you.
Take overtraining, for instance. This physiological state occurs when the body can’t keep up with the repair and adaptation demands being placed on it. It wants to make you fitter, but can’t because of the sheer amount of muscle breakdown and free radical production.
Therefore, is it essential to know how to avoid the things that might be preventing you from recovering adequately from your workouts. Side-stepping them could help you achieve the fitness and physique you want.
So, what are the main reasons you can’t recover from your workouts? Let’s take a look.
You Are Not Prioritizing Rest
Many people who love working out struggle with the concept of rest. Sure, they might not be pounding the weights at the gym at maximum intensity on their off days, but they are still in the office for 16 hours or rushing around without a spare moment.
People who treat their “off days” like this aren’t really resting at all. Instead, they are stressing out their immune and nervous system, just as the gym does.
That’s why you should treat rest as just as important as the exercise itself. It is the retreat from activity that enables the magic of recovery and adaptation to occur.
Therefore, ensure you get a proper night’s sleep after every workout session. Also, consider taking more days off from training. You don’t need to hit the weights or rowing machine hard seven days a week to see benefits.
You Have An Underlying Medical Condition
Sometimes, an underlying medical condition will prevent you from training as hard as you might like. Things like thyroid problems and autoimmune issues can prevent you from recovering.
For example, you might find that other people can go to the gym four times a week. But you might have lupus, only allowing you to go a couple of times.
It’s these annoying, low-grade, or chronic medical problems that can get in the way. If you have an issue (or you think you might), go to your doctor for a checkup and to find out if you need any treatment.
You Aren’t Adequately Hydrated
Not being adequately hydrated can also prevent you from recovering from workouts. Insufficient tissue moisture makes it more challenging for the body to carry out essential processes, preventing it from adapting.
Therefore, make a point of drinking sufficiently during your rest periods. If you are younger, you can tell if you are hydrated just by looking at your pee. It should be a light straw color. Darker than that indicates insufficient hydration following exercise.
However, if you are older, you’ll need to do more than that. That’s because pee color doesn’t correlate well with hydration status in adults over about 50.
If you are in this category and recovering from exercise, get at least six to eleven cups of water per day, in addition to your food intake. If you are exercising in a hot climate, you may require even more servings than this.
You Aren’t Fueling Your Body Properly
Another reason you can’t recover from your workouts could be that you’re not giving your body the fuel it needs to thrive. Recovering from workouts requires large quantities of the right types of food.
It’s trendy in the fitness community to keep diets simple and only eat a couple of food types. But that approach doesn’t take full advantage of the benefits nutrition offers.
Contrary to popular opinion, you need more than protein to build muscle and enhance performance. Carbohydrates are essential for providing the energy needed for adaptation. It is a metabolically expensive process.
You also want to choose foods that assist with recovery. Certain items in the diet can hasten growth, repair and adaptation. For example, berries are shown to improve muscle soreness in experienced athletes. And it doesn’t take much: just a cup a day should do the trick.
You can also use herbs and spices like turmeric and ginger to amp up recovery after a workout. These scavenge free radicals generated by muscle contractions, helping to reduce internal damage without harming the adaptive response.
You Are Overtraining
You want to train around three to four times a week intensely. You can do a bit more activity than that, but the human body responds poorly to doing more than an hour of hard activity per day.
If you push beyond that, you’ll get into overtraining territory (unless you are using hormones to assist you). When that happens, progress stalls and you feel tired all the time.
If you notice overtraining, stop working out and give your body a week off. (It’ll thank you for it).
I also use cryotherapy near me because of its helpful effects on inflammation. Being cold for a while can improve muscle recovery and help you get back in the gym faster, hopefully on a modified routine.
Your Workouts Lack Variation
Another curious reason why you can’t recover from your workouts is that they lack variation. Constantly hammering the same muscles without training others leads to imbalances, muscle fatigue, and damage.
You can see this effect in sports stars. That’s why trainers go out of their way to introduce more variation into their routines.
If you find yourself doing the same things, try swapping the equipment or weight you use. For example, don’t always train your abs using crunches on the mat. You can also do hanging leg raises, oblique crunches using the cable machine, or planks.
You Aren’t Managing Stress Properly
You might also be struggling to recover from your workouts because you aren’t managing stress properly. While a little stress in the gym is okay, the rest of the time you should feel relaxed and content.
Of course, that’s not what life is like for most people. Work and relationships can lead to a lot of stress, causing an increase in cortisol.
Cortisol is a problem because it works against muscle formation. Instead of being relaxed and happy, it makes you feel uptight and stressed. That, in turn, signals to your body that there’s a problem and that it shouldn’t dedicate as many resources to growth and repair.
You Are Eating Junk
Another reason you might be failing to recover from your workouts is if you are eating a lot of junk food to make up your calories. While you can get away with a small quantity of processed food, it shouldn’t constitute much more than 1 or 2 percent of the diet if you are concerned about fitness. Ideally, you want to eat a whole food diet that’s 100 percent natural in origin without additional processing.
Processed foods can wreak havoc with your metabolism, preventing you from losing fat and putting on muscle. Worse still, these foods displace many of the healthy foods you could be eating, preventing you from getting the maximum benefit from your nutrition.
Try to avoid relying as much on supplements. While they can help a little here and there, the core of any good fitness program is diet. There’s no substitute unfortunately.
As you can see, there are numerous reasons why you might not be recovering from workouts at the gym. Multiple factors can come into play, preventing you from getting the most out of your efforts.
Often, though, simple lifestyle tweaks can fix the problem. Taking more time to rest or managing stress better can improve results and help you push through plateaus.