By Jen Kates, CPT, CHC
Winter is here, which means that many of you include a winter strength training program to supplement your endurance training in the off-season. You may be lifting more (and heavier) weights, spending more time in the saddle indoors on your trainer, trail running in snow, or participating in a variety of other snow sports. No matter what training you do in your off-season, you need to make sure you optimize your recovery.
Consistent intense training without adequate recovery can result in increased stress within your body, which can even lead to injuries and overtraining if not moderated properly. Then, when you also consider training in colder weather, there is an added demand on your body to stay warm in order to keep performing optimally - this is seen in extremely hot weather as well. While training is definitely a positive stressor in your life, it is still a stressor nonetheless, so here are the best ways to help manage the stress of training.
Sleep is the Best “Supplement”
It’s not sexy, but it is effective. Sleep is where the best recovery happens for you, yet it is often the most overlooked way to recover from training. In a study conducted in 2010, researchers found that after just two weeks of 5.5 versus 8.5 hours of sleep, there was a decrease in fat loss by 55% in the group that got less sleep. (1) This was after just two weeks, so imagine how much a lack of sleep must compound after days, weeks, months, and years. This study also focused on fat loss, but imagine what a lack of sleep does on your recovery.
Reduced sleep also impairs critical thinking to a level equivalent to being intoxicated. Now, imagine that while you’re training - do you think you will get the most optimal training possible while lacking sleep?
To ensure adequate sleep, aim for 7 or more hours per night, making sure your bedroom is cool and dark and free from blue light-emitting devices like televisions, laptops, and smartphones. Be sure to develop a solid pre-bedtime routine to help you wind-down before bed to make sure you are sleeping mostly through the night. A bedtime routine can include no technology for 60+ minutes before bed, some stretching and mobility (perhaps even some yoga), meditation, and journaling to release the stressors of the day. Basically, you want to decrease your stress and stimulants before bed.
Eat Adequate Carbohydrates and Protein
After your training, it’s important to make sure that you replenish the calories burned as best as possible, focusing primarily on carbohydrates and protein for optimal recovery. Not only do you need to focus on the post-workout meals, but you also need to make sure you are eating enough fuel throughout the rest of the day. This can take some trial and error on your part to explore how much food is enough for you.
No matter how much you eat, make sure you focus on a mostly whole-foods diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables along with protein sources that suit your goals - this ensures you are getting adequate vitamins and minerals in your diet, which reduces inflammation and therefore enhances recovery and performance.
Supplement as Needed
Once you manage to fine-tune your sleep and nutrition, then you may want to consider including supplements such as protein powder to boost protein intake and help optimize your recovery. Another supplement that is gaining popularity in recent years is Cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is a powerhouse supplement derived from hemp, like Enduro Bites’ Nano CBD (which utilizes nano dispersion, therefore increasing the bioavailability or ability for your body to absorb the CBD).
CBD has been shown to reduce stress, decrease inflammation (which is often caused by a poor diet, intense training, and increased stress), as well as reduce the feeling of pain (which can help reduce your chronic use of over-the-counter pain medication). While some inflammation is good for you and can be protective in nature, too much inflammation can impact recovery and decrease performance, so any attempt to decrease chronic inflammation throughout the body is beneficial. (2)
CBD has also been shown to help reduce anxiety and stress, therefore helping to improve your sleep - and therefore your recovery. People who consume CBD have reported greater ease in going to sleep along with getting a more restful sleep. (3)
If you’re concerned about CBD not being allowed in your sport, in 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from it’s list of prohibited substances for professional athletes as long as they are free of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As with any supplement, ask your doctor if it is the best option for you and if it is safe according to your current health situation, your medical history, and that they don’t interact with your current medications.
This winter, try implementing the tips above to see what an impact they have on your training as well as your recovery. You may find some will help while others don’t, but that’s the fun part: exploring what works well for you. Add a comment below to let us know what works for you.
About Jen Kates, CHC, NASM-CPT, Pn2, PSSC
Jen has been coaching for over 12 years and founded Shift Human Performance after working in the biotech research industry for 12 years. She specializes in coaching busy working professionals (like you) how to unleash your full potential by optimizing your nutrition, fitness, sleep, and recovery, without spending countless hours in the kitchen or the gym. Besides her experience coaching hundreds of athletes, she holds several world-class certifications in personal training, health coaching, nutrition, and training pain-free.
1 Nedeltcheva, A. V., Kilkus, J. M., Imperial, J., Schoeller, D. A., & Penev, P. D. (2010). Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity. Annals of Internal Medicine, 153(7), 435. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-153-7-201010050-00006
2 Nagarkatti, Prakash, et al. “Cannabinoids as Novel Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.” Future Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 1, no. 7, 2009, pp. 1333–1349. doi:10.4155/fmc.09.93.
3 Murillo-Rodriguez, Eric, et al. “Anandamide Enhances Extracellular Levels of Adenosine and Induces Sleep: An In Vivo Microdialysis Study.” Sleep, vol. 26, no. 8, 2003, pp. 943–947. doi:10.1093/sleep/26.8.943.