Less is More (by Ann Casey)

Many of us commit to working out every day. We’re up by 6am and hit the gym.  When we miss a day, guilt sets in as we believe we’re doing our body an injustice. The reality is that after working our muscles hard, they need at least 24 to 48 hours before they start recovering, and recovery is where the magic happens.

Muscle Magic
Muscle strengthening works when you train with enough intensity to overload the muscles, causing tiny tears to occur in the muscle fibers. During recovery, these tears start to repair and then grow back slightly larger than before. To make gains, you must overload the muscles and then allow adequate time for recovery and growth by resting.

Rest is Best
When you over train, you push your body too hard, past the point from which your body can recover. When this occurs, your muscles require days of rest. The key is to find a balance between training with a high enough intensity to break down the muscle fibers without training so much that your body won’t recover. Research has shown that strength training that takes longer than 45 minutes isn’t as effective as workouts that take less than 45, or that working out the same muscles groups two days in a row is not as effective as giving them one or even two days of rest in between.

Sweet Temptation
Muscle recovery begins in the kitchen. Thinking you can “treat” yourself to fast foods, heavily processed foods, or a tasty donut to reward yourself from all the hard work? Think again. These can trigger inflammation and slow down muscle recovery and growth. A cheat day on occasion is totally acceptable, if you exercise moderation. But be smart when you cheat and limit the binge to something that will not hinder your muscle recovery.

Feed Your Recovery
Give your muscles what they need…plenty of omega-3 foods. Foods rich in omega-3s promote an anti-inflammatory response in the body. Grass-fed beef, walnuts, wild caught salmon, and flax seeds are foods rich in omega-3’s. Additionally, add a fish oil supplement to boost muscle recovery and decrease inflammation.

Protein Love
Muscles love protein, so don’t skimp. A post workout routine should be part of your overall fitness strategy, and key to this routine is incorporating a good quality collagen amino acid and whey protein. For a solid post workout routine think hydrate, stretch, protein, and amino acids.

Very Veggie
Last, but not least eat plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. Your body will be screaming for nutrient dense foods and what better way to satisfy than with organic goodness. When focusing on muscle growth or muscle tone, we often forget all about the vitamins and minerals found in fruit and vegetables. Make it a priority to get about five to ten servings a day.

Drop the Junk
There you have it… a simple and effective way to train. Understanding that less is more when it comes to workout frequency, duration, and intensity is key in aiding muscle recovery and growth. Equally important are post workout decisions that you make outside of the gym. Stay focused in the kitchen and avoid foods that will actually work against your muscle recovery. Drop the junk and incorporate omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fresh organic fruits and vegetables. Your body will love you for it.
Ann Casey
Integrate Mind Body Fitness www.integrateyourself.com