Decrease your stress to recover faster from intense training and make strength gains today. By managing your mental and physical stress levels you will get better results in the gym, have a better body composition, and a happier life. I know it sounds too simple, but you must manage your stress if you want to “be all you can be.”
New research shows that stress will hamper results and put you at risk for poor performance, which will cause you more stress! Don’t let this happen! A new study in the journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that in trained college students, those who had higher stress scores on two well respected stress scales had a delayed recovery from a high-intensity lower body resistance training workout. Participants performed multiple leg extension sets to failure and then had their psychological stress levels measured during a one-hour period.
Recovery of maximal isometric strength was nearly 10 percent lower in the students who were more stressed. There was a distinct inverse relationship between lower stress ratings and greater recovery of maximal strength.
Researchers suggest the mechanism behind delayed recovery has to do with a chronic overactivation of the stress hormone response—mainly cortisol. This causes a cascade of negative physiological effects that may include irregular muscular activation, altered breathing, low blood pH, altered neural firing patterns, poor glucose tolerance, and atrophic gene expression, which shifts the body to a more tissue degrading state.
The first place to start when managing stress is to optimize your sleep and nutrition habits. This will have the side effect of helping to lower cortisol, support protein synthesis, and clear waste products produced during intense training. Try the following:
• Eliminate sugar and high-glycemic carbs that will boost insulin and drive cortisol up, hindering recovery.
• Get optimal pre- and post-workout nutrition: Only use caffeine pre-workout, eat solid protein and smart fats pre-workout, and get fast-digesting protein post-workout.
• Take BCAAs during training, and consider supporting tissue rebuilding by taking BCAAs and additional large protein doses every 12 hours after hard workouts.
• Help clear cortisol post-workout by taking phosphatidyl serine, which has been shown to lower cortisol without affecting growth hormone—shoot for about 400 mg.
• Plan your sleep like you plan everything else—pick a bedtime/wakeup time and stick to it. Opt for an early-to-bed and early-to-rise pattern for best body composition results.
• Actively relax yourself before you go to bed by doing a grateful log (write down one thing you are grateful for), doing deep breathing, meditating, or stretching.
• Get antioxidants from food sources such as blueberries and tart cherries. Both these fruits have shown to accelerate recovery from very intense training because they help remove the waste products or “garbage” caused by muscle damage, allowing for the body to better repair tissue.
• Take glutamine to further aid in the removal or waste products and boost the immune system.
For more suggestions on lowering stress and speeding recovery, read the Top Five Things You MUST Know About Post-Workout Nutrition
Stults-Kolehmainen, M., Bartholomew, J. Psychological Stress impairs Short-Term Muscular Recovery from Resistance Exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.