With the sporting seasons coming into the business end, it is important that athletes and players are doing all the right things to ensure they have recovered after each training session and game. This will assist in preventing injuries throughout the season and ensuring that all players/athletes are performing at their best when it comes to game day.
During exercise and training our muscles are put under repetitive strain and load, contracting and relaxing repeatedly which leads to microtears of the muscle fibres. The micro tears in muscle fibres caused by exercise and training leads to inflammation, increased fatigue, and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS is the sore feeling that you get in your muscles 24-48hrs after an intense gym or training session and can sometimes take 3-5 days to subside.
What can you do to help recovery?
There are various things that you can do to ensure you are recovering optimally and reducing your inflammation, DOMS and fatigue after exercise or sporting games:
Current evidence suggests that massage is the most effective form of recovery for reducing DOMS, perceived fatigue & inflammation after exercise. Usually 20-30 mins of massage within the first 2 hrs is most effective, however if massage is not accessible, similar effect can be achieved using a foam roller and/or massage ball.
10-15 degrees Cold Water Immersion
Current evidence suggests that the use of cold water immersion or ice baths can be beneficial for reducing perceived fatigue and to a lesser extent DOMS. An exposure of 10-15 mins at a temperature of 10-15 degrees is thought to be optimal.
The use of compression garments for the first 96hrs after exercise has a significant positive effect on reducing DOMS and perceived fatigue.
An active recovery program that gradually reduces the heart rate after sport and moves all the joints through full range of motion can be effective for reducing DOMs and removing metabolic waste in muscles post exercise. A program including 10-15 minutes of walking and mobility exercises is most effective post exercise.
Static Stretching after exercise
Contrary to popular belief, holding static stretches for prolonged periods after intense exercise or training has no positive benefits for DOMS, perceived fatigue, or inflammation. Some studies have shown that static stretching after exercise can slightly increase DOMS.
Nutrition & Hydration
Nutrition & Hydration also play a crucial role in recovery before and after exercise and ensuring adequate pre-hydration / re-hydration and proper nutrition will assist with replenishing lost fluids and glycogen stores in muscles and protein to assist with muscle recovery and repair.
Before Game/Performance: Two hours prior to training or the evening before, drink 10ml/kg of body weight. If it’s a long / hot / outdoor session, make this from a sports drink such as Powerade.
During & After Game/Performance: Drink regularly throughout game’s / training, up to 250ml every 15-30 min. Can be a mix of water &/or sports drink. After games / training replenish fluid by drinking to thirst.
Nutrition (After Game/Performance):
Carbohydrates: Important to eat a high carbohydrate food (e.g Banana/Lollies) within the first 15-30 mins post game to optimise muscle glycogen replenishment. More specifically, 1.2 g/ kg/hr of CHO can be consumed at 15- to 30-minute intervals immediately upon finishing exercise.
Protein: Important to eat/drink protein or protein/carbohydrate mix within the first 15-30 mins post game to optimise muscle glycogen replenishment. After longer periods of rest a high protein meal should be consumed to maximise muscle protein synthesis.
Dupuy, O., Douzi, W., Theurot, D., Bosquet, L., & Dugué, B. (2018). An Evidence-Based Approach for Choosing Post-exercise Recovery Techniques to Reduce Markers of Muscle Damage, Soreness, Fatigue, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in physiology, 9, 403. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.00403
Goulet, E. D. (2012). Dehydration and endurance performance in competitive athletes. Nutrition Reviews, 70(suppl_2), S132-S136.
NSW Institute of Sport Guidelines for Hydration. (2019). https://www.nswis.com.au/nutrition/athletes-guide-on-when-to-drink/Orchard Health Clinic. (2021). https://www.orchardhealthclinic.com/what-is-delayed-onset-muscle-soreness-doms/
Orrù, S., Imperlini, E., Nigro, E., Alfieri, A., Cevenini, A., Polito, R., Daniele, A., Buono, P., & Mancini, A. (2018). Role of Functional Beverages on Sport Performance and Recovery. Nutrients, 10(10), 1470. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101470
The science of post-exercise recovery. American council of exercise. (https://acewebcontent.azureedge.net/sap-reports/post-exercise_recovery_sap_reports.pdf
Van Hooren, B., & Peake, J. M. (2018). Do we need a cool-down after exercise? A narrative review of the psychophysiological effects and the effects on performance, injuries and the long-term adaptive response. Sports Medicine, 48(7), 1575-1595.