#4. Active lymphatic drainage
Pretty much like your kitchen sink, your lymphatic system can become clogged and negatively influence your health and athletic performance. The lymphatic system is basically made up of a network of vessels that carry lymphatic fluid throughout the entire body. The purpose of the lymphatic fluid is to feed the cells by carrying vital nutrients to them and to “take the trash out”, i.e. deliver cellular waste to the bloodstream, from where it’s handed over to the kidneys, colon and lungs for elimination. So if your lymphatic system becomes clogged, you can experience pain, constipation, fatigue and unexpected weight gain, as well as diminished muscular performance and a slowdown of the recovery process. However, there is a way to prevent this from happening with the help of a few extremely simple techniques that will promote healthy movement of essential nutrients and waste throughout the whole body.
When you train a certain muscle group, your body increases the blood flow to that area in order to fuel the activity, and this increase in local blood flow is accompanied by a lymphatic fluid accumulation. The problem is that too much local lymph production can restrict the recovery process of the local tissues, which means that having control over the amount of local lymph is crucial for accelerating recovery. One way to do this is by performing a systemic drain with the help of gravity – just lie on your back and elevate your extremities above the level of the heart to push lymphatic fluid back into central circulation.
Another way to reduce lymphatic fluid accumulation is by using low-intensity active recovery activities such as walking that will cause muscle contractions which then place pressure on the lymphatic vessels to push lymphatic fluid back into circulation. To get these benefits, walk slowly for a few minutes right after you finish your post-workout stretching and foam rolling.
#5. Prime your post-workout nutrition
When trying to maximize your training gains, you don’t want to forget about post-workout nutrition as well. When we work out intensely, we damage muscle tissues and we use up fuel, which ultimately makes us stronger, leaner and more muscular, but it also means that our bodies require repair right after the training is done. Repair and rebuilding occurs through the breakdown of damaged proteins and the construction of new ones and nutrition has a huge influence on these processes. During the post-workout window, certain nutrients such as water, high glycemic index carbs and amino acids can help you stimulate better recovery by providing your muscles with the raw materials they need – optimal post-workout nutrition requires plenty of protein to aid in protein synthesis and plenty of carbs to help replenish the depleted muscle glycogen reserves, as well as create an optimal post-workout metabolic environment.
We know that the chicken and plain white rice can get boring after a while, but fortunately, there’s a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods you could prepare for your post-workout meal, so don’t be afraid to experiment and take your post-workout nutrition to a new level. While it’s best to eat a whole food meal that includes both protein and carbs, whole food meals aren’t always very practical and you can sometimes replace them with liquid meals that contain rapidly digesting carbs and protein hydrolysates or isolates for equal, if not better results.
There’s been a lot of controversy over the phenomenon we know as “the post-workout window” or it’s more poetic name, “the window of opportunity”. While some ‘experts’ criticize the notion that such a window exists, claiming that taking advantage of it doesn’t lead to any significant improvements in performance and recovery, a vast pool of scientific data has already confirmed that by employing certain techniques, you can yield better results from your hard gym efforts.
First of all, during this window, your muscles are primed to accept nutrients that will stimulate repair, growth and ultimately improve strength. Although research suggests that protein synthesis lasts for around 48 hours after training, it’s absolutely crucial to get optimal post-workout nutrition as soon as possible in order to make the best use of it. Giving your body the nutrients it needs right after you drop the dumbbells will provide enhanced size and strength benefits and less muscle soreness during the following period, while not providing adequate post-workout nutrition will lead to decreased protein synthesis and muscle glycogen storage.
Second, even though our results greatly depend on our ability to optimize the function of the central nervous system in terms of anabolic hormones production, responsive vital signaling and many other physiological mechanisms that regulate our performance, enhancing the work of our parasympathetic nervous system can greatly influence the gains we make as well. In other words, by shifting towards a stronger parasympathetic response, we can significantly accelerate the recovery process and increase the recuperative abilities of the whole body. Unfortunately, many bodybuilders fail to take advantage of this knowledge and miss out on a great opportunity to increase their training output and get the body they want in less time. Don’t be one of those guys – incorporate the simple techniques presented in this article and start training smarter right away!