But whether you’re training for a specific event or are a fitness enthusiast who loves a challenge, it's important to know that time spent resting and recovering is just as important as the time you spend pushing yourself physically. Intense exercise puts strain and stress on the body, and even though we know exercise is "good" stress that has numerous health and fitness benefits, your body still reacts to it like almost any stressor. It's easy to overdo it if you aren't keeping your recovery in balance with your workloads. After all, it is during recovery—not the workout itself—that your body repairs and gets stronger from the stress you placed upon it.
Recovery, however, isn’t as simple as putting your feet up on the couch and relaxing on the weekend. There are many things you can do, both immediately following a training session and in the days thereafter, to help speed up the recovery process—so you get even better results from your hard work. Here are some key areas to focus on if you want to make the most of your rest days.
Staying properly hydrated helps with faster recovery, since losing as little as 2% of one's body weight through sweat can have a negative effect on exercise performance. Dehydration causes a decrease in blood volume and an increase in the rate of blood glycogen use, both of which lead to fatigue more quickly. These effects are not only significant during the workout, but also affect recovery in the days after an intense exercise session.
You lose a lot of water when you sweat, and it can be a substantial amount depending on environmental conditions, clothing choices and individual differences (some people naturally sweat more than others). There are a number of ways to check your hydration status. One is to weigh yourself just before and right after exercise. Any weight you lose during your workout is likely fluid loss, so drinking enough ounces to replenish what you've lost will help you stay hydrated. Another way to monitor your hydration status is by checking the color of your urine. It should look like a lemon was squeezed in it (or lighter). The darker it is, the more dehydrated you are.
Here are the American Council on Exercise’s hydration guidelines for before, during and after workouts:
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