I thought it may be a good idea to bring an important part of training and acquiring the ever so essential aesthetics to the forefront: rest & recovery. Without being overly scientific, I’ll break down to you my thoughts and understanding on what I feel are the main things to consider to ensure you’re getting the most out of your time in the gym by doing what you can outside the weights room to maximise your gains. Working hard is a given, working smart however, isn’t.

Sleep & recovery

For me, having the right amount of sleep & rest is critical to building that all encompassing shredded physique. Optimal sleep gives our body/muscles time to repair and recover from the gruelling workouts and daily routines we put ourselves through. When shredding/cutting, we’re already depleting our body to a state of stress and potential catabolism so it makes it even more essential were getting the right amount of sleep so we’re ready to go the following day. Very few of you can tell me intensity in the gym doesn’t take a massive hit if you don’t get a good night’s sleep the night before!

Plus, insufficient sleep will effect stress levels, blood pressure AND more importantly for shredders & gainers alike growth hormone secretion(!!) as well as impairing our body to use insulin. All of these points mentioned are linked to obesity/fat gain and cardiovascular problems in later life too. Personally, I aim for 6-8 hours sleep if I can per night. But, I know this isn’t always possible, so after a night out or late working Friday, I’ll always try to include a decent lay in on the weekends.

Trouble sleeping?

Here are a few tips on improving your night’s sleep (I should know, as I’m a former insomnia sufferer):

  • -Carbs before bed. Strange one and some may argue, but if this is something that fits within your macros and regime, some studies have shown that carbs before bed help you relax.They help deliver the amino acid tryptophan, which has a soporific (inducing sleep) effect to your brain, which is what is required when settling down for the night.
  • Exercise: quite frankly, I seem to get a better night’s sleep when I train in the morning as opposed to late evening sessions as this seems to wake me further. Also, if you have to do your evening sessions, limit your pre-workout supplement intake after 4-5pm.
  • ZMA tablets have really helped me with getting a deeper sleep as magnesium deficiency is a key cause to lack of sleep. Some say it’s unproven, but I feel my quality of deep sleep has greatly improved since the introduction of this supplement. Better sleep and faster recovery. No-brainer? Maybe. If you don’t know, get to know the benefits of ZMA here: http://www.livestrong.com/article/283647-what-are-the-benefits-of-zma-supplements/
  • Try to stay away from your electronic equipment at least an hour before you go to bed. Yep, that even means Twitter, Instagram, Facebook & the LDN Muscle website may need to be closed down a little earlier than usual if you’re struggling to get to sleep at night ;o)
  • Caffeine intake. Try to limit after 4-5pm also as this will affect your ability to settle in the evening. Caffeine is obviously a potent stimulant, the last thing we need when trying to relax

Overtraining or undereating?

Overtraining has been a massive topic of recent, with articles and views on metabolic damage and overtraining taking a huge amount of attention because of what people see as the potential of long term damage to your body (thyroid function etc). I’ve always been of the school of ensuring my body is getting enough protein to aid recovery/building and trying to (as safely as possible) reduce or increase my weekly calorie intake gradually according to my goals, whether that be shredding, trying to maintain or put on size. A good way to scale this is using your BMR and working out what you can safely deduct or include in your calorie intake to lose/gain weight over say an 8-12 week period. Usually, for shredders, this is around a 3,500-7,000 calorie deficit of your weekly intake to drop 1-2 pounds of body fat (this is, of course, dependant on various factors).

Optimal rest between hitting the same body part

Another big topic of recent. My view again is pretty old school. Some say you should only work each body part once a week. But, if you look at gymnasts, footballers or cyclists for example who will continuously work the same body parts almost every day, you’ll usually see athletes with pretty impressive muscles that they regularly work. I know, we’re not all athletes and have supplement sponsors and all the money in the world for the right foods or time to generally relax. But, I think you’ll really have to push yourself hard on a body part/muscle group and have a poor diet to really “overtrain”.

If I can, I’ll do one body part twice a week, one smaller timed workout as a supplement to one big workout of that body part. Or maybe even more regularly if it needs attention. I don’t do twice a day or two days in a row for one body part. For my goals, it’s just not a requirement (and probably won’t be for the most of you reading this), but, that’s not saying it can’t be done…just make sure you’re eating right!

Recovery supplements

A fairly straight forward one here (see my supplement stack article for a full list) but, for me, the best supplements for recovery I use are as follows:

  • Whey protein – do I really need to go into any more detail here?
  • ZMA (as detailed above)
  • Vitamin C – research shows that vitamin C has important effects on in reducing inflammation and discomfort post exercise as well as increasing recovery and lowering the stress hormone cortisol. Want to know more? http://www.charlespoliquin.com/Blog/tabid/130/EntryId/1562/Tip-435-Take-Vitamin-C-Post-Workout-To-Lower-Cortisol-Recover-Faster.aspx