Physical recovery refers to the process and resting time the body undertakes to heal and rejuvenate itself after periods of strenuous physical activity (exercise) or a significant stressor is present (injuries, accidents, and major life events).
To fully understand the process of physical recovery, we will first need to touch upon bioenergetics. Bioenergetics is the study of how energy throughout the body via the breakdown and conversion of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) for energy use.
The overarching bodily process of consuming and using energy is called the metabolism. There are two specific processes within that called catabolism (producing energy) and anabolism (using energy).
Catabolism refers to the breakdown of complex molecules, such as fats, proteins and complex carbs, into simple molecules as usable energy sources (fatty acids, amino acids and simple sugars). 40% of energy then gets stored into the bonds of ATP, adenosine triphosphate, molecules which acts as the conductor of energy to the cells and powers all activities in the body. The other 60% is used as heat.
The reverse process of catabolism is called anabolism. It requires energy (ATP from the catabolic reactions) to build up and grow complex molecules, such as proteins from amino acids, lipids from fatty acids, and polysaccharides from monosaccharides, to help form new tissues and heal the body.
If catabolic reactions produce more energy than the anabolic reactions use, the excess energy gets stored as fat for future use. However, if catabolic reactions produce less energy than the anabolic reactions use, then weight loss/fat loss will occur.
ATP-Producing Energy Systems
As was previously mentioned, ATP is essential for powering our bodily processes. Because of its vital role, there are three ATP producing systems: glycolysis, the phosphagen system, and the oxidative system.
The phosphagen system is the quickest way to produce ATP during short bursts of extreme high intensity activity for an 1-30 second duration. Creatine phosphate, stored within the muscles, shares a phosphate molecule with a less efficient and under-charged form of energy, adenosine diphosphate (ADP), to produce ATP.
Anaerobic (without oxygen) glycolysis is a catabolic process where glucose is broken down into pyruvate and two molecules of ATP. It is for moderate to high intensity activity with a 30-second to 2-3 minute duration.
For physical activities that last beyond the three-minute mark, the oxidative system (or the aerobic system) is the predominant source for producing ATP. With the presence of oxygen, it primarily uses carbohydrates and fats to break down glucose and glycogen (energy stored within the muscles) to produce more ATP especially during lower intensity activities. This means that this system takes the longest to generate energy and as a result, rest and recovery are of the utmost importance.
The Importance Physical Recovery
Because it takes time for the body to produce enough ATP in the oxidative system to create new muscle tissue and cells and heal itself, physical recovery time is essential after high intensity workouts. If the body is not allowed to rest (in other words, it becomes overused and over-trained), then the body starts running on low fuel and bodily processes start to break down and become inefficient. The body is only a finite source of energy so a lack of rest between workout days will create excess physical, mental, and emotional stress. This can result in the stress response in the body, which then, can have negative effects on the metabolism and sleep, creating an additional energy deficit. As a result of stress symptoms, the body will start trying to conserve energy while seeking out more energy sources through stress eating and slowing down physiological processes.
Tools to help with Physical Recovery
Seek out a personal trainer to the figure out your body’s limits – Because we are often used to the way we move, sometimes we don’t know what is considered proper posture and movement or what is a normal level of discomfort. He or she can also give you some guidelines as to what exercises may be the most beneficial to your current situation.
Listen to your body – if something in your body feels out of sync or extra painful, seek out the appropriate professional, because your body may be telling you that there is an issue. It’s better to investigate sooner than later.
Try to get at least seven hours of sleep per night – sleep is a wonderful way to regain energy and boost healing as well as reset your mind and body for the next day.
Maintaining a balanced diet regulates the body – A diet full of fruits (at least 2 servings per day), vegetables (at least 3 servings per day), lean meats and other nutritious proteins (at least 2 servings per day and healthy fats, can help to regulate bodily processes, such as sleep and recovery. However, if you are struggling to get in all your nutrients on a consistent basis, we offer the Thorne Multi-V, a NSF for Sport certified multivitamin, to help you supplement your diet.