Top Tips For Athletes' Post Exercise Recovery

By Dylan Mah

SEA Games 2015 Gold Medalist, Stephenie Chen enjoying her ice bath

Nutrition and sleep – these are the two key factors you should keep in mind for effective post-exercise recovery. After all, the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) also strongly recommends the national athletes that they do the same.

Mr. Carl Bradford, Associate Sports Physiologist at SSI, described in an interview a 40-minute window after exercise when muscles most efficiently store and replenish the nutrients that were lost. During this period, one should take in quality carbohydrates, proteins and antioxidants, which would reduce muscle damage and aid muscle recovery. Examples of carbohydrates are energy drinks, oats, whole grain pasta, quinoa and beans. Protein includes eggs, fish, meat, poultry and milk, and antioxidants includes green leafy vegetables, berries and green tea. To cap off the recovery regime, an eight-hour sleep is recommended that night.

At the 2015 ASEAN Para Games, staff of SSI can also be seen helping athletes into a pool of chilled water after their events. The ice bath is another practice that could help in recovery, as found by some studies. Immersing the body in cold water (about 12 to 15 degree Celsius) for 10 to 15 minutes increases can alter the blood flow and help remove fatigue-inducing metabolites faster and leave the athletes feeling relaxed and refreshed.

SEA Games 2015 Gold Medalist, Amanda Lim enjoying
her ice bath along with her recovery drink

Not all athletes choose to take the plunge, however. Those who do not have an affinity for the cold temperature generally complete their cooldown routine with a slow-paced activity such as jogging or swimming. While there is no fixed distance recommended for the cooldown, what is important is that there should be a gradual decrease in intensity of the exercise, and not going from a high intensity workout to a complete stop.

For the recreational athlete who may not have access to an ice bath, Mr. Bradford suggests an alternative: compression wear. Through a similar effect, properly fitted compression gear can increase blood circulation by exerting pressure on parts of the body where muscles had been heavily used. Immersion in water of any temperature will also provide many of these effects to help with recovery, this could simply be done at the local pool or in the bath at home.

While Team Singapore athletes have the SSI team to monitor and guide their trainings, sport enthusiasts need not necessarily rely on such precise and specialized support in order to train effectively.

APG 2015 Gold Medalist, Benson Tan and his team mates during recovery

Mr. Bradford highlighted common mistakes made by recreational athletes include overtraining, as well as insufficient training. Working out too hard and too often without scheduling adequate rest in between can limit improvements and could lead to injury. On the other hand, not training enough, or regularly, means improvements will be slow. For those in need of training advice, he suggested avenues such as reputable training plans available on the internet, consulting qualified coaches and personal trainers and using equipment like heart rate monitors to gauge the intensity of the workout – and above all, ensure that one trains regularly and gets good nutrition and ample sleep.


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