Whether you’ve heard buzz about the “4 ‘R’s of Recovery Nutrition”, the “3 ‘R’s of Exercise Recovery”, or the “4 ‘R’s of Workout Recovery Nutrition”, the most important message is that taking care of your body post-exercise is important for your health and there are a lot of ‘r’ words to help remind us.
Living a holistically healthy lifestyle isn’t just about working out. It is about what you put into your body as fuel for the workout, listening to your body to avoid injury during your workout, and caring for your sore and tired body after the workout so that you can recover quickly and get back to it sooner! A lifestyle like this allows for steady progress towards your goals, sustainability of your routines, and longevity of your fitness.
Depending on which workout blog, nutrition site, or other reputable health resources you may have stumbled upon, the “R” words of recovery may include things like Restore, Repair, Replace, Rest, Refuel, Rebuild, Rehydrate, and Revitalize. The overall theme of all of these points is treating your body with compassion to get the most from your muscles, and fueling with (and then replenishing) the nutrients that strenuous exercise uses up. Here, we have picked a few “R” words we think are especially important along with some suggestions for how Metabolic Maintenance may be able to help.
Strenuous exercise can feel amazing, but it definitely takes a lot out of us, both figuratively and literally. Not only do we expend mental and physical energy, but we also lose a lot of water and electrolytes. Some minerals are especially important to the function of your muscles and organ systems at times of intense physical stress, and so get used up quickly during exercise. This is why replenishing your mineral stores is especially important after a long or vigorous workout. Rather than reaching for a sugary sports drink full of unhealthy and questionably sourced chemicals, consider instead drinking plain water to rehydrate, eating a wholesome snack, and replacing your mineral electrolytes with a high-quality, highly bioavailable mineral supplement. Metabolic Maintenance offers such a product called Spaz-Out®, that not only replenishes the important minerals most likely to be lost during a strenuous workout, its ingredients can also prevent muscle cramping that often follows. Spaz-Out® contains calcium, magnesium, zinc, chromium, potassium, and boron.
Calcium is the main regulatory and signaling molecule for all muscle fibers. The ability of muscle fibers to contract and relax is dependent on the availability of calcium to muscle cells. Therefore, muscle plasticity, response, and function are closely linked with, and highly dependent on the function of the calcium cycle .
Magnesium is also involved in numerous processes that affect muscle function. These processes include oxygen uptake, energy production, and electrolyte balance. Due to these roles, magnesium has been the target of clinical research related to leg cramping. Studies have shown that magnesium may aid in the relief of leg cramping for adults, with even more significant benefits during pregnancy [2,3].
The relationship between magnesium status and exercise has also received a great deal of research attention. Exercise tends to induce a redistribution of magnesium in the body to accommodate changing metabolic needs. There is evidence that even a slight magnesium deficiency can impair exercise performance and exacerbate the negative consequences of strenuous exercise (e.g., oxidative stress). Strenuous exercise increases the loss of magnesium through urine and sweat, so magnesium requirements are about 10-20% higher when working out intensely .
Shifts in potassium during high-intensity muscular activity or exercise may also be a substantial contributor to fatigue in skeletal muscle (as opposed to the heart, where potassium balance is controlled much more effectively) . Microdialysis studies have demonstrated that muscle activity is associated with elevated extracellular potassium concentrations. This effect could play a major role in the development of muscle fatigue and reduced excitability .
Maintaining a constant, normalized state of cellular zinc nutrition, or homeostasis, is also essential for the function of the muscular system . Boron and chromium are also essential components of human muscle tissue and the cellular signaling systems necessary for proper muscle function [7,8].
While making sure you have enough carbohydrates before your workout will help give you a burst of energy, sustained energy and the prevention of muscular fatigue requires more than just a classic “carbo-load”. What your muscles really need, both before and after a workout is protein, or more specifically, amino acids.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and every cell in your body, including your muscle cells, is largely made up of proteins. You get some amino acids from the food you eat, and some amino acids can be made from others within the body. The amino acids your body cannot make are called essential amino acids, or EAAs. When you are low on these, your body cannot build new proteins unless it breaks down existing cells in your body. This can translate to breaking down muscle tissue to make proteins that are more critical for your survival if your diet is deficient in protein or certain amino acids.
On the other hand, knowing which amino acids you need to build muscle tissue, and designing your diet around them can help to make sure your body has plenty of material available for new protein synthesis, especially when your exercise goals are related to building new muscles or repairing well-used muscles after a workout. While you want to make sure you get all your EAAs, the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), leucine, isoleucine, and valine, may be the most important for muscle building and repair. Leucine, in particular, is known to stimulate a particular protein-building pathway, and studies have found that consuming BCAAs after a resistance workout can lead to significantly more new muscle growth, compared to a placebo [9,10].
When BCAA levels in the body are low, more tryptophan is metabolized, a process commonly associated with feelings of mental and physical fatigue. If you are looking for exercise endurance and mental focus for a workout, consuming BCAAs can help ward off the tryptophan overload.
If you’re not sure about the level of BCAAs in your diet, a great way to boost them is by adding an amino acid supplement to your daily health regimen. Metabolic Maintenance offers a line of such products. BAM® Balanced Amino Maintenance is a capsulated, free-form amino acid formula that contains all the essential amino acids (including the BCAAs) in ratios commonly found in nature. Because these amino acids are in their free form, they can be readily absorbed and quickly utilized by the body. Amino acids are not just for muscle building either, they are also needed to create enzymes, hormones, antibodies, collagen, and nerves, as well as performing a wide range of metabolic functions. If you prefer a powdered amino acid drink mix over capsules, BAM® can also be purchased as a self-portioned powder or pre-portioned packets (“sticks”) for on-the-go convenience. The powder formula differs slightly from the capsule, delivering a higher dose of aminos per serving, and tryptophan has been left out due to its tendency to relax the body versus energizing it.
The BAM® products are more than just an amino acid blend too. Pyridoxal 5′ Phosphate (also known as PLP or P-5-P) is the metabolically active form of Vitamin B-6 and a cofactor for reactions involving amino acid metabolism, including neurotransmitter synthesis, the conversion between essential and non-essential amino acids, and the breakdown of methionine. P-5-P and chromium have been included in the BAM® formulas to aid in the metabolism of the supplemental aminos.
Last, but certainly not least is the rest component of workout recovery. Without sufficient sleep and time for muscles to repair themselves, it is difficult for your body to start exercise again without risking injury and fatigue. Rest is so important for your health outside of your physical stamina too. Regular, restful sleep is important for your mood, cognition, and mental health, your cardiovascular health, as well as the health of your immune system, all of which can contribute to your attitude towards, and ability to commit to your workout goals.
If you find yourself having a difficult time getting to sleep or staying asleep, it may be time to consider some nutritional possibilities to quell these frustrations. Some nutritional deficiencies can lead to sleep difficulties, but even if your baseline levels are healthy, there are some specific nutrients that are known to help your body and mind relax, prepare for rest, and gather all of the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Metabolic Maintenance’s R.E.M. Maintenance™ is a great supplement to add to your bedtime routine, and it is indeed a supplement, not a sleep medicine that will leave you groggy in the morning. You can mix this unique powdered blend of sleep-supporting nutraceuticals into water, hot tea, or your favorite bedtime drink to help calm your system before going to bed.
The R.E.M. Maintenance™ formula includes melatonin, 5-HTP, inositol, glycine, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C. Melatonin is a hormone that is synthesized from serotonin and produced naturally by the pineal gland during hours of darkness. It is responsible for regulating the “body clock” that controls when you’re awake and when your body is ready for sleep . Melatonin supplements should be taken only in the evenings so that the highest levels of circulating melatonin occurs when you are ready to bring on sleep, mimicking the natural cycle. Supplementing with melatonin alone will not change circulating levels of serotonin, or affect mood, but low levels of serotonin could be a cause for poor melatonin production and consequential difficulty sleeping .
5-hydroxytryptophan, better known as 5-HTP, is naturally produced by the body as a precursor for the production of serotonin. However, 5-HTP bypasses the light-triggering system that regulates the release of melatonin, and so provides the substrate for an increase in both serotonin and melatonin release, regardless of light or time of day. Because 5-HTP increases serotonin, it has a calming, relaxing effect on brain chemistry, and may help to ease any anxiety that occasionally arises at bedtime. Studies have shown that 5-HTP supplementation can help patients fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply than a placebo .
Inositol is used by your brain as a “secondary messenger”, facilitating communication between brain cells. All of the major neurotransmitters rely on inositol to relay messages. Inositol not only improves the effectiveness of serotonin, but also GABA, glutamate, and dopamine, to promote a stronger sense of well-being, more restful sleep at night, and a more even-tempered mood during the day .
Glycine is an amino acid that easily crosses the blood-brain barrier, inducing a calming effect on the brain, and helping you wind down to prepare for sleep. Glycine triggers the biological clock to reduce core body temperature through vasodilation, which is an important biological step in the onset of sleep . Glycine also works as a neurotransmitter and has both stimulatory and inhibitory effects on parts of the brain and central nervous system. It is also involved in the production of other biochemicals that influence these body functions, including serotonin .
Magnesium and potassium are two minerals with a plethora of functions throughout the body. These are essential minerals because they are not produced by the body and must be consumed regularly in the diet in order to fulfill the body’s need for proper function. Magnesium deficiency is very common and associated with symptoms such as insomnia, leg cramping, and restless leg syndrome . Magnesium is a regulator of the parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for promoting calm and relaxation . It also helps to regulate melatonin  and GABA, the neurotransmitter responsible for quieting the nervous system .
Unfortunately, as we age, we tend to find less magnesium is being absorbed from our diet, and this problem can be exacerbated by conditions such as diabetes, digestive issues, or high alcohol consumption .
Potassium channels and their functions are essential to cell signaling and brain synapses. Potassium helps nerves and muscles communicate, and helps move nutrients into cells and to remove waste products from cells. Studies have shown that potassium supplementation helped participants sleep deeply, without interruption in sleep cycles .
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