Techniques, Tools, and Tips for Exercise Recovery

Tools To Determine If You Have Recovered From Previous Training: Local & Systemic

Huberman introduces the concept of heart rate variability (HRV), which is a measure of how much the heart rate speeds up and slows down when a person inhales and exhales.

Huberman explains that having good HRV is important for a healthy nerve-to-heart system, and that there are devices that can measure HRV, although they are not yet perfect and may be expensive.

He also suggests two simple, low-cost tests that can be done in the morning to assess recovery: grip strength and the ability to do a single push-up.

Grip strength can be measured by squeezing a handgrip or squeezing down on an object, while the push-up test involves doing a single push-up as soon as you wake up and seeing how well you can execute it.

Huberman also mentions that monitoring sleep quality and subjective recovery, or how you feel, can be helpful indicators of recovery as well.

Carbon Dioxide Tolerance Test For Assessing Recovery

The carbon dioxide tolerance test is a useful tool for assessing the overall health of the body. It specifically measures an individual’s ability to engage the parasympathetic arm of their nervous system, which is the calming aspect, and also their ability to control their diaphragm muscle.

To complete the test, follow these steps:

  1. Inhale and exhale deeply through the nose four times.
  2. Take a fifth deep inhale through the nose, filling the lungs as much as possible and attempting to expand the stomach.
  3. Start the timer and exhale as slowly as possible through the mouth until no more air can be exhaled.
  4. The carbon dioxide discard rate, or the time it takes to exhale all of the air, will be between one second and two minutes.

A discard rate of:

  • 20 seconds or less indicates that the individual is not fully recovered from their previous day’s activities.
  • 30 seconds to 60 seconds means they are in a good position to do more physical work.
  • 65 seconds to 120 seconds indicates that their nervous system is likely prepared for more work.

How & When To Use Cold Exposure To Enhance Recovery; When To Avoid Cold

Using cold exposure to enhance recovery is a popular topic among athletes and fitness enthusiasts. However, there is data emerging that suggests using cold within four hours of a workout may not always be the best option.

While cold exposure can reduce inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness, it can also interfere with pathways related to muscle repair and growth.

If your goal is to improve strength and muscle hypertrophy, it may be best to avoid cold exposure after a resistance training workout.

However, if your primary focus is on endurance and you have been weight training, cold exposure can still be beneficial, but you may not see as many benefits from the resistance training.

It’s important to note that cold exposure is not the only factor that can affect the benefits of resistance training.

Antihistamines & Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: Can Be Problematic/Prevent Progress

Huberman is discussing the potential negative effects of antihistamines and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) on exercise performance.

He mentions that recent research has shown that these types of drugs can inhibit the benefits of both endurance and resistance training.

Huberman explains that inflammation and muscle damage are important signals that the body needs to adapt and improve, but that antihistamines and NSAIDs can disrupt this process.

He advises caution in the use of these drugs, particularly in the four hours before or after a workout.

Overall, it is important to be aware of the potential impact of these drugs on exercise performance and to use them with care.

Foundational Supplements For Recovery: EPA, Vitamin D3, Magnesium Malate

Huberman is discussing the importance of recovery in muscle development and performance.

He notes that while inflammation is a necessary part of the training process, it is important to try to reduce inflammation after a workout in order to facilitate recovery.

Huberman recommends using techniques like deep rest or the hypnosis app REVERI to calm the body’s systems after exercise.

He also suggests using omega-3s, vitamin D, and magnesium malate as foundational supplements to reduce inflammation at a systemic level.

However, he emphasizes that some level of inflammation is necessary for muscle adaptation and improvement, as long as the muscle is not damaged to the point of injury during a training session.

Huberman advises that if you are experiencing delayed onset muscle soreness, it may be a sign that you have stressed the muscle too much and need longer recovery time.

He suggests using techniques like massage, fascial release, sauna, or cold to accelerate the movement from soreness to recovery.

Ensuring Proper Nerve-Muscle Firing: Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium

In order to support proper nerve-muscle communication and enhance workouts, it is important to consider the role of electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium.

These ions play a key role in the electricity that allows neurons to communicate with muscle and with each other.

If you don’t have enough electrolytes in your system, your nerve to muscle communication will be impaired.

This is especially important for athletes and those who train in high heat, as low electrolyte levels can negatively impact both physical and mental performance.

One electrolyte that is particularly vital for proper nerve function is sodium. Nerve cells use sodium to generate the electricity that allows them to communicate.

The amount of sodium you need will depend on factors like how much water and caffeine you are consuming, how much food you are eating, and whether or not you are taking any diuretics.

It is important to ensure that you have enough sodium, potassium, and magnesium in your system to support optimal performance.

While sodium may not seem like a glamorous performance tool, it is essential for proper functioning of the body and brain.

Endurance athletes and those who train in high heat can attest to the importance of electrolytes for maintaining optimal performance.

Even for tasks like studying, writing, or having an important conversation, sufficient electrolytes are necessary for the brain to function at its best.

In addition to supporting proper nerve function, electrolytes like potassium and magnesium also have other important roles in the body.

Potassium is important for maintaining proper heart function and regulating blood pressure, while magnesium is involved in numerous enzymatic reactions and helps to maintain proper muscle function.

Ensuring that you are getting enough of these electrolytes can help to support overall health and performance.

Creatine: Good? How Much? Cognitive Effects. Hormonal Considerations: DHT

Creatine is a popular supplement that has been shown to have performance-enhancing effects in 66 studies.

It is particularly effective for high-intensity activity and can increase power output by 12-20%.

Creatine can also help to reduce fatigue and increase lean mass, as well as improve cognition after traumatic brain injury.

It is generally recommended to take 5 grams of creatine per day for someone who weighs around 180 pounds, with the dosage increasing for those who weigh more and decreasing for those who weigh less.

However, it is important to consult with a doctor before making any changes to your regimen.

In addition to its performance-enhancing effects, creatine can also increase levels of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

DHT is a more dominant androgen in humans and can lead to increases in strength and libido.

However, it can also cause male pattern baldness in some individuals. Women who take creatine may not experience any changes in hair loss or facial hair growth.

Another supplement that has been shown to have strong effects is beta-alanine. Beta-alanine is effective for exercise of slightly longer duration, such as cycling or rowing, and can increase endurance and reduce fatigue.

It has also been shown to increase muscle mass and strength. Beta-alanine can cause a tingling sensation when taken in high doses, but this is generally not harmful and disappears over time.

It is important to note that while supplements like creatine and beta-alanine can have beneficial effects, they are not necessary for everyone and may not be suitable for everyone.

It is always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

Beta-Alanine, Beet Juice; Note About Arginine & Citrulline & Cold Sores

While we’ve been primarily discussing resistance training, what about endurance activities like long runs and swims?

It appears that consuming substances like beet juice and arginine and citrulline can improve performance in these types of exercise.

This is mostly due to the effects of these compounds on vasodilation, or the widening of blood vessels. This allows for increased blood flow.

However, it’s worth noting that arginine and citrulline can have some side effects. They may increase the risk of herpes cold sore outbreaks.

This is because arginine is involved in the pathway that the herpes virus uses to live on neurons in the trigeminal nerve.

These neurons innervate the lips, eyes, and mucous membranes of the face. The herpes virus can lead to inflammation of these neurons, resulting in cold sores.

It seems that arginine and citrulline can lead to an increase in cold sores and canker sores.

Keep in mind that not everyone carries the HSV-1 virus, and not everyone who has it will experience outbreaks.

However, it is highly contagious and it is estimated that 80-90% of people have contracted the virus by the age of 12.

It can be transmitted through mucous membranes, such as by touching objects, and is not necessarily an STI. It is a common infection in the general population.

Nutrition: Protein Density: Leucine Thresholds; Meal Frequency

Huberman discusses the importance of nutrition in muscle performance and the role of protein density and leucine thresholds in muscle growth and repair.

He recommends getting 700 to 3,000 milligrams of leucine per meal, ideally from whole foods like high-quality animal proteins.

However, plant-based sources of protein can also provide essential amino acids and leucine, though they may be less dense in protein compared to animal sources.

Huberman also addresses the idea that eating frequently, such as six or seven times a day, is necessary for muscle growth, stating that this is not necessarily true.

Instead, it is more reasonable to aim for two to four meals per day, making sure to include sufficient amounts of amino acids and leucine.

Future discussions with Dr. Galpin may delve further into the topic of meal frequency and its effects on muscle synthesis.

Wrapping Up

It is essential to monitor and assess recovery from exercise in order to maintain overall health and improve performance.

There are various tools available for measuring recovery, including devices that measure heart rate variability, simple tests such as grip strength and the ability to do a push-up, monitoring sleep quality and subjective recovery, and the carbon dioxide tolerance test.

Cold exposure can be useful for enhancing recovery, but it may interfere with muscle repair and growth, so it is important to consider the specific goals of the workout.

The use of antihistamines and anti-inflammatory drugs should also be approached with caution, as they may inhibit the benefits of both endurance and resistance training.

Finally, foundational supplements such as EPA, vitamin D3, and magnesium malate can aid in recovery and muscle development.

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The content above is a summary from the Huberman Lab podcast. I’m not affiliated with him. This is an attempt to convert a podcast into a readable blog post.

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