It’s not all about tearing muscle, grunting, sweating, and experiencing your heart pumping through your shirt. In fact, that is only about 6% of your contribution to your health and what makes you stronger.

What plays a major factor in your overall health and well-being is what you do with your time when you’re not tearing it up. Nourishing your body is an essential element to living a fit and healthy lifestyle. But rest and recovery is the most neglected element by many trainees. The key is finding the balance and not overdoing it on either side of the spectrum. If you feel that you need to stop eating and just exercise for hours upon hours to get quicker results, you might be in for a shock.

The key word is balance, so a combination of rest, recovery and of course proper diet and exercise is what every fitness regimen needs. Stretching, posture, sleep and nutrition is what we will be zoning in on so that we have a better understanding of how to attain lasting change and improving the overall quality of life. Implementing these four important elements in your day to day activities will show your body how much you appreciate it, care for it and love it.

Stretching
If you think that stretching doesn’t contribute to your health or to your fitness goals, then let me share some benefits of stretching, hear us out. Stretching will allow you to have better range of motion in your joints. Blood is meant to circulate to your muscles so implementing various stretching techniques will allow you to check that off your to-do list for a better and healthier you. That is not all with stretching. It gives you increased metabolism and endurance, better muscle control and coordination and will relieve any stress or tension you may be experiencing. So stretch away and reap the benefits.

Posture
“Stand tall! Shoulders back! Don’t Slouch!” You’ve heard it before. Just because you feel comfortable with your posture does not mean that you are at a restful position. Not correcting your posture is making your body work in an unnatural state, while you think you are resting or relaxing. Bad posture will also results in neck pain, rounded shoulders and back pain.

Here are a few tips that can help you be more conscious about your posture: don’t lean to one side or an object for support while standing, post a visible picture of correct posture, if you find yourself constantly slouching (especially if you have an office job where you spend most of your hours behind a desk), or put a ball or roller on your chair to give you a cue to correct your posture.

Nutrition
Proper nutrition cannot be stressed enough. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” said the Greek physician Hippocrates of Kos. And he was on to something. Everything that you consume has the ability to nourish and heal your body or tax and poison it. There are so many diets out there that so many people swear by. Some sound great while others sound like pure torture. What we all should know is that processed foods, fast foods, foods with refined sugars etc… contain numerous toxins that are detrimental to our bodies and mental health. Eating clean, nutrient dense foods, and balanced meals are proven to keep you healthy, both physically and mentally and will help improve your performance. Food is important for fueling the body, but not when you are eating more than your body needs or when you are picking on empty calories and empty nutrients. The most common complaint people have for not eating consciously is that “healthy” food tastes bad, or that they don’t have the time. Planning meals ahead of time, and carrying a readily available snack will deter you from the restaurant’s drive-thru or that tempting bag of chips. Retrain your palate to crave the good.

Post Workout Nutrition
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” “Dinner is the most important meal of the day.” If you ask me, everything you put in your body is the most important meal of the day. The goal is maximum recovery. And jump starting your road to recovery with your post-workout meal is an important meal and should not be taken lightly. The meal you choose after your workout needs be able to repair the torn muscles, by rebuilding its quality or increasing it in size, reduce soreness and recharge energy. And that’s not all. Your post workout meal will also improve bone mass, immune function, and improving the ability to utilize body fat.

Remodeling is basically what you want to achieve after you have completed a workout – the old and less adapted muscles are being torn down so the new functional muscle can be built. Carbohydrates get stored and protein structures are broken down, and your hungry muscles are waiting for the body to receive the signal that it is time to rebuild itself. If carbohydrates and proteins have been broken down, then it is best to replenish the carbohydrates and protein so that the body properly rebuilds itself. Skipping on the fats during this meal may be a good idea, so that the fat won’t slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and proteins. Such a meal should be consumed immediately after exercising since the muscles are biochemically prepared for nutrient uptake. If you’ve skipped this meal or decided to grab the nearest fast food you’re cheating your muscle and yourself from reaching your full potential.

So the next time you come out of the gym, think twice before you tell yourself you “earned” a whole pizza and ice cream. What you did earn is giving your body the right nutrients so that you have less soreness and can see and feel the results of the time you’ve spent at the gym. That’s feeling of true healthiness, accomplishment and discipline.

Beauty Sleep
We’re living in an age where most of us are walking zombies, our immune systems are suffering, and we cannot balance our appetites because we are not getting adequate levels of sleep. Your mental health, hormones, and muscular recovery also depend on your sleep. Lack of quality of sleep affects how you will feel and perform the following day, how you will look, and can have a major impact on your overall quality of life. Sleep helps with keeping our appetite in check by regulating the levels of ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin and leptin are hormones that play a role in our feelings of hunger and fullness. If you have ever been sleep deprived, you may be able to recall feeling the need to eat more than necessary and not picking the most nutritious meal or snack.

There are four stages of sleep. Let’s focus on what happens in stage three and four. The deepest and most restorative sleep occurs in these two stages: your blood pressure begins to drop, breathing becomes steady, muscles are at a relaxed state, energy is being restored, your blood supply to muscles increases, tissue growth and repair begins to occur, and the most essential hormone HGH – the Human Growth Hormone – releases. HGH promotes growth and development, including muscle development. These stages have ninety minutes of REM (rapid eye movement) where our body is completely immobile, relaxed and muscles are shutting down. REM, also provides us with both brain and body energy, and supports performance during the day.

To get seven to ten hours of quality sleep each night, a few things to consider when going to bed: minimal to no artificial lights, fresh air and cooler temperatures, and try to avoid liquids an hour or so before bed so you do not wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. As you can see a lot goes on in your body while you are sleeping, a lot of benefits that should not be jeopardized.

If you’re trying to adopt a lifestyle that will build the best you (and I know you are), then implement these recovery techniques in order to reap the fruits from your time invested at the gym or any other physical demands you have placed on your body. How much rest everyone needs depends on the person, their genetic make up, their lifestyle, the intensity of training and so on. You not only deserve to experience the best you but you also deserve a good return on the time you’ve invested at the gym so that you can be the best you. With these variables of recovery let us understand the value of quality over quantity.