Life’s tough enough for the serious amateur cyclist. Between work, commuting and family time, many are already on the edge of burnout as it is. Add training on top and it can push our bodies over the edge. But what if there was a protocol designed for optimal recovery? One you could follow to a T from the moment you’ve warmed down on the smart trainer. Well, for those chasing optimal performance, health and recovery, the 5-step Tacx Smart Training Recovery Protocol is just what you’ve been looking for.
We’ve condensed the latest science down into these five simple hacks. Incorporate them into your training routine so they become second nature. If you put as much effort into your recovery as you do your training, then you can transform your fitness, improving quicker while training less.
1) FASTING: LESS IS SOMETIMES MORE
What you consume before and after a workout has a tremendous effect on your recovery. But what most don’t realise is that often it’s what you don’t consume where the greatest benefit may lie.
For years we’ve been told to take on carbohydrate before and after workouts. If you’re riding the Tour de France, and urgently need to restore glycogen levels before the next stage, then this may be an optimal strategy. But the science suggests that many of us will do better by refraining from immediate refeeds.
A recent study carried out on cyclists showed that 3 weeks of fasted workouts actually led to an increase in recovery and improved power to weight ratios. This is in part due to the fact that levels of testosterone and human growth hormone production increase if you refrain from refuelling with carbohydrate directly after your workout. And a natural boost in those all-important hormones is something we can all benefit from.
So after your next trainer session, try waiting 2-3 hours after the workout before eating. The benefits might surprise you!
2) COMPRESSION GEAR: GET THE BLOOD FLOWING
After exercising, blood can pool or stagnate in the muscles leading to poor recovery. By wearing compression gear you promote increased blood flow, and this helps restore muscle glycogen and clear metabolic waste more efficiently, hence leading to improved recovery.
You can wear compression gear during workouts, although many find it uncomfortable. Wearing it while you sleep or work still has benefits. With that improved blood flow, it’ll leave you feeling less stiff and sore after a hard session of high-intensity intervals on the smart trainer.
A free alternative is resting your legs on the couch while you stay on the floor. Or lying down with your legs straight up the wall for an even more draining effect.
3) AMINO ACIDS: THE ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE HACK
Branched-chain amino acids consist of leucine, isoleucine and valine. They significantly enhance performance during exercise and improve recovery afterwards. Some of the benefits they infer include decreasing inflammatory markers and increasing several others that many cyclists are already familiar with such as red blood cell count, haemoglobin and hematocrit. In addition, the supplementation of 5-8 grams every hour when working out on the smart trainer can help prevent your body from cannibalising your lean muscle mass.
Essential amino acids (EAA’s) are those 9 amino acids that the body can’t synthesise alone. They are hands down the most efficient method of protein supplementation and are absorbed and utilised almost in their entirety by the body. Their fatigue-fighting properties and enhanced recovery mean that you may well benefit from incorporating them into your smart training recovery protocol.
4) FOAM ROLLER: WORKING OUT THE KNOTS
After a days work, the pros lie upon a table while a masseur works out the knots in their muscles. But for us mere mortals, the pain of a foam roller is what awaits after a hard session.
Most don’t realise that stretching after a workout will only make existing knots tighter, so it’s always best to do the deep tissue work first. Imagine your muscle to be a rope with a knot. By stretching, you simply tighten the knot further, so it’s always best to release the trigger points first.
A firm roller with deep ridges is always best for this particular purpose. By incorporating one into your routine, and using it before and after smart trainer sessions, improved recovery is guaranteed.
Ideally, your smart trainer session starts with some foam rolling and ends with another foam roller session followed by stretching. For those who have accumulated fatigue after an intense training block, your legs will thank you for it!
5) REST AND DIGEST: WINDING DOWN AFTER A WORKOUT
We cyclists often push ourselves beyond what our bodies consider normal. The evolutionary responses that are hard-wired within us manifest in the form of hormonal reactions. With the cortisol high following an intense workout, it can be difficult to wind down and prepare for that all-important restful sleep, so try to train as early in the day as your schedule allows and avoid evening workouts wherever possible.
We’ve published a more detailed post of hacking your sleep, but for those looking to get an edge, several supplements can help your body wind down, and bring your hormones into a state of homeostasis where you’re primed for that restful sleep.
Magnesium – Responsible for more than 300 reactions in your body including cardiac function, muscle contraction and relaxation, magnesium is an essential supplement for cyclists. After working out and in the evening, 600-800 mg of magnesium can help lower stress levels and regulate melatonin, thus helping you nod off more easily when the time comes. It’s also worth noting that magnesium is a mineral most of us are deficient in, so the benefits of supplementing are two-fold.
Ashwagandha – This Ayurvedic herb is adaptogenic—meaning it has a remarkable ability to lower elevated cortisol levels when consumed. Our circadian clock expects cortisol to drop come the evening, but if you’ve ever tried doing Vo2 max intervals on the smart trainer after work, you’ll know just how hard it is to switch off come bedtime! Ashwagandha can help bring you back to baseline. A starting dose of 300 mg is a good place to begin with before working up.
L-Theanine – An amino acid commonly found in green tea, it increases relaxation and helps lowers stress. A small dose of 200-300 mg before bed can often lead to notable improvements in stress levels, sleep quality and in the time taken to fall asleep. Any cyclist training in the evening may well benefit from having the edge taken off by L-theanine.
Tryptophan – Found in high quantities in turkey meat, this amino acid is a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin, in turn, converts to melatonin—that all-important hormone responsible for sleep regulation. Melatonin could also be supplemented directly in small quantities. However be careful, as taking too much can suppress natural production.
You can always recover better, perform better and feel better in every walk of life by being mindful of a few simple things. Take your recovery to the next level with the smart training recovery protocol!