Do you know the various recovery methods you can use after a sport session or competition? And above all, do you realise how important recovery is after intense effort?Find out more in our article!


Do you know the various recovery methods you can use after a sport session or competition? Most importantly, do you know how important recovery is after intense effort?

That's right! When you've just finished a training session or competition, it's important to take some time to recover properly, which involves more than just getting some rest and having a well deserved meal. Proper recovery includes several different physical and nutritional methods. It's an important habit to develop if you want to be in top form for your next training session, race or competition. Let's take a look at the factors involved in proper recovery: rest, massage, compression, electro-stimulation, cold, stretches, and of course, nutrition.


What if we told you that simply sitting calmly on the side of the pitch after a match or training session isn't enough? After giving it our all, our natural impulse is to just relax and do nothing, but here we show that active recovery after sports is essential for two reasons:

- Firstly, it helps you feel better, be less sore and less stiffness. Taking time for proper recovery ensures that whether you're going back to work, or back home, you'll have an extra spring in your step and simply feel better overall.

- Recovery after playing sports helps you improve your performance.

If you don't take enough time for proper recovery after an intense effort, your body doesn't regenerate. Not all athletes realize this, but recovery is a key factor in their growth and improvement and is an essential part of the entire training process. Recovery plays a major role in helping you reach your athletic goals, make progress, and improve your performance. It can also help you avoid the problem of overtraining, which increases the risk of injury. To perform your best in training and in competition, you must make recovery a habit!  

Recovery helps athletes recoup the totality of their resources after a session. This is called overcompensation, which refers to a process that helps an athlete strengthen their body to improve their performance. It's important not to neglect this overcompensation phase as it helps you reach a higher level than you had at the start of the session. 

When you do consecutive training sessions without a recovery phase in-between, or only an incomplete recovery phase, this is called overtraining, and it increases the risk of injury. With overtraining, your body is tired and you stop making progress; in fact, you might even see a drop in performance.

There is also such a thing as psychological overtraining, which happens when athletes are too focused or even obsessed with the goal of beating the clock or winning the competition.


1/ Sleep: helps the body to regenerate.

Sleep is a critical part of the recovery process. Adults need a minimum of 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers need an additional hour, or 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night.

It's important not to miss these hours of sleep especially if you're going to be doing sports the next day. In fact, you are advised not to do a training session at 6 a.m. if you haven't gone to sleep before midnight. If you don't sleep enough you could see your performance drop by up to 10%!

To compensate for the lack of sleep, you may want to take a 20 to 40 minute nap. You can extend your nap up to 90 minutes but bear in mind that you might then feel somewhat less focused when you wake up.

If you're unable to sleep soundly, here are some tips to help you get better sleep:

- avoid electronic devices before bed, or at least either turn down the brightness as low as you can or set it to a mode with a black background (often called "night mode" or "dark mode"). Reduced luminosity in the evenings helps your body fall asleep.

- avoid stimulants in the evenings such as alcohol or coffee.

- avoid a long sleep-in if you're going to have a training session, race or event the next day as that will throw off your body clock and make it harder for you to fall asleep that night.

NB: don't be overly focused on your sleep! In fact, certain sleep tracking apps can cause you to feel stressed about keeping to the number of hours that you had set as a target.

2/ Massage to relax your muscles.

Massage helps to relax your muscles after they have been heavily exerted, such as during sports. It helps you to feel good, which is psychologically important as well. In particular, if you have a competition the next day it will have a beneficial effect and help you feel like you are ready and able to compete well.

Massage also helps to reduce muscle contracture, muscle stiffness, and fatigue. It also plays a role in preventing delayed onset muscle soreness such as cramps, and more! Massage also plays a role in:

- The tendons: increases their flexibility.

- The nervous system: massage has an antalgic effect due to "gate control" (a mechanism that inhibits the transmission of pain messages and reduces the perception of pain) as well as the release of endorphins.

-  Lastly, it also plays an important psychological role by reducing stress, allowing you to relax and take care of yourself.

Ideally, a massage should last 5 minutes per muscle group and should start at the extremities and work towards the root of each limb.
A good massage is done by hand using an oil or balm containing essential oils and arnica. There are a variety of massage techniques that can be used. The most common are: static pressure (on reflex points, trigger points, contracture points), sliding pressure, and deep kneading.
There are also accessories that you can use to easily and effectively give yourself massages, including deep ones, using a roller, ball or massage stick.
- Massage balls are very handy for giving yourself deep, targeted massages. They come in three different sizes so you can adjust them to the area to massage. Use the small size for the arch of your foot and back; the double-ball is perfect for the back and the spine thanks to being hollow in the middle; and the large ball is good for the back and glutes. There are also vibrating balls that provide deeper massages.
- A massage wand is the easiest accessory to use for self-massages. It's easy to hold as it's explicitly designed for that, and is very handy as you can apply as little or much pressure as you want.
- Massage rollers are an efficient tool for recovery. You use your body weight for the massage, which is very effective for soothing deep muscles after sports or exercise; this helps make the muscles more limber as well as reduces soreness. There are various types of rollers available: Soft rollers are for gentle massages and made with smooth and comfortable foam; Hard rollers are for more intense massages and made with stiffer and more structured foam; Electrical massage rollers boost the effectiveness of the massage by vibrating, which relaxes the muscles more while requiring little effort.
- Modular massage sticks provide a personalized massage that matches your build, the area to massage, and the desired massage intensity.


3/ Compression: reduce fatigue and muscle soreness

Compression helps lessen muscle soreness (and inflammation) and stiffness by improving the venous return and circulation of blood. We recommend wearing compression socks just after finishing a session or event, for 1.5 to 2 hours. It's a simple, easy and effortless way to aid recovery!

It's also a good idea to wear compression socks on long flights if you'll be competing in an event abroad.

4/ Electro-stimulation: reduces muscle soreness and relaxes the muscles.

Electro-stimulation helps improve recovery by reducing pain and has an antalgic effect. As with massage, it produces the gate control phenomenon and releases endorphins. It allows the muscles to relax passively, without you having to lift a finger! Simply put on the electrodes, which are connected to a device that generates electrical impulses based on a programme designed by health professionals. 

Bear in mind that an electro-stimulation therapy session helps you feel better but won't necessarily improve your athletic performance :) 

5/ Applying cold also aids in recovery!

Applying cold lessens the feeling of pain, and reduces oedema and the inflammation that naturally occurs when exerting yourself. Cold helps increase blood circulation. 

Cold can be applied to specific locations or over the entire body, such as:

- An ice-cold bath, in 10 to 15° water for 11 to 15 minutes can help reduce soreness.

- Cold compresses (first placed in the freezer), applied to the areas that are sore will help reduce pain, especially after an aerobic or long training session.

Avoid applying cold after a strength training session (weight training) as this will inhibit protein synthesis and therefore hinder muscle growth.

What about applying heat for recovery?

First of all, you should know that a sauna hinders rather than helps recovery! The increase in heat will cause the body to expend energy to regulate its temperature, hindering your recovery. On the other hand, a hot compress applied to a sore muscle can have a soothing effect.

6/ Stretches

Stretches serve different purposes depending on their intensity:

- gentle stretches for 15 to 20 seconds will help you feel lighter and more relaxed. This won't necessarily aid your recovery but it will help you feel better.

- slow intense stretches (up to the point of pain) can increase soreness (the muscle fibres that were torn in the session risk breaking again). Therefore these should be done some time after your training session or competition, with the goal of becoming more limber.


For your training sessions to be helpful it's essential that you recover well and take some time after each session to relax your muscles and soothe sore spots; this goes for competitions as well.

There are several methods that can help you to recover better and faster.

6/ Nutrition, to replenish your energy and water reserves.

The recovery phase is fundamental to your progress and physical performance. Nutrition plays an important role in the goal of regenerating the body's water and energy stores. Good recovery allows you to resume training quickly and avoid an overload of fatigue which can lead to overtraining.

The goals of eating after a session:

- Replenish your energy reserves so that you'll have enough store of carbs for the next sessions.

- Rehydrate, since sports activities result in sweating and a significant loss of water. This is why it's important to consume water as well as sodium.

- Repair the muscle fibres damaged by the training session, through the consumption of proteins.

- Rebalance your pH; physical exercise can make your body more acidic due to bicarbonate.

- Keep free radical attacks in check (lengthy or intense physical activity can lead to the production of free radicals) through the consumption of antioxidants.

- Rebuild your immune defences through the consumption of proteins, since intense physical effort lowers your immune defences which can facilitate the growth of viral infections.

What is a metabolic window?

This is a period that begins when your physical exercise stops, and lasts about 4 hours. During this period, the body adopts an efficient regime that allows it to replenish its store of nutrients very quickly. Therefore, the hours immediately following exercise are the ideal moment to provide your body with all that it needs, particularly in terms of carbohydrates and proteins.

Post-recovery consumption:

It's important to begin your recovery as soon as possible after your physical effort (sports, exercise) has ended. Your body needs about 1 g of carbs per kilo of body weight per hour of exercise, plus 15 to 20 g of proteins. So for example you can eat:

- 1 recovery drink + 1 after sport protein bar + water with bicarbonates

- 1 recovery drink + 3 nougat bars + water with bicarbonates

- 1 whey 9 shaker + 2 ultra bars + water with bicarbonates

- 1 whey 9 shaker + 100g dry apricots + water with bicarbonates

Important! Contrary to common belief, alcohol reduces your body's ability to recover.



So now you have what you need to give yourself a good recovery after sports or exercise. And don't forget: make recovery a habit, as it will not only help you feel good after a session or competition, but help you improve as well!

There isn't one particular method that is better than the rest, so choose the one that works best for you and make it yours, or even better, combine several methods that you enjoy. If recovery becomes a time that you enjoy and even look forward to, that will only help it work better for you by enhancing your morale!



Our partner physiotherapist