Regeneration Made Simple Explained
1. Sleep 8+ hours per night, sleep 60+ hours per week
Sleep volume – or how much you sleep per night and per week - must be accounted for in order to facilitate optimal recovery and regeneration. Most athletes under the age of 20 require 60 hours or more of sleep per week for optimal performance, which equates to about 8 hours and 30 minutes of sleep per night. This total sleep volume can be accomplished by including naps as needed, and the closer to 8+ hours per night the better. Sleep amount is an easy variable to track, and perhaps one of the more important (yet underrated) aspects to optimal regeneration and great performances.
2. Deep Sleep requires Darkness
In order to get the deepest, most restful sleep possible you should strive to keep your sleep environment as dark as can be. Optimal hormone release and general recovery are all encouraged in a dark sleep environment. 30 minutes or so before bed it is best to turn off all screens – the TV, the computer, phones, ipods, etc – in order to let your optic nerves relax and begin the process of winding down into a deep, restful, re-energizing sleep. Blackout shades can help filter light from windows, and all nightlights, clocks, etc should all be turned off or at the very least turned away from the bed… There is never a need to have a clock visible when sleeping, just set an alarm as needed to wake, and keep your eyes closed and your room dark to get the most out of your sleep.
3. Quality Sleep in a Quiet Environment
Quality sleep is facilitated in a quiet environment. To get the best rest there should be minimal to no noise, perhaps aside from white noise, in your bedroom. Radios, TV’s, ipods, phones, etc should all be turned off or turned to silent, and if there might be any intruding noise present (lawnmowers, machinery, etc) do your best to minimize the impact. This is where a white noise maker can come in handy. White noise can help smooth out intruding noises, and a simple box fan or baby night-time noise maker can usually do the trick, and an in room humidifier (winter) can also work well to encourage some deep, quality sleep.
4. Maintain Consistent Sleep Patterns
In order to have the best possible chance at full recovery and moving to the next level with your swimming, you need to have consistent bed times and wake times. This consistency (also called Circadian Rhythm), along with sleeping in a dark, peaceful environment, will let your body produce and use a variety of hormones that speed recovery. Non-consistent sleep = less than optimal hormone release = incomplete recovery = not swimming as fast as you have worked for.
The easiest way to get an optimal amount of sleep consistently is to plan for this sleep just as you would plan for your day and week - plan bed time and wake times that are relatively consistent AND allow for enough quality sleep per week. And again, we are shooting for 60 plus hours per week for any hard training athlete 20 years or younger, naps included!!
5. Establish a Nightly Routine
The most effective way to guarantee a good night’s rest is to establish a nightly routine that your body will recognize as a lead-in to quality sleep. 30 minutes or so prior to sleep it is a good habit to reduce any intense visual stimulation (bright lights, TV, phone and/or computer screens, etc). In order to help put you mind at ease for the coming day it is a good idea to gather everything needed (clothes, homework, snacks, etc) so that you can sleep easy knowing that you have the next day planned and prepared for.
Also include regular healthy habits at the end of each day – brushing your teeth, washing your hands and face (or showering/bathing), putting a glass of water by your bed, and anything else that you might normally do to take care of yourself. Establishing a nightly routine can help lead to quality, consistent sleep that will help you not only recover from hard training but can also lead to a healthy, happy life!
Convenience Leads to Success (CLS) - Have what you want to eat in your home or with you as often as possible.
Establish a Weekly Ritual - Have a prep day (Sunday?) to be sure you have everything you need for the week ahead. This works in conjunction with CLS above.
Eating Well is Simple, not Easy - Follow a plan - Decide what is on the menu each week that includes appropriate vegetables, fruits, protein, healthy fats, etc, and then act on that plan as above.
1. Eat a Complete Protein at each meal
In order to rebuild the muscle that you tear down during hard training and come back to the next training session a little stronger and a little faster, you need to eat some protein at each meal. Complete proteins provide all of the Essential Amino Acids (EAA’s) needed to rebuild muscle, and some good examples are: fish, chicken, steak, eggs, cottage cheese, milk and/or yogurt. You should also try for a serving of protein sometime within the 30 minutes after a practice, to help speed recovery.
2. Stay Hydrated - Drink Water Most Often
Optimal hydration will increase your chances of great practices, great performances, and the superior recovery required to move your swimming to the next level. In order to stay hydrated follow these simple tips:
- Have water by your bed each night, finish any remaining water each morning
- Drink water with most meals and throughout the day
- Drink water before, during, and after EVERY practice – have a water bottle with you each day
- Electrolytes (Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium) can help maintain and improve hydration, and perhaps lessen the incidence of cramping
- Blending & drinking a simple green shake each day can help
3. Eat Colorful Vegetables 1st, Colorful Fruits 2nd
The best way to ensure you are getting as many vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients is to eat a wide variety of colorful vegetables most often, and to eat a wide variety of colorful fruits secondarily. Vegetables & fruits come in all colors – Red, Orange, Yellow, White, Green, Blue, Violet, Brown, etc… Try to include as wide of a variety of fresh, seasonal vegetables & fruits in your diet from week to week and month to month. An easy way to include a bunch of healthy veggies is to blend a green drink each day with a variety of green, leafy veggies, carrots or beets, and some fruits, and maybe some healthy fats and/or protein powder – super nutrition!!
4. Eat Healthy Fats Daily
Healthy fats are part of the basic building blocks for all of the cells in our bodies. There are Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) that are required in your daily diet to keep you healthy and recovering well from training. Some easy sources of healthy fats are eggs (the yolk), coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and full fat dairy products (milk, cream, butter). Include some healthy fats at each meal to reap the rewards of all of your hard training in and out of the pool.
5. Carbohydrates are “Activity-dependent”
Carbohydrates are a great energy source, and any carbs included in your regular diet outside of vegetables, fruits and some whole grains (like oats) should be based upon your activity levels – the higher your activity level, the more carbs you can eat. Your body is made up of water, proteins and fats for the most part, and these nutrients are needed (essential!) for regeneration. Carbs can fuel your hard work - allowing the fat and protein you eat to help you repair, recover, and regenerate your body to perform better and better. Additional thoughts…
Workout Windows: Eating for practice & meets
- Before Balanced Carbs, Protein and Fat +/- 2 hrs prior
- During Water & Electrolytes (+/- Carbs if 2+ hrs)
- After Carbs and Protein, liquid if possible
What works for Practices will work for Competition!!