Rest and Recovery for Better Performance




There’s no better boost to recovery than a good night’s sleep. Chocolate milk is just as good a post-workout beverage as a sports recovery drink. Too much napping could increase the risk of conditions like hypertension.

These were among the takeaways in an educational talk that saw doctor and ex-national runner Dr Mok Ying Ren dispensing advice and lessons on how to understand the fitness and fatigue levels of your body and ensure you get enough rest.

In the fourth of a series of Make Every Move Count webinars organised by Active Health, Dr Mok together with his fellow panellist, Ms Dawn Tan, Assistant Director (Partnership and Engagement Development) at the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth discussed topics like sleep, nutrition, hydration and the importance of rest and recovery for better performance, not just when it comes to sports.

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Maximise Our Gifts

Good sleep is a gift; nothing can replace good sleep through the night. Getting proper sleep and giving your body time to recover from intense periods of stress and training also helps when it comes to mental health and productivity in general aspects of life, including work. The idea of getting enough rest and sleep should not be trivialised, said Ms Tan. In fact, learning how to sleep and rest better can help improve performance in life.

To better help the audience understand the importance of recovery, Dr Mok also introduced the concept of supercompensation. Ensuring periods of rest is meant to allow people to achieve supercompensation.

During this supercompensation phase, baseline performance level increases. So spacing out training sessions with adequate periods of rest to allow the body time to recover and prepare for the next session, can help people develop the capacity for a higher level of performance and get stronger and fitter.

“If you don’t recover, you don’t have the energy the following day to do the plan as prescribed,” said Ms Tan. 

“At the end of the day, I realised that sleep is really the key,” Dr Mok said. “If you look at the big sports teams, the key is to optimise sleep first. Consider the importance of sleep in your life right now and how it affects your performance in terms of your sport or work, and try to optimise that.”

The panellists also discussed how proper nutrition and hydration can aid in recovery, with Ms Tan noting how when she ate better, she saw improved performance.

Dr Mok said a mixture of protein and carbohydrates is optimal for post-training recovery. Moderation is key, and, in general, food that is lower in fat and oil will be good.

In addition, care should be taken to ensure one is well-hydrated so as to optimise performance. “Our body is made up of 70 percent water, so you have to top it up,” said Dr Mok. A simple way to ensure you’re hydrated is to check that your urine is clear. If it’s dark, that indicates dehydration. The kidneys in this case are struggling to keep the necessary amount of water in. There can also be problems if you drink too much: overhydration can lead to low sodium levels by overwhelming the kidney’s ability to excrete water.

Dr Mok pointed out that the sports industry has come up with various types of recovery drinks to help people restore energy levels. But if people, like him, struggle with the taste or smell of these drinks, there is a surprising alternative.

“If you love chocolate milk, it’s just as good,” he said. Studies have found that chocolate milk has been found to give similar or even superior results post-workout, compared to sports recovery beverages.

Be A Skeptic

It is human nature to look for ways to optimise training and recovery. But Dr Mok also urged people to be cautious in their approach to any fads and new modalities that come up purporting to aid in these.

As an athlete, he has tried a range of things, including compression boots, ice baths and herbal supplements. The ice baths that he used to take all the time after his training sessions, which were meant to contract blood vessels to boost recovery, were shown in recent studies to actually do more harm than good, as it negatively impacts muscle growth and repair.

Be Reasonable

Ms Tan’s takeaway from the session was to be realistic with the goals people set for themselves when it comes to exercise and training so that they do not over-exert themselves and sacrifice rest and recovery.

In fact, the refreshed Singapore Physical Activity Guidelines (SPAG) provides well-defined recommendations for individuals to engage in physical activity, adjusted to what is realistic for everyday Singaporeans. Based on the SPAG, we should be getting up and moving throughout the day to meet at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day.

Wrapping up, Ms Tan shared, “In the different seasons of life, it’s okay for your goals to shift around. And your goal should work for you. You cannot be a slave to your goals. It could cause longer term harm to your body, to your mental health, to your physical well-being. You won’t ever get to the point of supercompensation if you don’t allow yourself to rest and recover.”

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Topics: Physical Activity