Exercise provides a stimulus to promote increased gains in muscular size, strength, and endurance. Most forms of exercise are based on the progressive resistance principle, which states that to make continued muscular progress requires constantly trying to stress a muscle in some way. This could involve a small increase in the amount of weight used, doing more repetitions, or even reducing the rest time between sets of an exercise. But while exercise is the direct stimulus for muscle and strength gains, the actual gains occur not during the exercise session, but afterward. Optimal recovery after exercise is just as vital in promoting muscle gains as is the exercise session itself. While there are various techniques used to promote recovery following exercise, this article will focus on food and nutrition for the purpose of promoting maximum exercise recovery, while reducing the extent of muscle damage incurred by intense training.
In recent years, it has become clear that the process of recovery following exercise involves several phases. The first phase features a heightened inflammatory response, characterized by the influx of immune cells and the release of their chemical mediators, collectively known as cytokines. Usually, the word "inflammation" conjures up a negative response these days since inflammation is the cornerstone of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and asthma among many others. But inflammation, depending on where and when it happens, can either be a good or bad thing. The release of chemical inflammatory mediators, such as the various cytokines, during illness, helps the body to eradicate and destroy invading organisms that cause diseases, such as bacteria and viruses. Among the way, these immune cells accomplish this task is through the release of free radicals, unpaired electrons that destroy bacteria and cripple the activity of pathological viruses. But it's also a shotgun effect, in that the burst of free radicals from immune cells is also capable of harming nearby normal cells, usually through interactions with the cellular membranes.
In relation to exercise recovery, the first phase of recovery, which involves the migration of immune cells to the damaged muscle areas, serves to foster recovery by clearing out the debris left in the muscle that would otherwise impede complete recovery. This clears the way for the muscles to compensate for the imposed damage incurred by exercise through a thickening of muscle fibers that are promoted by ingestion of essential amino acids, in short, an upgraded muscle protein synthesis effect. The activity of chemical immune mediators, such as interleukin-6 and others, also promote a cascade that results in the increased activity of satellite cells, which are muscle stem cells involved in muscle recovery and increased muscle hypertrophy.
It is because of the beneficial effects of temporary muscle inflammation that drugs that reduce inflammation, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, are not a . . .