Back to School Sports: 7 Tips to Improve Muscle Recovery for Youth Athletes
Back to school is upon us, and that means kids are going to be playing sports. Some programs may have already started! So whether that means football, soccer, field hockey, or any number of other sports, make sure your child is prepared for the physical demands of athletics. And a major part of that preparation is muscle recovery. Proper downtime, rest, and nutrition are just as necessary to a good season as hard work and regular practice, and most importantly, will help prevent injuries in young athletes. Read on for 7 tips to help improve muscle recovery for school-age athletes!
1. Understand Recovery
There are different types of muscle recovery over different periods of time. Understanding how to maximize all of these will improve your experience and longevity:
- Immediate Recovery: This is the recovery that happens during exercise, when momentum takes over from your muscles. Think of the swing phase of your legs when running or the time between muscle contractions when lifting weights.
- Short-Term Recovery: These are the brief rests during physical activity, such as the time between interval sets of an exercise. This is the most-studied branch of muscle recovery, because it's the one that has the most obvious effect on improving your training and competitive results.
- Training Recovery: The longest period of recovery, and the one we'll be focusing on for this article. This is any time between practices, training, or athletic competition, and although it is often ignored as a subject for study, it's absolutely crucial for proper muscle growth and injury prevention.
2. Get Enough Sleep
This can't be overstated: many children and teenagers aren't getting enough sleep, with almost 60 percent of children and 70 percent of teenagers report sleeping less than the recommended nightly amount. Many parents might not even know how much sleep their children should be getting: 9-12 hours a night for children (ages 6-12) years and 8-10 hours for teenagers (ages 13-18), according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Why is sleep so important, especially for childhood and adolescent development? The processes that occur during sleep help improve cognitive development, mood regulation, blood pressure, glucose regulation, and muscle growth. A lack of proper sleep can cause loss of muscle mass as well as a lack of muscle recovery after exercise. Adolescents who don't get enough sleep increase their injury risk, as well as their risk of obesity, diabetes, and mental health and behavioral problems.
3. Stay Hydrated
Getting enough water before, during, and after physical activity is crucial for muscle recovery. Water delivers nutrients throughout your body, as well as aids in digestion and improves circulation, two processes that further replenish your body with necessary nutrients after strenuous activity. This has particular implications on protein synthesis, which rebuilds damaged muscle after a workout and requires water to function properly. In short, you need water to rebuild muscle.
4. Eat Well
Connected to our previous tip, protein synthesis is one of the most important aspects of muscle recovery. Muscle fibers break down during exercise and are rebuilt stronger by using protein. That's why it's important to get enough protein (usually 20-40 grams, depending on your body weight) after exercise.
Protein before exercise is also recommended, as well as eating carbohydrates after activity to replenish stored glycogen that your body uses for energy during exercise. And for your long-term nutrient needs, it's always beneficial to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed foods.
5. Get Enough Downtime
This is especially important for young, adolescent, and teenage athletes. Time away from sports is vital for recovery. The National Athletic Trainers' Association recommends the following steps in order to improve muscle recovery and reduce the risk of injury:
- Less than eight months of training and organized sports per year.
- One sport per season.
- A maximum of hours per week based on age: 1 hour per year of age (ie, no more than 12 hours of play and training per week for a 12-year old).
- A minimum of two days of rest per week.
- Time away from sports at the end of a season: this will also improve both physical and mental recovery.
6. Delay Specialization
Athletic specialization, playing and training for only one sport year-round, has become increasingly common in younger and younger athletes who hope to turn professional, but it often leads to overuse injuries as well as psychological stress and burnout. Studies have shown that early diversification, playing and training in multiple sports, is much more conducive to athletic success thanks to reduced injury rates and improved motivation and enjoyment. Sport specialization should be pursued later if at all.
Injuries are extremely common for athletes and tend to develop gradually due to repetitive stress on the legs combined with poor or limited downtime after exercise. Mountain Ice Sports Recovery Gel is a unique formulation of high-quality, all-natural ingredients designed to reduce muscle, joint, tendon, and ligament soreness and strain after exercise! Our ingredients have been specially chosen to reduce inflammation and strain after physical activity:
- Menthol: Its cooling sensation numbs pain, providing immediate relief, while it widens blood vessels to improve circulation and deliver more oxygen and nutrients to damaged areas.
- MSM: Prevents breakdown of connective tissue like ligaments and reduces inflammation.
- Spearmint: Soothes pain and muscle contractions, reducing stress on the foot.
- Aloe Vera: Anti-inflammatory plant that promotes faster muscle recovery.
- Camphor: Cooling pain reliever that reduces swelling from injury and increases circulation.
- Vitamin E: Reduces muscle soreness and encourages muscle rebuilding, strengthening the foot's support.
- Green Tea Extract: Powerful antioxidant that reduces the oxidative stress that can cause inflammation.
- Arnica Flower: Relieves inflammation and muscle soreness while improving circulation.
- Turmeric: Inhibits inflammatory response while promoting deep absorption of ingredients, fighting pain at its source.
Are you looking for better muscle recovery this school sports season? Click here to try Mountain Ice Sports Recovery Gel today to get back on your feet!