Recovery secrets of the pros

Gabrielle Maston reports on some of the weird but effective ways pro sports teams speed up post-match & training recovery.

Pickle juice

Possibly the best kept secret in the whole elite sporting community for its ability to reduce muscle cramps and rehydrate, pickle juice contains filtered water, vinegar, salt, dill, potassium, zinc and vitamins C and E — all great for recovery.

Research conducted in 2008 showed that many US athletic trainers used 30-60mls of pickle juice — about 1-2 shots — to reduce muscle cramps and help rehydration in their top athletes.

In 2010, researchers set out to bust the pickle juice myth again by giving athletes artificial cramps and then feeding them pickle juice to see what happened. It turns out pickle juice kills cramps within 35 seconds. Keep this one in your gym bag!

Aim to use pickle juice straight after your training sessions if you’re prone to muscle cramps. You can throw it down on its own or include it as a salad dressing on your next meal. If you tend to get cramps at night, drink some pickle juice before bed and don’t forget to stay hydrated.

Gelatine bombs

New research has shown that gelatine can help your joints recover faster. Gelatine is high in amino acids, the building blocks of protein and collagen. Collagen provides elasticity and strength to soft tissue like tendons and ligaments. Athletes with high training loads like runners, cyclists and power lifters may find themselves with sore joints from constant impact on their knees, shoulders and elbows.

In a recent Australian study, researchers supplemented 8 male athletes with gelatine 1 hour before exercise while they were recovering from a soft tissue injury. What they found was that just 15g of gelatine improved joint mechanics and reduced joint pain for these athletes. Researchers are now thinking this can also be extended and used in the elderly suffering from joint pain or footballers recovering from ACL repair.

You can get gelatine powder or strips from the cake isle of your local supermarket.

Take 15g of gelatine with fruit juice 1 hour before exercise — the juice gives you a hit
of vitamin C, which is thought to aid in recovery. To make gelatine bombs, mix 15g of gelatine powder in fruit juice the night before and let it set overnight. That way you can have jelly for breakfast before you head to the gym!

Ice baths

There’s nothing like a cold bath to invigorate the body! In a 2012 study, researchers put footballers in ice cold water after a heavy training session. They found that when players trained the following day they performed better than players who just rested.

It’s thought that the cold water helps combat microtrauma in muscle fibres and reduces inflammation. When you perform strenuous exercise it’s normal for your muscles to rip and tear at the microscopic level. Having a cold bath reduces DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), leaving you with energy and drive to get up and train again the next day. Next time, turn that cold water tap to freezing and take a bath!