DISCLAIMER: This is what I have been doing for myself. I’m just reporting here, you can take it or leave it.
For the past month, I’ve had a seemingly superhuman capacity for training. I’m up for training almost any time of day, even if I’ve already trained. Two-a-days are becoming standard for me. I feel unstoppable. Here are the 5 things I’ve started doing that are supercharging my recovery.
#1 Early to bed, late to rise
I even made a quote out of it: “Early to bed, late to rise, keeps you not feeling like trash all day long.” It doesn’t rhyme, but it’s true.
The global culture currently praises getting up super early before everyone else and doing a bunch of stuff (before the “enemy” has even gotten out of bed lol). Early wake up times have become some sort of "dick waving" contest. Anyway, try it, get up before 5 am and workout super hard in the morning, you’ll crash around 10-11 am, and you won’t recover, you’ll be a zombie the rest of the day. I did that for a couple years of my life, 2010-2011. I made a few gains, but I hated everything all the time because I felt miserable for almost every one of my waking hours.
Being self-employed now, one of the perks of my job is that I can sleep as long as I want. For the first couple of years of this, I’d go to bed at 11 pm or midnight, but then I’d try to instill some level of self-discipline still, and I’d set the alarm for 7 am. I felt obligated by tough military guru dudes. I’d short change myself up to two hours of sleep to get more out of the day. Anyway: I’d crash super hard around 10-11 am, and I wouldn’t recover. I was basically useless for more hours during the day than I would have liked. I did that 2017-2018. Ughh…
This year I’ve decided to switch the self-discipline around so that I’d go to bed early to get more sleep, but then just stay asleep until I was done sleeping. I’m in bed around 10 pm, and I wake up around 8 am. 8 am, to some, isn’t waking late, but it’s still technically “sleeping in” for me because I wake at that time without an alarm. I feel incredible. “Early to bed, late to rise” works.
#2 Ten minute walks after at least 3 meals during the day
I got this one from Stan Efferding. He’s a big fan of taking 10 minute walks after 3 meals during the day. Here’s how I do it: Right after eating, I start walking. I set a stopwatch for 5 minutes. When it goes off, I turn around and walk back. I try to make the walk brisk and get to breathing heavier, and break a little sweat. I feel like this kicks starts the energy release from a meal and normalizes my appetite. It’s so damn easy to do, and it works really well. During the summer, I did a six week running challenge, and I found that adding just one 10 minute run everyday had a similar result.
#3 I stopped messing around with intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting had become more and more appealing to me when I reached 30 years old. But if I’m totally honest (and many reading this will attest and have to agree if they are honest as well): the reason pushing back breakfast is enticing is because we are lazy. The results from pushing breakfast back have always sucked for me. For fat loss, for strength gains, for morning “productivity” - all of the above. The results have always sucked super hard compared to the alternative... A good breakfast.
The main problem people have with breakfast is that their breakfast sucks. Oatmeal with whey mixed in? Please, come on. An actually “good” breakfast takes a moment to cook. Which is annoying when you just want to start doing stuff! Another problem with eating breakfast right after waking up is that it can make you feel tired and sluggish for up to half an hour afterward, even if it’s a healthy breakfast. But I’ve found the fix for that: A 10 MINUTE WALK AFTER BREAKFAST! (tip #2 above!)
A good breakfast for me has always included a bunch of whole eggs, oats or rice, some sort of meat (I prefer beef or fish), and cooked green vegetables. What works for me may not work for you, but that one has worked for me my whole life. Breakfast also means hydration. A big reason we are tired in the morning is that our hydration levels haven’t been built up yet. I’m always focused on drinking quite a lot of water sooner rather than later after waking. Because the sooner I start drinking water, the sooner I feel fully awake. And the sooner I eat breakfast, the sooner I'll feel my best.
#4 I tried the vertical diet… and it worked
Stan Efferding! Seriously though, I didn’t want to like this diet. I wanted to hate it for some reason. The diet is strange, restrictive, and expensive. But I’ll be damned: it does work for me. I ran the diet very close to the parameters for six weeks (September-October 2019), and it works really well. What does “works” mean? I rarely fart when I stick to this diet. Like… ever. I’m never gassy or bloated. My digestion feels awesome. Wait, digestion? Yaaaaaaawn! Boring old people stuff. But really, once you experience “actually” good digestion, you’ll understand how powerful it is. On this diet, I get energy immediately after I eat, I never feel sluggish after eating. (The walking after a meal thing helps too.) I don’t have to wait for “food to digest” I feel my muscles filling out, and I feel “well” all day long from eating this way.
What makes this diet work? I think a big part of it is the reduction of high FODMAP foods. This is essentially a low FODMAP food diet. Unfortunately, there are many very healthy high FODMAP foods that the diet restricts. Fortunately, there are still many healthy low FODMAP substitutes. For example, broccoli is a high FODMAP food, so you should reduce or eliminate it on this diet, while spinach is a low FODMAP food so you can eat all you want. From a wellness perspective, I don't think I'm going to risk illness if I reduce broccoli consumption in favor of spinach.
A personal issue I have with this diet is I have hemochromatosis, which is a genetic disorder. It means my iron levels will increase unless I give blood regularly, or reduce high iron foods in my diet. By default, I give blood every 8 weeks, and I keep high iron foods low in my diet. However, The Vertical Diet includes a lot of beef, which is high in iron. What do I do then? I do two tweaks: I switch out more of the beef for fish than the diet recommends, and sometimes I eat a serving of Kefir or Greek Yogurt with a beef meal. The calcium in these foods competes with the iron in the beef for absorption. That reduces iron elevation. After a month of running the vertical diet, my iron levels were at the high end of normal, still, as usual. Thus, all the red meat didn’t jack my iron levels up any more than they already are jacked up.
I plan to cycle in and out of a vertical style diet. I'd like to round out my nutrition seasonally by including more of the foods the diet restricts. Still, during some of my more intensive training blocks, I’m going to use this diet, because the result for my first run has been more impressive than any other diet switch I’ve tried in my life.
#5 I take ice baths every day
Ok, this one is crazy, and I don’t expect anyone to be able to try it out because it’s inconvenient. Still, the title of this post is “5 things I’ve been doing for superhuman recovery,” and it’s something I have been doing that I can’t leave out. I have an insulated tub that maintains ice-cold temperatures for 24 hours, even during the hottest month of the year. My dad and I built it. The build can cost as little as $500. The reason I take ice baths is to increase my alertness and refresh me. My motive isn’t even for exercise recovery, but I can’t deny that after taking more than one ice bath every day for like… 4 months now, I am recovering faster from training. There is, indeed, conflicting science about the efficacy of ice bathing for exercise recovery, but I don’t care what it says because I feel way better taking them daily! I don’t get as sore, and I get bursts of energy from them.