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Recovery Tools of the Trade

Stew Smith, CSCS

Hydration – Being dehydrated increases cortisol levels and stresses the body.   Also electrolyte imbalances will create fatigue and an inability to properly function mentally or physically.  After sweaty workouts – (ring out sweat out of or salt stains on clothes type of sweat) I like to eat a can of chicken noodle soup (Noodle O’s personally) as it is loaded with potassium (3-4 times that of a banana plus protein / carbs). Those are my only supplement I use regularly.  Water is the best source of hydration but the body will pull water from nearly everything that enters it.  However, foods / drinks high in caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol all negatively affect your hydration levels as well as increase stress hormone levels.  A general rule of thumb for active people is 50-75% body weight in pounds = ounces per day of H2O.

Sleep - The best training plans will not work if sleep and rest between workouts are neglected.  Without adequate sleep (eight hours a night), there is not enough rest for muscle cell growth and repair.  In fact, when you sleep, growth hormone is produced and protein synthesis in the muscles occurs IF you eat foods with protein during the day.  For adolescents especially, sleep is critical as growth can be impaired if quality and quantity of sleep is lacking. 

Lack of sleep can also affect your mood and increase hormonal stress levels which will have a negative impact on performance.  Now, one night of missed sleep is not going to have many negative effects on your performance, but several days in a row or a few weeks of interrupted sleep combined can lead to similar symptoms of a stressed out / over-training syndrome.

In the military or law enforcement professions, sleep may not occur at regular intervals and the quality may be lacking.  But those who work hard during the day or exercise will have an easier time falling asleep compared to those who do not. 

Exercise or hard physical work:  Exercise and physical work are great OUTLETS for stress to be released from the body.  The body produces stress hormones in order for the body to react and survive.  If you do not physically RELEASE these stress hormones they will interrupt your sleep and long term health.

Clear your mind of intrusive thoughts – One trick is to go to a “happy place” and breathe deep / slow breaths when you are bombarded by stressful thoughts that may or may not occur or have occurred in the past.  Your body will react to your brain imagining negative thoughts and keep stress hormones racing through your body.  Reverse the trend and think relaxing thoughts of a favorite place, time, event and revisit that.  If that does not work for long, write down your to-do list / what bothers and get it out of your head and you will be less stressed.

RECOVERY – In order to maintain health / fitness levels or build upon current levels you have to rest, eat properly (good food), and balance your workouts with periodization programming.  Thoroughly understanding cycles of peak performance, maintenance, and recovery are critical to your long term health and longevity. 

See The Advanced Maintenance and Recovery Program created for people who have completed physically stressful and challenging training courses like Ranger School, Q course, BUD/S, etc. This program is tough and gets people back into lifting, PTing, cardio workouts (both running and non impacts like swimming) in order to recover from extremely difficult periods of training.  Feel free to email me if you have any questions at



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