How to recover from anything

Lee Kynaston
Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Whether you've over-indulged, under-slept or are just exhausted after a game of touch, there's a perfect recovery remedy. And we've uncovered them. Follow our advice and never be anything less than 100 percent.

Recover from a night on the lash
The secret to tackling hangovers is to neutralise the twin evils of dehydration and the alcohol's toxicity.

"The more you drink the higher the load on the liver and there comes a point when it can't cope, leaving you with toxic alcohol by-products circulating in the blood stream," says Ian Marber, author of The Food Doctor: Healing Foods for Mind and Body.

Conveniently, you can deal with both enemies by downing plenty of orange juice. "Research has found that taking vitamin C after drinking can help prevent liver damage due to its powerful antioxidant action," says Marber.

Sadly, though, following this up with a greasy meal won't help. "Alcohol is high in calories and can cause a big spike in blood sugar which is followed by a plummet which is why people often crave sugary or fatty foods the next day," he explains.

Feeding this craving with empty calories won't do any good — you need wholesome grub like oily fish and veg or for the ultimate hangover food try a poached egg on asparagus — eggs contain sulphur (which helps with liver function) whilst asparagus contains antioxidants that protect the liver cells and help break down alcohol. Tastes good too.

Recover from a lack of sleep
Not getting enough shuteye is the easiest way to drain your batteries and damage your immune system. In fact, missing just three hours sleep can cause a 50 percent drop in our immune response.

So make up for lost time by grabbing a power-nap during the day. Sleep experts reckon that the optimum time for power-napping is between 2pm and 3pm but don't snooze for more than 20 minutes at a time or you'll end up feeling even groggier.

Recover from a sporting injury
It's a lucky man indeed who hasn't ended up with a few battle scars to show for his sporting prowess (or lack of). In fact, a third of us pick up a sporting injury every year, mainly due to over-exertion, poor technique or downright stupidity.

So if you do find yourself injured and want to make the kind of recovery even the most theatrical of players would be proud of treat the problem as soon as possible, and apply the 'RICE' protocol.

Rest (to take the weight off the injury), apply Ice (to reduce swelling, relieve pain and is thought to reduce bleeding in damaged tissue), Compress (using a bandage if possible to prevent further swelling) and Elevate. Raising the injury above waist height will help relieve pain and reduce swelling, providing you with the perfect excuse to put your feet up.

"Don't make the mistake I did, during my footballing days, and go back to training only 80% recovered, because that's the easiest way to get another injury, often more serious than the first," says Personal trainer Phil Maguire. "Your body needs time to heal, totally, for a reason. It's your body's way of giving you feedback."

If the injury is serious, seek the advice of a good, experienced physiotherapist and if you have your own personal trainer, ask them to design a programme that works around your injury.

Recover from a nasty shock
Whether it's precipitated by a sudden loss of blood, nasty injury or from the news that your mum's thrown away your old magazine collection, a nasty shock can have nasty consequences.

Symptoms can include a fast or weak pulse, feeling dizzy, faint or clammy, confusion, rapid, shallow breathing, diarrhoea, vomiting and blue lips.

The problem with shock is that quite often you have to rely on the quick thinking of someone else to rescue you. "The only thing you can do is to call for help," says Clive James, Training Development Manager for St John Ambulance in the UK. "Then get yourself into a position of safety, i.e. sitting or lying on the floor because if you faint whilst upright you run the risk of injuring yourself."

If you can, loosen tight clothing at the neck, chest and waist, keep warm and raise and support the legs to improve blood flow to the vital organs, but only if any injuries allow. "The most important thing is to seek help if necessary," says James.

Recover from jet lag
Until a pill to reset the human body clock comes along (and one is in development) jet lag remains a sad consequence of international travel, along with lost luggage and holiday friends. It's especially bad if you're crossing three or more time zones and are travelling eastwards as the body finds it harder to adjust to shorter days than longer ones.

To recover faster try travelling on an empty stomach — American research has shown that fasting during the flight (not that difficult a challenge given the quality of airline food) fools the body's natural 'meal-time' clock which runs parallel to the one governed by light changes. The idea is that if you can't fool one, fool the other. Eat as soon as you can on landing and you reset the clock.

Recent studies on hamsters have also shown that Viagra may help with jet lag when flying eastwards but the awkwardness when disembarking and suspicious looks at passport control may outweigh the benefits. Why hamsters should be flying at all, meanwhile, remains a mystery.

Recover from a gruelling workout
"The best way to recover after a hard workout is to refuel your body with a 'speedy' protein/carb post-workout meal, straight away," says Phil Maguire. "At most, you shouldn't leave it more than 45 minutes after finishing your workout before refuelling. This is the window of repairs so don't miss it!"

Maguire favours a ripe banana. "It creates an insulin spike which helps to move nutrients into your muscle tissue quicker," he says. "If your post workout meal doesn't contain carbs, your body may instead break down muscle tissue for this same purpose."

A proper cool down and stretch routine is crucial to post exercise recovery too. "it's one of the most overlooked parts of a workout but is essential as it helps gradually reduce your heart rate and breathing, prevents dizziness, allows muscles time to recover and repair for your next workout and aids getting rid of waste products such as lactic acid."

If you've just had a heavy cardio session, slowly cool down on the exercise you finish up on. Keep moving until you're no longer sweating and your skin is cool to the touch and sip some water as you cool down.

Finally, follow up with some decent stretches. "Stretching can help prevent injury by aiding recovery and decreasing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)," says Maguire. "It's your insurance policy: making sure muscles are in their correct position, post-workout."

Recover from a monster lunch
Oh sure, that double burger and fries might have seemed like a great idea at a half past twelve but come 3.30, with a presentation to prepare, a cattle prod probably couldn't stir you from your afternoon slump.

The reason? Most of us experience a physical and mental slump between 2pm and 3pm. Our metabolism slows, our body temperature drops and we become sleepy. Scientists still don't quite understand why this is but large lunches don't help because the body has to divert energy to digest them, leaving you feeling drained.

The solution? Well, ideally, smaller lunches with plenty of complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread would help (a turkey-salad sandwich on wholemeal or rye is oft cited by nutritionists as the perfect power food). Avoid sugary foods or snacks too — they'll just send blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride that produces feel-good highs but plunges you into monumental slumps.

Understanding your internal rhythms and matching tasks to them (i.e. scheduling simple or mundane tasks like admin after lunch) is a good strategy but if you do need to recover you alertness in an instant the best trick is to peel an orange. Research has shown that the smell of citrus oils keep the brain alert. And no, unwrapping a Chocolate Orange doesn't work in quite the same way.


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