When Dara Torres won her 12th Olympic gold medal in swimming in 2008, she was more than twice the age of her competitors. At age 41, she defied conventional wisdom and showed the world that age truly is just a number.
Her age also fueled rumors of performance-enhancing drugs. But as regular blood tests have proven, drugs didn't get Dara to the finish line before the rest of the pack.
As Dara Torres has demonstrated, getting rest may be the most overlooked ingredient when it comes to fitness. It also becomes increasingly important as we get older. As you've surely discovered, when we age, we just don't seem to bounce back the way we used to. Dara explains when she was younger she used to swim 10 or 12 times a week. In training for the 2008 Olympics, she swam only 5 times a week.
Instead of pushing herself indiscriminately, Dara focused on training smart. Here's why Dara's emphasis on rest made such a difference.
How Rest Helps You Get Stronger
You don't build muscles when you exercise. It's a big myth.
No, you build muscles after you exercise, when your body is resting. See, when you exercise, you're simply sending a message. You're telling your body to perform at a certain level. While you're busy exercising, your body doesn't build muscles. It focuses on putting your current muscles to work and giving these muscles adequate fuel in order to meet your demand.
Then later on, when you're resting, your body goes into
Interestingly enough, rest isn't just important for muscle building on the macro scale. It's also essential at the cellular level. We have specialized stem cells (called satellite cells) in our muscle tissue. These cells usually lie dormant. When we injure a muscle or push our muscles to build up, they wake up and quickly help us build new muscle fibers.
It turns out, as we age these regenerative stem cells in our muscles can't stay dormant. They don't seem to rest as much as they did when we are younger. Consequently, they can't respond very well when our muscles are injured or challenged by exercise. According to researchers, this inability to rest at the cellular level may be the key factor in why we lose muscle mass and have a harder time recovering from injuries as we get older.
Researchers have yet to figure out exactly how we can encourage these special cells to "sleep" a little more in order to help us fight off aging at the cellular level. Nonetheless, it's a great microscopic illustration of the importance of rest when it comes to muscle-building and overall health.
How To Use Rest To Build Muscles
You can use rest to help your body respond and build more muscle in four ways:
- Rest during exercise. Instead of doing one long bout of exercise, break it up. As you'll learn down below, more and more research shows breaking exercise into intervals with rest breaks gives you many more benefits than traditional long workouts.
- Immediately after exercising, while you're resting, give your body good nutrition packed with protein and vitamins that can help your body rebuild. This is a critical time to fuel muscle growth and recovery. Chlorella provides a good supply of nutrients essential for post-exercise recovery. In particular, chlorella growth factor (CGF) is one of the most concentrated sources of nucleic acids. Cells need nucleic acids to replicate, a key part of tissue repair.
- Get a good night's sleep. Sleep time is your body's prime time for repair and renewal. While you sleep, your body produces human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is essential for tissue and muscle repair.
Furthermore, when you sleep your body rebuilds energy stores, makes enzymes, synthesizes hormones and more. You need to have these on hand when you get active again. Without an adequate storehouse of these important substances, you won't be able to get the most out of your workout. If you exercise intensively, build entire rest days into your exercise routine. After several hard training days, make sure you take a day off.
Use that day for stretching and maybe a short walk. Focus on giving yourself a full day where you're not making new demands on your muscles.You now know rest is critical for keeping you strong and all the different ways you can work rest into your exercise plan.
However, there are some other twists to using rest to help your body perform better by pairing it with exercise . . .
Rest Helps You Burn Fat
For a while experts taught the best way to burn fat was to train long and hard. We thought to burn fat we had to run for an hour at least - the more the better!
This recommendation for marathon exercise routines made it hard for most of us to fit exercise into our busy lives. And, as it turns out, it may have also reduced our fat-burning power . . . As we're learning, our body burns
In one Japanese study, the researchers divided the participants into three groups of men. One group slogged it out for 60 minutes straight and then rested for 60 minutes. The second group broke up the exercise into two 30 minute bouts with a
Guess who burned the most fat?
The guys who did two bouts of exercise with a rest break experienced the
Subsequent research has indicated that you don't even need to do two 30-minute workouts to enjoy more fat burning than a long jog. Even a series of short 5-minute sprints beats a long jog when it comes to fat loss, better cardiovascular
Best of all, as many fitness experts have found, by breaking exercise up into shorter intervals, we're able to fit more exercise into our schedules and put more intensity into our workouts.
But the benefits of fat-burning aren't the only thing you'll get out of making rest part of your exercise plan . . .
Without Rest, Exercise Can Kill You
As you can see rest is critical when you're just trying to get fit and stay fit. But if you're fighting off a major disease, it can be even more critical.
Numerous studies have demonstrated exercise can help you fight cancer. However, one
Researchers tracked 5698 women for ten years and documented how
However, scientists also noticed a significant trend within this group . . . The women who regularly got less than 7 hours of sleep a night had the worst scores when it came to cancer risk within this group. They were only slightly better than the women who exercised infrequently. As the researchers concluded, the lack of sleep counteracted any cancer-fighting gains achieved through exercising.
Make Sure You Exercise... But Don't Forget To Rest
So while you may not be vying for an Olympic gold like Dara Torres, you can still apply her training secrets to your own fitness and health goals. As you now know, rest will help you build muscles, burn fat and even help you fight cancer.
Work hard and enjoy the challenge. But make sure you give your body the time to rest and recover.
About Dr. David Nelson, Ph D
David Nelson is a nutritional
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