Last week, we invited questions from the WHOOP community for Joe Holder to answer. Many questions revolved around how to improve Recovery, advice on nutrition, and how to bounce back after being in the red. Read below to see Joe’s responses!
1. What's your opinion on slow breathing post exercise to help accelerate parasympathetic reactivation? - @jacobprosser_jp
I’m a fan. This is an ongoing field of research but there seems to be a connection between controlled breathing strategies and a positive effect on the parasympathetic nervous system.
For background, and to keep it short, you have two main branches of your autonomic nervous system that work a little differently, the parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system helps keep us calm, that heart rate lower, and in healthy populations should be the dominant state in resting conditions. Sympathetic nervous system gets us a bit more riled up, accelerates our heart rate, and makes sure we have the juice during exercise or in intense physical + mental situations.
We want to adequately transition back to a PS state post workout so slow breathing can do this, while also giving us a chance to reflect on our workout + get ready for the rest of the day. I like to consider the breathing cool down as really just a warm-up for the rest of your day.
My simple go to choice from breathing is typically a 2:1 or 3:1 (inhalation vs. exhalation).
2. What practical steps do you take to replenish a day's low recovery score? - @jeremys.music
- Not eating too close to bedtime
- Having a pre-sleep routine
- Seeing ways I can still get my work done and tend to my responsibilities, but remove superfluous stressors that don’t have much of a point (not leaving on time for things, watching TV, worrying about things outside my control)
- Understand how it falls within my overall life, some days I expect lower recovery scores so I do not let it get in my head
3. How much time should I wait before working out after I eat? When should my last meal be, before going to bed? - @j_demember
This is a very person specific question but I typically suggest 90 minutes to 2 hours to have a meal before working out if possible.
Before bed I suggest 3 hours to allow your digestion to work through the hard aspects and to make sure your body can focus more on repair than digestion during sleep.
4. What are your thoughts on zinc and magnesium supplementation before bed? - @nickbrbot
I would always check with your doctor before starting to take any supplements, but the usage of the proper magnesium (I personally go with a bis-glycinate blend) has been shown to promote restful sleep and have a calming effect.
5. What are 3 supplements you would suggest to improve recovery? - @agathewave
- L- Carnitine
- Ginger (I’m very intrigued by the connection between the parasympathetic nervous system and digestion and think ginger, even in food form, can act as a supplement to improve this)
6. Being plant based, how do you keep a high intake of protein? What are some of the best plant based sources? - @diegoyory
I make a few shakes a day which helps me get my protein, but I wouldn’t say I am on a high protein sources. The hardest thing for me is often just getting enough calories during the day so I make sure to focus on eating complete whole food sources and then using supplementation to fill in any possible gaps. If you get enough calories you’ll end up getting (for the most part) enough protein.
7. Even on days when you have Red recoveries, do you still train as planned? - @stacyy.lee
I use the Recovery scores to guide me, but it is more of a screening tool rather than a diagnostic. It matters how that direct measure blends into my overall picture of my training. If I’m in the meat of say a training cycle, I can typically expect some lower scores as my body is trying to adapt to the stressors I’m imposing. I never really have red recoveries, but sometimes yellow. Even if it is lower than normal that doesn’t mean I’ll completely change my plan, you have to keep the longitudinal vision intact.
8. I'm currently playing American football and want to put on a healthy amount of muscle of which I know I need to be in a caloric surplus. However, I want to try and put on lean muscle whilst burning through the little flab I've got on my stomach, hips area. Any suggestions or tips on how I should go about doing this? My diet is pretty solid-more focused on type of training. - @jesseprincefraser
Here’s a brief skeleton of what I would suggest, although of course it is easier if I had a bit more details ha.
- You need to have a base level of conditioning proficiency. The only way you'll be able to handle the increased workload associated with the type of training you’ll want to do for this mass attenuation is to make sure your conditioning base is strong.
- In your general prep phases incorporate full body exercises and complexes instead of isolation work.
- Play your sport. You still want to make sure you have the ability to perform well even when you’re at a heavier mass.
- Use carbohydrates to your advantage here. I would suggest finding an intra-workout and post-workout blend and adding that to your routine.
- Suggest utilizing rep schemes that work on both strength and hypertrophy as this will probably have the best impact not just for looks but also your sport.
- Don’t be afraid to take longer rest periods, especially if you’re combining rep schemes that mix up strength and hypertrophy. This can be a hidden trick that unlocks improving mass in many people.
- After your general prep phases and then strength, put in a strong phase of intense conditioning work that is sport specific. This will go a long way in making sure that you “clean up” your new found mass.
9. What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their fitness/wellness journey but doesn't have a support system/encouraging friends? - @food_fit_fork
Honestly, your friends may be more supportive than you think ! Be sure to let them know your goals and that you would really appreciate their assistance or encouragement. If that still does not work, don’t be shy to find support online. There are many groups online that have been created for this sole purpose. From there, you can also look locally at any groups that may be present in your town.
Last but not least, believe in yourself! Don’t let other people deter you from achieving goals that are worthwhile and healthy for your personal growth.
10. What are some strength training tips for runners? Running my 1st marathon and want to try and avoid any injuries. - @k8tschaller
- Get a physical therapist or have a routine of prehab exercises. This is key.
- Do single leg work and make sure to work in multiple planes of motion.
- Have a quality hinge pattern and make sure that you keep your t-spine mobile. These two things often fix a multitude of issues in runners
- During your general prep phase, make sure you have a small cycle focused strictly to strength training. Then go into your running centric work with strength as a slight after thought but still doing enough to make sure it doesn’t fade completely.
- Being able to adequately absorb load is important so in the beginning incorporate some eccentric focused training.
- Strength training should connect back to eventually making you a better runner so be sure to do exercise that have similar joint angles to running so hopefully there is crossover (step-ups, lunges, etc).
- Don’t get overwhelmed. A day or two a week of strength training is more than enough during your marathon training to help with reducing your likelihood of injury.