Are you adapting or optimizing? 

There’s currently millions of dollar being pumped into the fitness world in attempt to help athletes recover faster, heal more efficiently and train even harder.

Recovery is a very hot industry, with companies claiming that all aspects of injury and poor performance are related to recovery. Some would go so far as to say that there is no such thing as over-training, there is only under-recovery. I disagree with this.

We can most definitely over-train, but not only because we’re under-recovered. In fact, heavy loads of training with certain recovery hacks (icing, sleep, compressions boots, etc.) can even be detrimental to our performance.

For example, a recent study looked at the performance-enhancing effects of caffeine. One group was able to supplement caffeine with exercise and the other was not.

Researchers found that caffeine (which significantly improves performance) may inhibit high intensity exercise-induced adaptations. Exercise group saw the typical benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but the HIIT+caffeine group did not.

This is the same reason that it doesn’t make sense for a bodybuilder to lift heavy weights (break muscle down -> to build muscle back stronger) and then follow the session up with an ice bath. The ice bath will inhibit the inflammatory cascade that is essential for him/her to stimulate hypertrophy and build larger muscles.

When exercising or training, our goal is to stress the body and force it to adapt.

Exercise disrupts our normal homeostatic state and induces a variety of physiological adaptations that are beneficial to both health and performance.

However, if we’re in a constant search for ways to remove these stressors that are optimal for function and growth, then ultimately we’ll stunt this process of adaption.

My advice is to shift away from the common mindset of “train really hard, recover really hard, 365 days a year.” Again, we can’t adapt AND optimize.

Instead, focus on adapting in the off-season, when recovery is less important, and optimize the body when the goal is to bounce back as soon as possible after a competition or race.

This way we continue to improve, without the added risk of injury and poor performance that none of us are fans of.

Neither optimizing or adapting,