“It’s often a razor’s edge you’ll walk between coaxing adaptation while avoiding exhaustion (or injury). Master this, and you’ll unlock the key to continual progress.”
― Craig Cecil, bodybuilder and author
Advancement in the gym towards greatness is a dance with a danger; pushing yourself to your limits and approaching your physical breaking point. When you inevitably cross that line, learn the lesson that the iron had for you, and then respect the recovery process. But thanks to science, it doesn’t have to take forever, here we’ll break down six strategies for powerful workout injury recovery ranging from free, cheap, and pricey, to oddly earthy, and illuminating.
Red Light Therapy
Focused infrared or near-infrared light which we can barely see has a powerful healing effect. Photons of red light feed our mitochondria more of the kind of light that we normally get from the sun. 15-minute sessions of light focused on the injury site can be a real healing gamechanger.
One of the authoritative books on red light therapy describes the research on red light and injury healing
Dr. Harry Whelan from the Medical College of Wisconsin has been studying red light in cell cultures and on humans for decades. His work in the laboratory has shown that skin and muscle cells grown in cultures and exposed to LED infrared light grow 150-200% faster than control cultures not stimulated by the light. Working with Naval doctors in Norfolk, Virginia and San Diego California to treat injured soldiers, Dr. Whelan and his team found that soldiers with musculoskeletal training injuries who were treated with the light-emitting diodes improved by 40%. (p. 26).
You’ll need to use a special red light that emits specific medicinal wavelengths, they aren’t cheap, costing $100 – $700.
Strategically placed little needles can be transformative for
Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
Hip Flexor Injuries
Generalized Muscle Tension
To summarize some of the recently published scientific research
- A Chinese study of 30 athletes suggested that acupuncture can effectively improve the proprioception of the injured lateral collateral ligament of the ankle joint in athletes.
- A 2020 Chinese clinical trial suggests it as a solution to Frozen Shoulder injuries.
- But human research is not limited to China, a randomized controlled trial was recently completed in Portugal which found that acupuncture can reduce the occurrence of [acute muscle soreness] by one-half and [delayed onset muscle soreness] by one-third.
Our bodies are part of a wider electrical system, which needs to exchange negative ions with the earth regularly. This exchange allows our bodies to regulate harmful free radicals, inflammation, and other factors in workout recovery. Unfortunately, in modernity, this doesn’t happen much because we spend most of our time indoors and when we walk outside we wear rubber-soled shoes and walk on the sidewalk.
- You’re probably not going to start hugging trees for ion exchange, but maybe you could take a stroll barefoot in your backyard, go for a walk at the beach, or better go for a swim in the ocean.
- If you just can’t make the time to get outside and spend a little time with the earth consider picking up an Earthing Mat, although the actual earthing effect with them is debated (and you wouldn’t want to use them during a lightning storm!)
Thus, the negative ion treatment could effectively improve physiological adaption and muscular fatigue recovery after [Exercise-induced muscle damage] in the current study.
A 2010 American study found that earthing accelerated recovery from delayed-onset muscle soreness.
Sleep and Rest
Sleep is the recovery gamechanger. The truth is that most of us get pretty mediocre sleep because of stress, anxiety, our addiction to glowing screens, the junk light in our homes, and the EMFs projected by the wifi routers and smartphones that we sleep right next to, to name just a few things that negatively impact sleep. Get real sleep and you’ll get real recovery. A Brazilian paper emphasizes the importance of rest to workout injury recovery…
…[coping] with fatigue, pain and stress, the relevance of rest and the damage associated with inadequate recovery might contribute to reductions in the rate of sports injuries.
If you’re injured, it’s crucial to get as disciplined about sleep as you are about your workouts.
- Give yourself extra time to sleep, don’t stay up till midnight watching Netflix.
- Tune down your autonomic nervous system before bed by avoiding technologically mediated stimulus; don’t watch Youtube, read a book, do some meditation, make love, listen to music or talk with your family or roommates.
- Cut the junk light, avoid harsh bright light for 2 hours before bed. Get a red light to use as a lamp or light your room with candles for an hour before bed.
- Stack some pre-bedtime sleep enhancers, like magnesium, raw honey, chamomile tea, ashwagandha, or…
CBD, a recent French paper evaluated CBD as an Ergogenic holistic sports performance enhancer, it emphasizes its beneficial effect on sleep
Preclinical studies suggest that CBD could be useful to athletes due to its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiolytic, neuroprotective properties and its influence on the sleep-wake cycle.
BPC-157 + CBD: The Recovery Dream Team
There are two powerful synergistic healing agents, that if you can afford them both, absolutely belong in your bodybuilding warchest.
BPC-157 is the Wolverine Drug for accelerated healing, but it’s not actually a drug (or a supplement) it’s a “research chemical” analogous to a peptide that is manufactured in our guts.
- It has not yet undergone a “gold standard” double-blind, placebo-controlled human trial but its far from being an unpredictable, unproven research chemical. It is very popular worldwide in the bodybuilding scene, it has been thoroughly evaluated by many thousands of “lab rats” in gyms around the world and has earned a reputation as a safe and fast-acting healing agent.
- It’s been evaluated for decades in animal studies that have uncovered its wide range of effects and benefits, there are over 120 scientific papers published about it.
- Anecdotally, it’s reported that it enhances sleep profundity significantly.
More about BPC-157 below.
CBD is the non-psychoactive component of Cannabis. It has huge value to athletes in its effect stimulating powerful restorative sleep.
What science says about CBD and healing…
- There are no human studies specifically evaluating CBD and workout injuries but two English studies. One which established its benefit in treating neurogenic symptoms – recovery from nervous system disorders, damage, and dysfunction. The other showed relief of central neuropathic pain resulting from injury to the nerves which relay signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm, and hands.
- A 2020 clinical trial of 26 healthy men evaluated the effects of CBD on Hemodynamics, the dynamics of blood flow. It resulted in a reduction in arterial stiffness and improvements in endothelial function, which enhanced isometric exercise performance.
- A 2015 study demonstrated that CBD leads to improvement in fracture healing, via its critical mechanical role of collagen crosslinking enzymes.
Purity is a concern with CBD supplements
A 2019 study published by the German Sports University in Cologne warns that more than 30% of the full spectrum CBD products sold in Germany contained psychoactive THC, which will show up in a drug test and potentially disqualify athletes, which is NOT disclosed on the label or mentioned in the products’ marketing. I don’t think this is because the manufacturers are trying to trick their customers into getting high, the THC content is likely a result of shoddy CBD extraction and quality assurance.
Narrows Labs offers purity-tested capsuled
|BPC-157 is typically taken via injection, which is a little painful and complicated to do properly so we offer it capsuled for your convenience – research indicates that it’s bioavailable and is utilized systemically when taken orally.
Finally, I’ll leave you with the inspirational words of bodybuilding legend Henry Rollins
“The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.”