Stress. It is both to be sought and to be avoided at all costs. There is a precarious line we toe as bodybuilders--inflicting major muscular damage on ourselves on a regular basis but then attempting to compensate for this trauma immediately by means of rest, relaxation and the consumption of copious calories. We seek a balance… We stress our bodies to the nth degree and then do all we can to provide the necessary impetus for recovery.
This third factor to my alchemy is the great unknown. The X factor that separates the “X frames” from the “why bothers.” Recovery is a confluence of genetic predispositions and daily external factors based on lifestyle. For the sake of argument, I'll assume most reading this article are not independently wealthy heirs nor pro bodybuilders with only one life focus. Like me, I'll assume that most of you bust your ass in the gym but also have a job and/or school, goals and aspirations (that are not bodybuilding related), family, girlfriends or spouses, kids, parents, friends, commitments and responsibilities and a whole host of other beautiful shit on your Thanksgiving buffet-sized plate. For those to whom this applies, your ability to recover from the repetitive ballistic torture that is training may be the most crucial factor dictating your progress.
The capacity to recover relies on several factors that are, to a degree, within our control. Beyond the consumption of balanced whole food meals and basic macronutrient supplements like protein powders, carb drinks and EFAs, the bodybuilding lifestyle necessitates supplementation. The two factors most critical to recovery from a supplement standpoint are promoting anabolism via enhanced protein synthesis and cell volumization. With these purposes in mind, the use of creatine and amino acid supplements are crucial. Pre and post workout and during training are the most important instances which necessitate this sort of specialized, targeted nutrition. Generally I use EAAs, creatine, BCAAs and glutamine during these periods as well as some form of simple carbohydrate and much water. My current supplements of choice are Animal Pump, Nitro and Nitro G.
The other supplement related issues of utmost importance for a hard training bodybuilder are immune strength and hormone production. I do all I can to keep my immune system cranking on full blast, especially during the frigid months of the flu season. Beyond that, I'll try any safe, legal, over the counter means of testosterone boosting that I can so as to maximize my gains during strength and mass phases by more efficiently synthesizing the protein and excess calories I toss back. For immune boosting, I do one or two Animal Paks a day, always taking my first with breakfast and my second on days when I'm extra beat up, around dinner time. Also, I load up on a couple of grams of Vitamin C plus alpha lipoic acid and green tea extract. I place a high premium on staying healthy… In a body riddled with germs and illness, bet your ass there will be no gains.
Optimum recovery also necessitates moderation. I'm not saying I've never hung out with the fellas, but the more partying you do, the more taxed your central nervous system becomes and the less likely you are to be able to grow to your potential. The more quiet nights I spend with solid meals in low stress environments the greater my gains will ultimately be. Not a monastic existence by any means, but one of focused resolve. Read a book, watch a movie, take a nap and leave that hooligan hi-jinx for the hard knocks.
Arguing, fighting and needless worry need to be kept to a minimum… Save that drama for your mama, this is grown man business. If you find yourself in constant turmoil, caught in an unhealthy relationship, trapped in malignant surroundings, get out or make the necessary changes. There is no way to grow and prosper and be healthy in such a place. A man's home is his kingdom, his body his temple… Treat yourself with the sort of royal respect you deserve. If you aren't willing to show yourself such reverence, you sure as shit shouldn't expect anyone else to bend a knee.
The last key factor to recovery is sleep. I'll begin with the premise that just about no one gets as much as they'd like and very few get as much as they need. But that shut-eye is critical… My best advice? When the opportunity arrives, take full advantage. It might be the odd weeknight or the occasional weekend, but whenever I get a chance to cop some shut-eye, I'm all over it. Even attempting to add the occasional pre or postworkout power nap has the potential to make a new man of you in short order. Prioritize those Zs at every available instance and watch your gains pile up dramatically.
Train, eat, rest, get up… Do it all again. Like all the most amazing of nature's processes it is a continuous cycle. An evolution of the sort Darwin could not have imagined. Always growing, always progressing. Becoming more than the divine intended. This is the bodybuilder's challenge, this is the life I chose. Some say alchemy is a pseudo-science-a sort of witchcraft, the allegorical dark magic of sorcerers past… To them I say bullshit. Taking the common and mundane and making it priceless? I live it everyday.