❝Gluttony does not produce hunger.❞
In his groundbreaking book The Science of Winning, Jan Olbrecht PhD defines and illuminates the principle of super-compensation. It is the part of the adaptation phenomenon where physical performance increases above the initial level, which is the goal at the end of a training block and before starting the next cycle. It occurs because the body’s rebuilding efforts continue for a short time after returning to baseline to better equip itself for future stress. But if we get greedy and overextend ourselves then recovery time must be extended thereby diminishing opportunities for super-compensation.
Dr Olbrecht gives three requirements for successful super-compensation:
1. A healthy body
By definition, super-compensation isn’t possible during a state of un-health or dis-ease. To go beyond initial fitness levels we must first normalise the cell environment, recover neuromuscular stimulation, restore enzyme and hormone concentrations and activity, and replenish energy.
2. Adequate training intensity and volume
Maintaining adequate training without over-training can be challenging, but it’s better to err on the side of (sustainable) vibrant energy than dig a hole into lethargy. If there’s a failure to recover despite a typically adequate recovery time, an ongoing underperformance, or a lack of energy capacity for other parts of our life, then over-reaching and over-training are likely occurring.
3. Enough rest (passive and active)
The goal in training is to provide appropriate stress stimuli from which the body can rebuild. By providing relevant stress—without over-stressing the system—and sufficient time to recuperate we progress towards being better, stronger, faster. Dr Olbrecht makes it very clear that our bodies require “rest and regeneration in order to induce optimal biological adaptations.”
We don’t want to entirely avoid workouts that tax us because they’re part of the stimuli needed for adaptation to occur. But if we’re constantly overextending ourselves or not allowing sufficient recovery after workouts then we’re not going to improve. (Note: In my last several posts I addressed the physiology of training intensities.)
Muscular recovery after interval and strength training sessions can last four days or longer. This is why it’s essential to remind ourselves that every workout falls on the back of previous workouts, days, weeks, and months. Determining adequate recovery time can be somewhat of an art, but mood is a key indicator. We all know that we’re not our best self after a night of poor sleep, or, conversely, that we’re a much happier person after a long night of deep, restorative sleep. Let your mood inform you, and combine it with physiological information like resting heart rate and heart rate variability, and, if necessary, blood tests.
❝Prolonged inflammatory responses in the muscles are still ongoing 96 hours after hard workouts.❞
~Oliver Neubauer, PhD
All forms of life stress, regardless of how inconsequential they may appear, are stressors and need to be taken into consideration: this includes and is not limited to mental, emotional, financial, relational, physical, occupational, nutritional, medical, familial, and environmental situations. Take an honest inventory of your body, mind and spirit on a regular basis and factor it into the ‘Stress + Rest = Growth’ equation.
Work smarter, rather than with abandon.
Use your body, don’t abuse it.
Don’t get greedy. Instead, stay healthy and enjoy abundant energy.
Consistent, small steps provide the fastest method of progression while also supporting longevity.