When you’re young, battling a hangover usually involves a nice unhealthy mix of greasy food, self-chastising, and trips to the rest room, as you attempt to rid your body of the copious amounts of alcohol to which you subjected your bloodstream just hours earlier. As you grow older and wiser, your trips to the bar usually involve the 45-pound Olympic variety, with a few 45 pound plates on each side for good measure. With time, we learn to protect and care for our bodies, as opposed to demolishing them with the cheapest liquor we can find.
Ironically, part of building and protecting your body involves wrecking it - in the weight room. No doubt, serious weight training delivers plenty of pain and suffering, as well as a healthy dose of muscle fiber tearing. However, it’s all in good fun, as the resulting cycle, involving nutrition and recovery, leads to new muscular size and strength. In no exercise is this more true that with the squat.
Returning to the hangover theme, let’s examine what happens when you knock out a tough workout involving the use of heavy barbell squats. As you train, many muscle fibers are torn. Your muscles are loaded with the toxic lactic acid. You experience minor aches and pains, but you’re smart enough not to leave it at that. You implement stretching - immediately after your workout, throughout the evening, and for the rest of the week. Break up that lactic acid, massage those muscle groups, and get your muscles back to working shape once again.
Stretching is nice for the physical end of things, but battling this kind of hangover must take place at the chemistry level as well. Those muscles have to EAT! Protein is the magic cure for the pain you’ll soon be feeling, and sooner you can ingest it, the better! Drink a quick whey protein shake immediately following your workout. Enjoy a nice protein-rich meal with chicken, fish or beef for the rest of the meals of the day. Most importantly, consume a casein protein shake before bed. You’ll be glad you did. The slow-burning nature of this protein will give your dominated leg muscles a nice steady stream of protein until morning.
Ah yes, morning. Finally it’s here. Invariably, you’ve woken up to realize that your legs sure don’t work like they’re supposed to. The soreness is unbearable, but it’s a rewarding kind of pain known as “Squat Hangover”. Wear it like a badge of honor! Limp proudly. More importantly, you need to be spending your day doing everything you can to alleviate this wretched soreness. Massage and stretching go without saying. Eat, eat, eat! Your body needs calories on this day of honor. You’ll probably want to avoid planning any actual weight training today. If you squatted correctly yesterday, then the thought of doing deadlifts today should sicken you! Stay active throughout the day. Walk around the block (Slowly!) or spend ten minutes at a slow pace on the exercise bike. The worst thing you can do is nothing. Lying in bed all day will only drag out the pain and prolong your suffering.
Day two of a squat hangover is usually the worst. That’s okay. Today your legs will be fuller and harder and you’ll begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep stretching for the next few days, and keep your protein high. The next time you get back in the gym, the weights you use will feel a bit lighter. Your legs will be a bit fuller and harder. And as soon as you think you’ve fully recovered, and you’re ready to get back to feeling normal, leg day will roll around… and it’s time to face the squat hangover all over again!