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Last Updated: 12.06.23

Dr. Andy Galpin: Maximize Recovery to Achieve Fitness & Performance Goals

In Episode 5 of the 6‑part fitness series, Dr. Huberman invites Dr. Galpin to discuss optimizing post-​​training recovery and avoiding overtraining. They delve into muscle soreness, recovery mechanisms, and techniques like breathwork and movement. Discover how to assess overtraining and enhance recovery for improved mental and physical health.

Key Takeaways

High level takeaways from the episode.

Workouts trigger adaptation, but progress occurs during recovery. Similar to neuroplasticity in the nervous system

Experience triggers rewiring, but actual rewiring occurs away from the experience.

Muscle soreness is not solely due to micro-​​tears in the muscle. Likely involves multiple factors, including immune response and inflammation, and pain receptors in muscles.

Gate theory of pain explains why rubbing a painful area can provide relief. Activates touch sensors that inhibit pain signals through the release of inhibitory neurotransmitters. Swelling response triggers a neural response, which recruits pain receptor response.

Stretching muscles to alleviate soreness might not be the best approach. Low-​​level exercise, percussion, and massage can help with recovery. Moves fluid out of cells and reduces pressure on nerve endings.

Consider the implications of acute recovery on long-​​term adaptation. Anti-​​inflammatory supplements or drugs (e.g., vitamin C, vitamin E) may blunt hypertrophic adaptations in the long-​​term. Massage may not block long-​​term adaptation.

High heart rate during exercise can lead to lower resting heart rate over time.

Different timescales and modes of recovery
Level 1: Overload — Fatigue and reduced acute performance. Recovery period: minutes to days.

Level 2:
Functional Overreaching. Golden target for training
Performance is enhanced
Recovery time: a few days to a week

Level 3: Non-​​Functional Overreaching
No positive benefit after recovery
Recovery time: weeks
Vicious cycle of training harder without results

Level 4: Overtraining
Takes months to recover from
Most people who think they are overtrained are not

Ensuring proper recovery helps prevent overreaching and overtraining. Allows for optimal adaptation and performance improvement.

Moving water increases the effectiveness of cold exposure.

Sauna and hot tub use can severely limit the number of motile sperm. Not reliable enough for contraception, but detrimental for those trying to conceive. Ice pack near the groin can help mitigate the negative effects of heat exposure on sperm health.

Three markers to monitor for overreaching:

  • Performance metric (e.g., times, squat numbers, power)
  • Physiology (e.g., resting heart rate, biomarkers, heart rate variability)
  • Symptomology (e.g., fatigue, mood, motivation)

Performance drops for a few days can be normal during training. Longer drops in performance may indicate overreaching or overtraining.

Overtraining can lead to downregulation of receptors for stress hormones like epinephrine and testosterone. This can cause desensitization to these hormones and reduce overall sensitivity.

Symptoms of overtraining include:

  • Performance decrements
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Decreased heart rate variability (HRV)
  • Decreased body weight
  • Changes in motivation, adherence, appetite, and mood
  • Sleep disturbances and disruptions

Elevated nocturnal epinephrine levels from overtraining can diminish REM sleep

  • REM sleep is important for discarding the emotional load of the previous day’s experiences
  • Disrupted emotional state can result from lack of REM sleep

Cortisol and DHEA ratio can provide insights into cortisol dysregulation

  • Ratio too high: associated with metabolic syndrome
  • Ratio too low: associated with cognitive problems like aggression and mood
  • Ideal ratio: around 0.9

Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) levels can rise with overtraining. Monitoring blood markers like SHBG can help identify overtraining early on.

Cortisol levels should be measured multiple times throughout the day.
Single baseline blood marker not enough.

Ashwagandha and Rhodiola should only be used if needed to bring cortisol levels back to normal values. Can be counterproductive if taken before training.

Starchy carbohydrates can inhibit cortisol. Carbohydrates can help with sleep and stress reduction.

Measure HRV at the same time daily, ideally first thing in the morning. Consistency in measurement is crucial for accurate data. Collect HRV data for at least a month before making any changes based on it. Compare current HRV to the last week’s average and historical average. Compare HRV on the same day of the week (e.g., Monday to Monday) to account for weekly schedules.


Science-​​based tools and supplements that push the needle.

Post-​​Workout Breathing for Recovery


Alleviating Post-​​Workout Soreness


Ice Pack for Mitigating Sperm Health Issues with Sauna


Properly Assessing HRV


Balanced Use of Stimulants for Workouts


Minimize Phone Use During Training for Performance



We recommend using this distillation as a supplemental resource to the source material.

  • Dr. Andy Galpin: Maximize Recovery to Achieve Fitness & Performance Goals

    Huberman Lab #116

    Dr. Huberman hosts Episode 5 of the 6‑part fitness series with Dr. Galpin, discussing optimizing post-​​training recovery and avoiding overtraining for fitness goals. Learn recovery techniques and assessment methods for improved overall health.

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