The Effect of Performance Training on the Nervous System

Performance & Sport

When referring to the effect of performance training on the nervous system our main focus will be on the autonomic branch. The autonomic nervous system is composed of the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest) in which both branches play a specific role in performance related activities and the recovery process. The sympathetic nervous system is the one responsible for allowing intensity and performance from our training. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system is the one responsible for recovery, sleep, and health in general.

Nervous System vs Muscular System

It is important to understand training elements and how each affects the human body. Intensity (speed, short repetition, and maximum effort) is what tends to put larger stress in general on the nervous system. Volume (high repetition, long duration at moderate load, and 70-80% aerobic work) affects the muscular system and respiratory system. The nervous system can take 48-72h to recover where the muscular system tends to be recovered in 24-48h. That is why it is important not to do high-intensity workouts multiple days in a row because that could negatively affect the body and increase the risks of injury.

Recovery Methods

Nervous System

  • Meditation
  • Magnesium
  • Controlled nasal breathing
  • Floating therapy
  • Nutrition and Hydration
  • Supplements

Muscular System

  • Sequential compression (Normatec)
  • Electrical muscle stimulation (Compex)
  • Manual therapy
  • Mobility
  • Nutrition and Hydration
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Supplements

Sleep and Tracking

The effect of sleep on recovery and longevity is crucial for any human. Sleep is the most important but neglected method for any training related recovery. Everything listed above can be fully utilized, but without sleep, it is proven to be less effective. The minimum sleep required for a healthy human is 7.5 hours and it goes up to 8-9h when including exercise and daily stress. When going to sleep and feeling agitated, the sympathetic nervous system is dominant and that prevents you from getting optimal rest and recovery. Tracking sleep can be an efficient method to see the quality. REM sleep and Slow-wave sleep are particularly important. REM sleep is responsible for the recovery of the brain where Slow-wave sleep helps in the recovery of body function. The activity and recovery of the nervous system can also be tracked with the help of HRV monitors.

"Based on the weight of probably now about 10,000 empirical scientific studies, the number of people who can survive on six hours of sleep or less without showing any impairment, rounded to a whole number and expressed as a percent of the population, is zero.” (Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California at Berkeley)