How To Improve Your Fitness & Performance By Efficiently Recovering Your Muscles
I write plenty of articles and posts on workouts, diet/nutrition, mindset and a whole range of topics.
However, one area which I have been rather sparse on is muscle recovery!
Adequate muscle recovery after a workout is vital so that you can start efficiently building muscle, losing body fat or gaining strength.
Whilst rest days are a must (a minimum of 1 per week), there are also ways to speed up the muscle recovery process.
Below are my top tips for speeding up muscle recovery and maximising your training…
1) Your Post-workout Snack Or Meal Is Super Important:
Your post-workout meal or snack is perhaps the most important one of the day.
Wait – scratch that – IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY!
Making sure you eat the ‘right things’ after working out will assist your recovery.
But, what are the ‘right things’ I hear you ask!?
Well, they should be laden with carbohydrates, as these will decrease muscle protein breakdown.
The carbohydrates will take some of the ‘workload’ away from the proteins, thus leaving your protein to do its main task of repairing muscle tissue.
And you need protein, so the meal/snack must contain both carbohydrates and protein.
Such a carb/protein combo meal is more effective at replenishing muscle glycogen stores than an equivalent caloric meal containing only carbs!
Consuming a meal or snack within two hours of strength training increases hypertrophy and protein synthesis, which have muscle building benefits.
2) Regular Adequate Sleep:
Lack of sleep has far reaching negative effects, and these include the inhibition of muscle recovery!
If you are short of sleep if can change your eating habits, reduce testosterone and increase cortisol release – which in-turn decreases protein synthesis!
As stated above, protein synthesis has a big impact on muscle recovery – SO GET THAT 7-8 HOURS OF NIGHTLY SLEEP IN!
3) H20 Helps You Go:
Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is key to your muscles recovery process.
Good hydration makes every function of your body work more efficiently.
And if you consider that ~75% of your muscles are made of water, it becomes obvious!
I would suggest you should be consuming a minimum of 2-3 litres of water a day.
And if you are very active this should be significantly increased!
4) A Thorough Warm-up And Cooldown:
For most people a ‘warm-up’ is standard practise (isn’t it!?!).
However, many neglect the equally important ‘cool-down’.
A good ‘warm-up’ should consist of ~5-10 minutes steady state low intensity cardio, followed by ~5 minutes of dynamic stretches.
The ‘cool-down’ should ideally be static stretches, foam rolling or very low intensity exercise, lasting 5-15 minutes.
This will effectively return your heart rate to normal and remove waste lactic acid from the body. This aids a more rapid recovery – bingo!
5) No Joke, Don’t Smoke:
Unless you’ve been living deep in the Amazon Rainforest for the last 30 years, you know you shouldn’t be smoking – right!?!
Not even taking into account the plethora of negative health issues smoking brings, it also limits muscle recovery – give it up!
Whilst there are many treatments and therapies which will aid muscle recovery to varying levels, I will mention what I believe to be the two most efficient:
a) Massage (Sports): There are numerous studies that have shown sports massage to improve recovery and be an effective way to aid muscle recovery after exercise. The symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can also be greatly reduced through a good massage.
b) Contrasting Thermal Water Therapy: This is where you immerse the body, or specific muscles, in both hot and cold water for set periods. This is very effective in improving the recovery of functional deficiencies that result from DOMS. It will help reduce the inflammation that is created by intense exercise.
7) Protein Loading:
We’ve established that protein synthesis is good for recovery.
And guess what? – Protein synthesis increases with increased protein consumption (how’s that for brain power!).
Protein intake is far more important than just for muscle building! Protein is a component of every cell in our bodies!
I would suggest you always aim for too much rather than not enough protein!
8. Rest Weeks:
Sometimes you need some time away from intense exercise!
Roughly every 10 to 12 weeks you should aim to take some time off from intense training or sports.
This rest time allows accumulated fatigue to dissipate and disperse from the body!
Whether this comes in the form of passive recovery (doing nothing) or active recovery (using lighter loads / shorter sessions) is a personal choice.
And how long should you take off?
The clue is in the name ‘Rest Week’ – although this isn’t an absolute.
Some people may feel 5 days is sufficient, others may find a week isn’t enough to fully re-charge.
Find what works for you – but if it becomes more than two weeks you are not re-charging, you have become lazy!
As usual, any questions please fire them over.
Ian David Worthington
Creator, Owner and Coach at GymWolfPT