Did you know that muscle recovery and growth occur outside the gym, and not while you're actually training?
For many, this waiting period is the toughest yet- even harder than the work that goes into your exercise session.
And yet, even though recovery is critical to helping you inch ever so closer to your goals, it doesn't always happen smoothly.
Recovery can be impaired, for one reason or another, leaving you with prolonged pain and discomfort, the inability to work out in the days following your last workout, and nothing to show for your prior efforts.
So what can you do about it? Well, for starters, you can help set the stage for growth and recovery.
This involves implementing certain best practices that have been established by experts in the field, in order to give you the best chance of making every minute count.
Below, you'll find the best tips to kickstart and accelerate your recovery, so that you can smash that next workout session, and keep on track.
Try A Massage
Deep tissue massage therapy is often used as an effective way to help release muscle tension and improve circulation.
Massages can help you relax and reduce pain, which allows your body to heal itself more efficiently.
Try incorporating a massage into your recovery routine 1-2 times per week for the best results, or if that's not possible, at least once a month.
A huge misconception that people have is the fact that unless you're sweating like crazy or feeling thirsty, you don't need to drink water. This is a major fallacy, and can seriously harm your recovery.
Your body needs adequate hydration to repair and regenerate, so make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day. The process of recovery also involves several biochemical reactions being undertaken at the cellular level, and as you guessed- without sufficient water, these processes will be impaired.
Stretch After Exercise
Stretching after your workout is a completely different beast than stretching before you start, since they also serve two significantly different purposes.
In contrast to pre-workout dynamic stretches which are done to help increase blood flow and activate the muscles, post-workout static stretching helps to reduce muscle soreness, as well as boost flexibility.
This is because, after a workout, static stretches help to elongate the fascia, which is the connective tissue that covers and wraps around your muscles.
You'll be glad you did some stretching the 24-48 hours after your workout when you experience less intense soreness.
Sleep is one of the primary pillars upon which recovery stands, and if it's lacking, you can forget about any kind of progress.
Sleep is where your body repairs and rebuilds itself, so make sure you're getting enough hours in on a regular basis- at least 7-8 hours per night.
Plus, by sleeping well, your muscles will be able to use the calories from the food to repair and grow, instead of having it stored as fat- hence the reason why sleep is also considered lipotropic in nature.
If you need, don't be shy to take a daytime nap. While nighttime sleep is superior owing to the melatonin secretion, daytime sleep can assist in getting enough hours if the night is not enough.
Lastly, let's not forget about the growth hormone pulses that are released during sleep which are critical for growth.
Use a safe, non-habit forming sleep aid like DREAMZZZ to help you catch some shut eye if you're having a hard time.
Eat Enough Calories
A caloric deficit doesn't bode well for the body's recuperative processes.
Inadequate calories will cause your body to become catabolic, meaning that instead of using the energy from food to help with recovery, it will start breaking down muscle tissue as a source of fuel.
That means that not only will your body refuse to build strength or muscle, but recovery will come at a snail's pace, meaning you will never be able to work out to your maximum potential.
That's why low-calorie diets are considered harsh on the body, and generally not recommended when trying to optimize performance.
Increase your caloric intake by 500 calories daily, up to the point that you're not gaining weight at an exponential rate, but feeling better and recovering quicker.
Try A Foam Roller
A foam roller was ironically first conceived as a "poor man's " deep tissue massage on demand, and over the years, it has truly become one of the most popular tools for self-recovery.
Foam rolling helps to increase circulation, reduce tension and inflammation, and improve flexibility.
If used correctly, these benefits will help you recover faster, as well as make your muscles feel less sore after a workout session.
The best part is that it can be done all on your lonesome, without needing the help of another person, and it doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg.
Try incorporating foam rolling into your routine once every other day, and you will certainly notice the difference.
Try an Ice Bath (or Shower)
Have you ever wondered why many professional athletes soak themselves in an ice bath after a workout or big game?
Well, this is what's known as cryotherapy, which is based on the idea that cold temperatures can reduce inflammation and pain.
Though it may not be the most pleasant experience ever, the benefits of an ice bath or shower are abundant- reduced soreness and muscular fatigue are some of them.
The key here is to find the right balance, by not staying in too long or enduring temperatures that are too cold.
A simple 10-minute ice bath (or shower) after a strenuous workout should be enough to get the job done, but if you're feeling brave enough, you can certainly increase the duration.
Take Rest Days
Rest isn't a bad word. Enough with the nonsense mentality of "you'll rest when you're dead"- keep that up and soon you'll BE DEAD.
Rest days are essential for muscle recovery, as this is when your body repairs and rebuilds itself.
Taking a day off after every workout is not just smart, but absolutely necessary as well. Athletes who train day after day without off days don't achieve more progress, but actually the opposite- stunted gains and poor performance from a burnt-out central nervous system (CNS).
Have Protein After Your Workout
One of the golden nutritional commandments has to be "Have protein after your workout", as it's essential for recovery and growth. Eating a meal with 20-40 grams of protein within an hour of finishing your session will help repair the microscopic tears in muscle tissue, while also providing amino acids that are necessary to build new proteins.
Not eating anything after a workout is like starting the engine in your car, but there's no fuel to drive it. You need the right fuel to power your workouts and recovery, so make sure you have a protein-packed meal ready after each session.
Even better yet, have a fast-acting protein shake comprised of whey and Radiance Collagen protein to kickstart the process of protein synthesis.
A scenario known as Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, is your body's way of burning more calories after a workout session by increasing the amount of oxygen that it needs.
But increased oxygen utilization is also necessary to support efficient recovery, as it helps to remove waste products such as lactic acid (a by-product of exercise) that can cause fatigue and soreness.
By monitoring your respiration rate through a device like the Spire Stone, you can be able to detect your relative degree of recovery.
For context, as your body approaches a state of homeostasis once again, respiration returns to baseline and your recovery is complete.
Monitoring Heart Rate
In a similar fashion to monitoring your respiration, your heart rate can also give clues as to how your body is recovering.
Immediately after a workout, your heart rate is expected to be higher than normal. After 1-2 hours, it should start to decrease and eventually return to its baseline rate over the course of the next 24-36 hours.
Heart rate monitoring can be more technical to track, since the pulse may return to baseline rather quickly, and the difference between resting and elevated heart rate may be rather subtle.
For this reason, it's probably best to not rely heavily on this method as the sole judge of recovery.
Take A Deload
A deload is actually highly recommended following multiple weeks of strenuous exercise. This is basically a period where you lower the intensity and volume of your workouts, allowing for recovery and recuperation to take place before taking on more progressive training sessions.
Deloads don't have to be long- even just one week can do wonders for muscle recovery, provided that it's done correctly. As a general rule of thumb, deloads should involve lightening the load and reducing intensity.
For strength training, this means lowering weight amounts, while in terms of cardio you would reduce either duration or overall intensity (or both).
By taking a deload every now and then, your body can get some much-needed rest and repair, leading to more consistent progress in the future.
Branched-chain amino acids can make the world of difference when it comes to speeding up muscle recovery. BCAAs are essential amino acids that assist with energy generation, reduce fatigue, and support the building of muscle tissue.
The most effective way to consume BCAAs is by taking them in a powdered form, such as our Essential Amino Acid, typically before and after your workouts. The recommended dosage is 5-10 grams per serving, taken 2-3 times per day.
BCAAs have the advantage over other amino acids in the sense that they are more quickly absorbed and utilized by the muscles, making them ideal for accelerating muscle recovery.
Make sure to supplement with a quality BCAA product in order to enhance muscle recovery and reduce soreness after an intense workout session.
Usually, the tips mentioned above are more than enough to boost recovery speed. However, there are times when you may need as much help as you can get, either as a result of unusually slow recuperative ability or if you are an elite athlete that needs to (naturally) train again as soon as humanly possible.
Try adding in the following:
Carnitine helps to transport fatty acids into the mitochondria, which is necessary for energy production. It also helps to reduce lactic acid build-up and can help to improve overall performance and recovery.
Creatine is a popular supplement used for improving strength and muscle growth. However, it can also promote recovery thanks to its ability to draw water into muscle cells, restoring hydration balance and providing an anti-inflammatory effect. Try creatine combined with ATP in Foundation capsules for crazy synergy.
Beetroot juice is a rich source of dietary nitrates, which are known to improve muscle power and efficiency, as well as reduce fatigue. The nitrates also work to widen blood vessels, leading to improved oxygen delivery and therefore better recovery times as well.
Green tea is packed with antioxidants and polyphenols that help to combat free radicals, which damage cells and impair the recovery process. Try drinking a cup of green tea daily for an extra boost in muscle recovery (preferably after your workout).
Tart cherry differs from its sweeter counterparts due to its high levels of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant. Studies have shown that consuming tart cherries can reduce inflammation and muscle soreness after exercise.
Containing amongst the highest amount of citrulline you can find in nature, watermelon can help to reduce post-workout muscle soreness by helping to flush out the built-up lactic acid. Due to its high water content, it can even help with hydration as well.
Salmon/ Fatty Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation and speed up muscle recovery time. Aim to eat salmon or other fatty fish at least 2-3 times per week (especially as part of your post-workout meal) in order to help get your daily dose of essential omega-3s.
Ultimately, muscle recovery should be taken seriously if you are to make meaningful progress in the gym. Taking a step back and allowing yourself the time necessary for rest and proper nutrition is vital if you want to stay healthy and improve your performance.
Recovery shouldn't be an uphill challenge as long as you do the basics right, such as eating enough protein and getting adequate rest. But don't hesitate to fix up your routine with some of the specialist interventions outlined above if you want to get the most out of your recovery.