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10 Muscle Recovery Tips For Improved Performance

lean femaleThe faster you recover, the sooner you can start building muscle and losing body fat. Here are 10 muscle recovery tips to speed up the process.

Optimize Your Post-Workout Meal

Your post-workout meal is your most important meal of the day. No other meal will have as big of an impact on your recovery as the first meal after your workout. What should this meal look like?

Including carbohydrates in your post-workout meal decreases muscle protein breakdown [1]. Carbohydrates are protein-sparing, which means they enable a higher amount of protein to do its job of repairing muscle tissue.

A meal containing both carbohydrates and protein is significantly more effective at replenishing muscle glycogen stores than an equivalent caloric meal consisting of carbohydrates alone [2]. Our meal should be mainly protein and carbohydrates, but it should also be eaten as soon as possible after your workout. Having a meal within 2 hours after resistance training increases hypertrophy and protein synthesis (muscle building) [3].

Implement Active Recovery

When comparing active recovery to both passive recovery and stretching, active recovery was the most effective recovery method after exercise [4]. Active recovery uses light resistance exercise to increase blood flow and nutrients to muscles after exercise.

It also helps by removing waste products that can hinder muscle recovery. Active recovery exercises are activities like walking, light biking, yoga, swimming, or an other low-intensity exercise.

Read more about active recovery and see how it can improve your performance.

Massage

The effects of massage on muscle recovery have been inconclusive. However, many studies have shown that using sports massage to improve recovery can be an effective way to aid recovery and performance after exercise.

At the very least, the symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can be mitigated through massage [5]. Even if the scientific literature is mixed, a massage still feels great, so what do you have to lose?

Sleep

We know that a lack of sleep can cause weight gain and other negative effects on your health. It can also inhibit muscle recovery by causing negative changes to feeding behavior and glucose metabolism, and by causing an increase in cortisol, and a reduction in testosterone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) [6]. All of these changes can lead to a decrease in protein synthesis, which can hinder muscle recovery.

Find out how much sleep you should be getting for optimal health and fitness.

More Protein

Protein synthesis increases with increased protein intake [7]. Also, a protein intake of 1 gram/lb of body mass is better at maintaining muscle mass under calorie restriction – suggesting increased protein synthesis and retention of nitrogen [8].

Protein intake is important for more than just building muscle. It’s a component of every cell in the human body. Always err on the side of too much than too little. If you’re a highly active individual, or you have a low carbohydrate intake, your protein demands will be higher.

Drink More Water

Proper hydration makes every function of the human body work more efficiently. Your muscle is about 75% composed of water. You should be getting in at least a gallon of water a day [9].

Individuals who are more active will require even more hydration. Increased water intake also has the benefit of keeping extracellular water retention to a minimum.

See why drinking water is the secret to fat loss.

Take Some Time Off

Every 8-12 weeks you should be looking to take some time off from intense physical activity. Whether this comes in the form of passive recovery (doing nothing) or active recovery (using lighter loads) is up to you.

The amount of time you should take off is not set in stone. However, a period of one week should be sufficient to provide enough time to fully repair muscles and recover your central nervous system (CNS).

It’s not possible to go at 100% intensity for 365 days out of the year. You need periods of rest in order to keep your intensity high and progress moving forward.

Proper Cooldown

Many people do a warmup, but how many of them put the same focus on their cooldown? A 15 minute active cooldown plays an important role in muscle recovery. A cooldown more effectively returns your heart rate to normal and removes lactic acid waste – which in turn provides for a more rapid recovery [10].

Don’t Smoke

Besides the many negative health consequences to smoking, it also impairs muscle recovery. This is likely due to a reduction in glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis [11]. Glucose improves protein synthesis, so any reduction in your cell’s ability to absorb glucose will inhibit muscle recovery.

Contrast Water Therapy

Contrast water therapy is effective in reducing and improving the recovery of functional deficiencies that result from delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) [12]. Contrast water therapy is a recovery treatment consisting of alternating immersions in both hot and cold water. The idea is that this process helps with the inflammation that results from exercise, which effectively leads to the restoration of strength and power of the trained muscle.

  • Caryn

    Thanks for the great article! I’m keeping this one for reference and sharing it on Facebook.

  • Roxanne

    Just wanted to say that this is the first time in many years of getting fitness newsletters or using a web site for information, that actually gives me information. Im new to Calorie Coach and already will be telling my friend’s about it. There is no trick what you are sharing with us is information not a quick paragraph and then click on this link to buy a book or sign up to be a member. Thanks Calorie Coach I look forward to many year’s of enjoying what you have to share and a better understanding on fitness, nutrition and what ever you have to share :)…I will be sure to share you on my facebook account to spread the great info you have to offer.

    Roxanne

    • Coach Calorie

      Glad you like the site Roxanne. Thanks for reading :)

  • Matt Ritchie

    Hi Tony. Just on a week off after 12 weeks continuous training as we speak. A great way to recharge and let your body heal for a wee while. Also a good time to plan your next 12 weeks of training. I’d be interested to hear what your thoughts are on calorie levels on rest weeks. Whether to reduce carbs/calories to make up for lack of exercise. I tend to reduce mine slightly but I know some folk don’t bother. Thanks again for a a great article.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hey Matt, I personally would keep them at around maintenance levels or slightly above for better recovery. Whether that’s lower or higher than the previous 12 weeks obviously depends on what goals you were training for.

  • carol whittaker

    What a good informative site. Recovery is a real problem for me as i have M.E but have always continued with exercise. Having these 10 recovery tips are a real help. Thanks, love reading anything that helps us to be active and healthy; mentaly and physically.

  • Efrain

    Awesome Info Coach. I’ve been following you on Twitter since i pretty much started a twitter account and now i’m glad to also receive your newsletter. Please don’t stop sharing the wealth and Thanks again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/HyperIce Hyperice

    These are great tips! I’m passing them along to our followers.

    The things you mentioned above along with the R.I.C.E. technique can really speed muscle recovery and get athletes back on the road sooner!

  • Hollie

    Are there any recommendations for overuse injuries similar to carpal tunnel? It’s being exacerbated by work, which I have absolutely no choice to do. I’m wearing an elbow brace. I’ve given up arm exercise but is there a way to help it heal better in the evenings or day off?

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Hollie, I’m unfortunately not an expert on carpal tunnel. If it’s simply an overuse injury, then taking some time off is going to be your best bet. I realize you have a hard time doing that with work, so doing some of the things listed in this article will certainly help. You could also try finding a different job ;)

      • Cindy Scott

        yup,, quitting my repetitive injury inducing job means I can sleep now and work out at the gym. Guess what , I have found it costs to be healthy. Downside, quitting and finding something new.

  • natalie hurtado

    What iS the proper sleep/rest when your working out?

    • Coach Calorie

      Based on the research, 7-9 hours seems to be optimal.

  • Dr.Nikkhil

    Hi Author Tony.Simply Loving your articles.Addicted.Great Job

  • Denise

    I’m 57 and started weight training a couple of months ago. Your articles really help because you write logical info. I haven’t read anything yet in your info sharing that doesn’t make sense. So keep it coming its encouraging!

  • http://www.coachcalorie.com/ Tony Schober

    One or two refeed days at maintenance calories would work…

  • http://www.coachcalorie.com/ Tony Schober

    Thank you Lizy. I appreciate you reading and for passing the site along to your friends. Good luck with your journey!