The 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 . 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 . 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) .
Implement Active Recovery
When comparing active recovery to both passive recovery and stretching, active recovery was the most effective recovery method after exercise . 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.
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 . Even if the scientific literature is mixed, a massage still feels great and can help with mental recovery, so what do you have to lose?
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) . All of these changes can lead to a decrease in protein synthesis, which can hinder muscle recovery.
Protein synthesis increases with increased protein intake . 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 .
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 from combined liquid and food sources .
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.
Take Some Time Off
Every 8-12 weeks you should be looking to take some time off from intense physical activity to allow accumulated fatigue to dissipate. 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.
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 .
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 . 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) . 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. It’s not my idea of the most pleasant recovery protocol, but if you’re looking for that extra edge, give it a try.