You wake up in the morning and as you rise, you feel your body aching all over. It is your first week in the gym and you are experiencing all the signs of fatigue and overexertion. Rest and recovery are an essential part of any workout routine. Your after-exercise recovery routine has a big impact on your fitness gains and allows you to train much more effectively. In order to stay on track with your fitness goals, you need to personalize an exercise recovery plan that fits both our body and workout’s needs. Read on to see a few easy tricks and tips to maximize recovery and muscle growth.
When you work out, your body undergoes a lot of stress. It is when you relax and sleep that your body is able to heal itself faster and return to its healthy state. Numerous studies have shown that lack of sleep can hamper your body’s ability to recover, especially after a hard workout. That’s because when you are asleep, your body undergoes what is called protein synthesis. It the process wherein biological cells create new proteins. Adequate sleep has been proven to speed up this process and allow you to bounce back from a grueling workout.
The importance of stretching before and after a workout cannot be overemphasized. However, it is also one of the most overlooked aspects of exercising. For serious gym-goers, stretching should be an integral part of your routine. Stretching before your workout allows your muscles to expand and prevent injury. Moreover, stretching after a workout will reduce the soreness in your muscles. It will also enable your muscles to return to their original length during their recovery period.
Protein contains amino acids which are considered the building blocks of our body’s tissue. When you take in food or supplements, especially those with fast-acting protein, your fatigued, damaged muscles are able to rebuild themselves. The timing, therefore, of your protein intake directly before or right after your workout routine is crucial. To prime your body for an intense workout, it is best for you to take a protein-rich snack. Additionally, consuming a protein supplement or a high-protein meal will help with muscle recovery and growth.
Water is used in all of the metabolic functions and nutrient transfers in the body. Making sure that you replace the water you lost through perspiration during your workout, and after, will help your body break down those fast-acting proteins faster and get them to your tired muscles. If you have a high-cardio routine or a higher intensity workout where you are sweating a lot, you are going to need to drink even more water.
Most people are looking for active tasks that they can complete to optimize their recovery, but one of the best things you can do to help yourself recover is rest. Taking days where you aren’t straining your body and are giving your muscles as much rest as possible will actually help you recover much faster. Your muscles don’t actually get any stronger in the gym, they actually do their growing afterwards while you’re resting.
So, if you don’t give your body ample time to rest, you aren’t going to get the same kind of returns you’d see otherwise.
After exercising and depleting your energy stores, you’ll need to refuel your body with the proper nutrients if you expect your body to recover, repair tissues, and build muscle. After a workout, focus on these three main nutrients: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fluids. All three are crucial for adequate energy and body fuel.
Ice baths and water therapy
You’ve no doubt seen clips of baseball players and NBA athletes getting into tubs full of ice after a hard game. many athletes swear by ice baths as a great way to promote rapid muscle recovery. Ice baths cause your veins to repeatedly constrict and loosen, which is supposed to help your blood flow faster and flush out waste materials that build up from muscles strain.
Water therapy is similar, but relies on alternating between very hot and very cold bursts of water to a specific spot. Neither of these methods is particularly pleasant, but many professional athletes use them regularly.
Use muscle therapy tools
To boost your body’s ability to recover after a workout, you can also try out various muscle therapy tools. Initially designed for athletes, these therapy tools are now available for anyone who would like to accelerate their recovery period.
- Massage Therapy Balls: There are many options for massage therapy balls. We recommend choosing one with vibration to get a deeper massage in your muscles. Sidekick has a Fuse 2.0 Vibration Peanut Ball which is ideal for neck and back relief. Aside from reducing muscle stiffness, they can also help improve blood circulation throughout your body.
- Foam Rollers: Foam rollers are a great, simple way to reduce soreness after a workout. They work to massage your muscles and increase blood flow and oxygen to the tissue, aiding in the recovery process. They’re light a portable and can accompany you to any post-workout session. Sidekick also has a vibrating foam roller that generates heat that is 4x more effective than a regular roller.
- Compression Tights: Although there is not much evidence on the benefits of compression tights, the thought is that tight gear may work to speed up the recovery process by boosting blood circulation.
- Muscle Scrapers: These are tension release tools similar to foam rollers that are based on a form of ancient Chinese medicine called Gua Sha. This technique uses a special scraping tool and cream to release the tension built up in a muscle in a similar way to foam rolling, but with a stronger and more targeted focus.
Both foam rollers and muscle scrapers are forms of massage tools that are used specially for self-myofascial release. This technique allows the individual to release the built-up tension and lactic acid in their muscles through a special massage technique.
The popular muscle scraping technique Gua Sha uses a small scraping tool to stimulate blood flow to a specific muscle. This relieves tension and promotes pain relief as the scraping technique triggers the nerves close to your skin and diverts some of the incoming pain-response chemicals away from your muscles. Remember how whenever you stub your toe you forget about your headache? Same idea here.
Having a sauna is one of the most relaxing ways to end a workout. Aside from the sauna’s soothing effect, it also has a lot of health benefits. The hot steam induces perspiration, causing your body to release harmful toxins such as nickel, lead, mercury, and copper. The intense heat in the sauna will also help relieve muscular pain you have developed during the workout. The heat will also help release lactic acid that has built up in your muscles. Getting rid of this lactic acid will help your body recover quickly.
One way to ensure a speedy recovery, is by designing a smart and thoughtful workout plan. Too much exercise, heavy lifting and lack of rest can actually limit fitness gains and muscle, in addition to being dangerous.
If you are pushing yourself hard enough to worry about overtraining, it might be time to consult a professional trainer who can help you build a plan to optimize your progress and keep you healthy.
That’s a lot of information to unpack, so let’s run through it again together. If you want to recover quickly after your workout you need to:
- Eat healthy proteins and drink plenty of water
- Stretch and scrape your muscles to release tension
- Use heat and cold to flush wastes out of your bloodstream
- Give yourself time to relax completely to promote better recovery
- Restore energy stores with the proper foods and fluid
- Listen to your body
Just remember, that being sore after a workout is a good indicator that you’ve put stress and strain on your muscles — which is a good thing for muscle growth. Listen to your body, and exercise in moderation. And when you do end up feeling sore after a hard workout, try these simple tips, and you’ll be back in the gym in no time.