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
What Is Active Recovery?
Active recovery could be defined as an easier workout compared to your normal routine. Typically this workout would be done on off day from training. Generally an active recovery workout is less intense and has less volume.
For example, a trainee worried about body composition goals could do active recovery by taking a brisk walk on an off day.
When defining active recovery, context comes into play.
To a marathon runner, jogging at a slow pace on an off day will likely have little impact on their ability to maintain intense workouts on their scheduled training days; in fact, it ultimately may help his fitness goals.
Yet to an unfit person just starting exercise, anything beyond walking for a couple minutes might be a tough workout.
The stress added by doing too much to soon might outpace the body’s ability to adapt to exercise. Thus it is important to consider a persons current fitness level when considering what is appropriate for active recovery.
As a general rule, exercise qualifies as active recovery if you feel better after exercising compared to before you started.
Is Active Recovery Beneficial?
Active recovery, opposed to passive recovery (which means complete rest from exercise), may have several distinct advantages. Some believe that active recovery workouts help prime your body’s metabolic pathways of recovery.
Some believe active recovery is idealized, and claim that less intense exercise simply does not add to training stress.
This camp argues that light workouts do not stimulate an added benefit to recovery; they simply are easy enough that they do not stop the body from recovering as it would.
Regardless of the mechanism many have seen benefits to including active recovery in their fitness plans. For some, the psychological benefits of active recovery are apparent.
Anecdotally, many people feel better when they exercise daily. Movement has the capability to elevate mood among other positive attributes.
A huge point to consider is that some people find it easier to adhere to their diets on days they are active.
Lastly, it is important to note that daily movement provides the opportunity to burn a few extra calories, thus potentially aiding in losing fat.
7 Active Recovery Workout Ideas
There are a few forms of active recovery that are highly convenient and match well with most peoples fitness programs.
The following carry a low risk of injury and agree with most trainees:
Self -Myofascial release (SMR)
Foam rolling is one form of SMR: the objective is to use implements such as foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and other specialty items (the stick, theracane) etc. in an effort to “massage your muscles.”
Although the exact mechanisms behind SMR are unclear, consistent foam rolling may improve range of motion, and decrease an over active muscles tone. Foam rolling has allowed thousands of athletes to train at high levels and avoid stiffness that comes with heavy training.
On your off day, try passing over all major muscle groups with a foam roller. Aim for 30 seconds on each large muscle group, avoiding joints and bony areas.
Focus a little extra time on problem areas and pin point troublesome areas by using a lacrosse ball. Monitor your pressure; remember, the goal is to feel better after foam rolling.
A great thing to do for active recovery. Not only can it burn calories, but also being outside can increase your feelings of well-being. The amount of walking you do on off days should be based on your current fitness level, and your training schedule.
Lighter Weight Lifting
Performing an exercise that made you particularly sore, but using a much lighter weight may be restorative. As a guide, use a weight at or below 30 percent of your usual weight, and perform one set shy of failure.
Like walking, it can burn significant calories. Once again it must be tailored towards your current fitness level. If you feel worse after the hike then when you started it probably has done more harm than good as far as active recovery sake.
Particularly low stress due to the weightlessness. You can have a great swimming workout engaging the muscular and cardiovascular system without added pressure on your joints. Take into consideration current fitness level.
Mobility work can be a form of active recovery that can be done every day. Typically each joint in the body is taken through a safe range of motion. Yoga is an example of mobility work that some people use as active recovery. It can be beneficial if you appreciate your current fitness level and learn from a good instructor.
Like the other forms of aerobic exercise can be a great active recovery workout, as long as you match the intensity to your current fitness levels.
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.
Time Frame for Adequate Sleep
You are considered to be sleep deprived if you sleep four hours or less per night, while eight hours constitutes normal sleep. The National Sleep Foundation’s sleep guidelines recommend seven to nine hours for the average adult.
One night of missed sleep will probably do little harm, but the cumulative effect of poor sleep will have a negative impact on your muscles.
Warnings About Age-Related Sleep Problems
Age-related declines in sleep quality, and decreases in the total duration of sleep over the years, particularly the amount of time spent in non-REM deep sleep, contribute to the wear and tear on your muscles and speed up the aging process.
Consult your health-care provider if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep on a consistent basis. Your muscles need sleep as much as they need food, blood and oxygen.
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).
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.