Many people see post-workout recovery as something they will do if they have time, according to Amoila Cesar, a NASM-certified personal trainer, and BeachBody super trainer. He says that this is unfortunate because post-workout recovery is essential for optimizing your results and reducing your risk of injury.
Some people think that they need to buy lots ofexpensive supplements to improve their workout results. However, even though some supplements might have some benefits, you will not be able to get the best results unless you first take care of the basics.
This article provides tips to help you recover muscle and maintain a fitness program.
- Protein post-workout
Exercise causes muscle damage which consuming protein can help to repair.
It has been determined through research that approximately 0.4 to 0.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or 20 to 40 grams of protein in total) is the ideal amount to promote maximum muscle growth.
- Protein pre-workout
One study found that men who ate a protein shake before working out had a greater increase in muscle protein synthesis than those who didn’t. Eating protein before working out may increase muscle protein synthesis, according to one study. The study found that men who ate a protein shake before working out had a greater increase in muscle protein synthesis than those who didn’t.
The optimal amount of protein to consume after a workout is 0.4 to 0.5 g/kg (0.18 to 0.22g/lb) of body weight, according to research.
- Carbohydrates post-workout
Your muscles use glycogen stored as carbohydrates for energy during short, intense exercise.
If you want to quickly replenish glycogen stores in four hours or less – for example, when you’re doing consecutive workouts – the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends consuming 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per hour. Focus on carbohydrates with a glycemic index over 70.
Examples of carbs in the moderate glycemic index range include white rice, potatoes, and sugar.
- Eat an overall balanced diet
The general health of your diet can impact the rate at which your muscles are able to recover. if you want to insure optimal muscle recovery, make sure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need.
As a general rule, this means:
- minimizing your consumption of ultra-processed foods
- eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
- getting at least 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.6 to 0.8 g/lb)
- Stay hydrated
If you are dehydrated, it can impair your muscles’ ability to repair themselves. You are more likely to become dehydrated if you exercise in hot or humid weather.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 16 to 24 ounces of fluids for each pound you lose while exercising.
Your body needs water to function properly. When you sweat, you lose water and need to drink more to make up for it. Drinking water helps your body in many ways, including keeping your joints lubricated, regulating your body temperature, preventing muscle cramps, and helping your body recover from exercise.
- Tart cherry juice
An article published in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” states that drinking tart cherry juice may help to reduce inflammation, muscle damage, and muscle soreness from exercise.
Research needs to be done in order to more fully understand its effects, but many studies that have been published to date look promising. A dose that is typical that is used in research is 480 milliliters per day (about 1.6 ounces).
- Cool down
The last thing you want to do after a hard workout is to put in even more effort or work, but that’s exactly what you should do according to Sara Farias. Farias is a personal trainer who specializes in HIIT and strength workouts. “Take at least five to six minutes to focus on your breath as you stretch out the major muscles you just worked,” says Farias.
Cesar believes that stretching has many benefits including reducing muscle tension, enhancing blood flow, boosting mobility, and promoting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tired muscles. This in turn helps facilitate repair and recovery, and allows your body to grow stronger.
- Give yourself a massage
Many athletes use massage as part of their training routine to help reduce muscle soreness.
A 2020 review of studies found that massage has a small but significant effect on improving flexibility and decreasing delayed onset muscle soreness after exercise. The review found that massage can help reduce inflammation and promote healing of muscles after exercise.
Foam rolling is beneficial because it essentially provides a massage, which helps break up muscle adhesions that can cause soreness or inhibit performance.
According to Farias, a massage gun can help in a similar way to a foam roller. If you don’t have a massage gun, a lacrosse or tennis ball can do the trick. Have a personal trainer or physical therapist demonstrate the right way to use the massage gun or ball.
- Feel the chill
The practice of cryotherapy involves exposing your body to extremely cold temperatures for a few minutes.
Reducing pain, inflammation, and muscle tiredness after strenuous activity may speed up recovery according to research.
Exposing your body to short periods of extreme cold can help reduce inflammation and improve blood flow, two key components to recovery according to Theodore “Teddy” Savage, head of health and fitness excellence at Planet Fitness.
If you are not ready to take an ice bath, it is okay. Savage says that you can get the same benefits from taking a cold shower.
- Try compression garments
Over the past several decades, athletes have begun to wear compression garments more frequently.
Although there are not many studies on the subject, a small 2019 study found that consuming protein shakes can help reduce the amount of time needed for muscle recovery after exercise. The study looked specifically at German handball players.
The athletes in the study wore the garments for 24 hours, and then they had a 12-hour break. After that, they wore the garments for another 12 hours. They did this for a total of 96 hours.
There are compression garments available for different areas of the body, which can help to reduce pain and prevent stiffness by slightly squeezing the muscles to improve circulation and reduce inflammation.
Studies have shown that massage can help to remove lactic acid from muscles, which can lead to pain relief, especially for runners. Additionally, massage can help improve flexibility and range of motion.
- Creatine monohydrate
Creatine is one of the most widely studied supplements, with research consistently showing it can help improve muscular strength when combined with resistance training.
Studies have found that creatine may help athletes recover from tough workouts by reducing muscle damage and inflammation, and by helping to replenish the glycogen stores in their muscles.
- Protein powder
Protein powder allows you to quickly and easily add more protein to your diet.
There are many kinds of protein powders that contain all the essential amino acids. Some popular examples are whey and collagen powders.
- Schedule rest
You shouldn’t work out every day. You need to take days off so your muscles have time to repair and get stronger.
Replacing sitting or lying down with light activity will help to improve muscle recovery by increasing blood flow.
- Do a quick body check
After you finish your workout, take some time to think about how you feel. A good way to avoid soreness or getting hurt is to not do too much. “Your goal should be to push yourself without hurting yourself later. In other words, work hard, but not so hard that you pay for it with soreness the next day,” Cesar says. “You’ll know you did the right amount if you walk away from the workout feeling challenged, but also strong and energetic. You should never finish a workout feeling exhausted and unhappy. If you do, try doing less next time.”
- Sleep more
Farias states that bedtime provides the opportunity for muscles to recover from exercise, and that sleep deprivation prevents the protein synthesis necessary to repair muscles.
Our guide to sleeping soundly all night recommends creating a soothing ritual, which can help you doze off, and can include practicing a quick meditation, dimming the lights, or diffusing a relaxing scent like lavender.
Sleep is important for people who exercise because it gives their muscles time to recover. Some professional athletes Sleep for up to 10 hours per night to ensure their muscles have enough time to recover.
If you don’t get enough sleep, your muscles may not recover as well as they could. This is because sleep deprivation can affect the body’s inflammation reaction and the production of hormones that help muscles grow.
- Contrast water therapy
Contrast bath therapy is a type of therapy that involves periodic immersion in very warm water followed by very cold water.
This difference in temperature causes your blood vessels to contract and expand, and also alters your heart rate.
Studies have shown that using contrast baths, or soaking in alternately hot and cold water, may help to ease muscle soreness after working out. However, the results are inconclusive and more research is needed to determine if this method is effective for the general population.
If your muscles are sore after a workout, apply heat to help them relax and then switch to ice to reduce pain and inflammation. Once your muscles have calmed down, stretch them out.
- Feed your muscles
-Farias says it is best to eat something within an hour of completing a workout if you want to build muscle strength or bigger muscles.
Savage suggests eating a combination of healthy carbs, lean protein, and healthy fat to help facilitate the changes your body needs to make physical progress. For example, a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter and sliced bananas or a cup of Greek yogurt with fresh berries would work well.
Not only is it important to replenish the electrolytes lost through sweating, but these minerals play an essential role in fluid regulation and muscle contraction—and lacking them can lead to muscle cramps or weakness, dizziness, a headache, and other unpleasant symptoms. Most fresh fruit contains electrolytes, and sipping on coconut water is also a good way to boost your levels, Savage says.
Things to avoid
Drinking alcohol can have negative consequences for your overall health. It can damage your liver, heart, and brain, and lead to cancer. It can also cause problems with your digestion, sleep, and mental health. If you’re pregnant, drinking alcohol can harm your baby.
Studies have shown that consuming alcohol after cycling can hinder your muscles’ ability to replenish glycogen following endurance exercise. Additionally, alcohol can impair protein synthesis within your muscles.
Smoking tobacco negatively impacts your musculoskeletal system.
There is not a large amount of research on the effects of tobacco on muscle recovery, but what evidence there is suggests that smoking is linked to an increased risk of muscular injury.
Smoking tobacco is also associated with developing joint disease and fracturing a bone.
How long does muscle recovery take?
Your muscles need more time to recover after a strenuous workout than they do after an easy one. The fitter you are, the quicker your muscles will recover.
The amount of volume, intensity and how long you work out all play a part in how much it taxes your body.
If you have a light workout, your muscles will be able to recover in a day. If you have a more difficult workout, it may take a few days. If your workout is very intense, it might take even longer.
Other factors that can affect your recovery time include:
- how well you sleep
- how much nutrition you’re getting
- how much stress you’re dealing with
- doing exercises that involve many different muscle groups or a near-max effort
After a workout, your muscles need time to repair the tiny tears that form during exercise. If you don’t give your muscles time to recover, you could risk injuring yourself.
How do I prevent injury during muscle recovery?
If you want a successful training program, you need to gradually increase the intensity or volume over time. Jumping ahead too quickly can lead to injury or overtraining.
Different trainers have different philosophies when it comes to training. Many agree that your workout session should be challenging but not leave you feeling completely exhausted.
World-class athletes train at peak intensity during specific times or years.
Designing a workout program that alternates between different muscle groups is a good way to increase the amount of time you have to recover between workouts.
For example, if you are lifting weights three times a week, try a schedule like this to give each muscle group a full week to recover:
- Monday: Back and biceps
- Wednesday: Chest and arms
- Friday: Legs and core
Many athletes who train for specific sports, such as sprinters or Olympic lifters, work out the same body parts almost every day. They are usually strategic about how they set up their training. For example, they may alternate high-intensity days with low-intensity days to give their muscles time to recover.
Are there complications from not allowing muscle recovery time?
You increase your risk of injury if you do not allow your muscles to recover between workouts.
Repeated stress from exercise causes small tears called micro tears. These tears lead to muscles feeling sore and inflamed. An accumulation of tears puts you at risk of developing torn muscles, also called muscle strains or pulled muscles.
The severity of muscle strains can range from mildly uncomfortable to causing a complete rupture that may require surgery to repair. If you’re not recovering fully from a muscle strain, you may notice your athletic performance decline over time.