Something most people don’t realize is that the human body doesn’t improve while you are weight training. No one has ever built an ounce of muscle or made any similar improvement to their body while at the gym in the middle of their workout.
The only thing you’re truly doing at that time is giving your body a reason to start the improvement process. You’re damaging your muscles, depleting your energy stores, fatiguing your nervous system and basically beating the crap out of your body. And from there, as long as the required amount of rest, recovery and nutritional supplies are in place, this ENTIRE process of adapting can begin and the improvements you’re trying to make can all be made (while resting, not working).
It’s during this recovery period when your body rebuilds your muscle tissue so that it is just a tiny bit bigger and stronger than it previously was. This is when energy stores get replenished and the nervous system recovers. This is when your joints and tendons get the break they need to stay healthy and injury-free.
This rest and recovery period is when EVERYTHING you want your body to do (build muscle, get stronger, appear more “toned,” etc.) actually gets done. Unless of course you’re not allowing it to. In that case, none of this can happen. If your body can’t properly recover, your body can’t properly improve.
The faster you recover, the sooner you can start building muscle. Here are some muscle recovery tips to speed up the process.
1# 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.
So 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 two hours after resistance training increases hypertrophy and protein synthesis (muscle building).
2# More Protein
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.
3# Muscle Recovery Supplements
Recovery supplements are quite popular. One of the most popular is BCAAs – taken both before and after exercise has been shown to reduce muscle breakdown and accelerates recovery.
Another common product sold as a muscle-building, recovery agent is the amino acid glutamine. Research has shown that intramuscular glutamine levels play an important role in protein synthesis and the prevention of muscle breakdown. It also improves the body’s ability to use leucine.
4# 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. Individuals who are more active will require even more hydration. Increased water intake also has the benefit of keeping extra cellular water retention to a minimum.
5# 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.
6# Adequate Sleep
We know that a lack of sleep can cause 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.
Getting in between 7-9 hours of sleep per night seems to be optimal for good body composition and general health. Sleep is a very important and often overlooked part of fitness – be sure you’re making them a priority.
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, so what do you have to lose?
8# 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.
9# 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.
Do you have any muscle recovery tips you’d like to share? Did you like this guide?