It can be easy to get caught up in a “no days off” mentality when you’re committed to a goal to build muscle, lose fat, or otherwise change your body composition.
Yes, a regular, consistent exercise schedule is right for you and necessary for anyone working to meet body composition goals. But it turns out what you do between workouts is important, too.
During exercise, muscle fibers tear and break down as a result of the work they do. The process of healing these fibers and building more muscle begins as soon as the work out ends.
What you do during the period immediately following a workout and in the hours or days between workouts can either enhance or hinder the results of all that training.
Without adequate rest and recovery, you may experience:
- diminished energy and performance in subsequent workouts
- experience greater DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)
- be at increased risk for a workout-related injury
Incorporating some workout recovery practices can help you get back in the gym sooner, so you can train harder and achieve optimal results. Here are 6 tried and true recovery tips to enhance your post-workout time:
- Cool down and stretch after each workout session. A lot of people skip this step after training, but it should be a priority. Taking time to cool down helps your heart rate and breathing return to normal, helps relieve tension in the muscles you just worked, and enhances your flexibility and range of motion in future workouts.
- Book a massage. Regular massage can help ease stiff muscles and enhance their recovery time. If you don’t have the time or finances to invest in regular massage, try a do it yourself a massage with a foam roller. Both practices can help relieve muscle tension and soreness that follows exercise. If massage is not an option, then you can roll our your sore muscles. Foam roller and other tools are great for breaking up those knots in your muscles. The research shows that breaking down scar tissue in your muscles is essential to fixing the root of the problem.
- Get enough sleep. During sleep, your body is hard at work repairing and healing itself. It’s recommended to get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night for optimal health.
Eating the right nutrients after training can help speed up muscle recovery according to the research. The meal or snack you eat following your workout should include both a quality source of protein and carbohydrates. Protein supplies amino acids needed to repair and build muscles. Carbohydrates supply glucose to replenish your muscles glycogen stores that were used up during exercise. Try pairing a protein source like protein powder, eggs, greek yogurt, or chicken with a carbohydrate such as fruit, sweet potatoes, or brown rice.
- Take a day off. Rest days give your body the time it needs to repair and rebuild. That doesn’t mean you can’t still be active on rest days. Active recovery, such as walking, riding a bike, or yoga, can complement your training regime.
- Hydrate...Hydrate...Hydrate. It is crucial to take in water after exercise as it helps to rid the body of toxins and it helps to prevent dehydration. If the muscle becomes dehydrated, this can result in painful muscles.
Don’t let your training stop the second you leave the gym. Include these workout recovery tips in your training practice to help your muscles heal faster so you can perform better and enhance the results from your next workout.