Muscle recovery after exercise

Are you reading this article after a full body workout? Or maybe a brutal leg day? Or maybe even just a normal day at the gym where you tried one or two new exercises and now your muscles feel like they are going to drop off. You’ve come to the right place!

This article is going to look at muscle recovery after exercise and the methods you can use to improve the time it takes for your muscles to recover. Many of you may experience delayed onset muscle soreness, which is muscle pain and stiffness felt several hours or days after a workout that your muscles may not be familiarised with. Many of you may just want some methods in order to recover before your next session so you get the most out of it. Here’s some suggestions on what you can do.

Protein consumption

protein-consumptionAfter a workout your muscles will need a variety of proteins in order to repair. When looking to build muscle then consuming enough of the right proteins will improve your recovery. These proteins are included in rich proportions in lean beef, chicken breast, spinach, red salmon, milk, eggs, whey protein and cottage cheese, to name only a few.

The recommended amount of protein for muscle building is anywhere from 1.5-2.2 times your body weight in kg. I’ve always been a slim guy with a high metabolism so personally I need the top end of the recommended amount. Furthermore, have a protein rich snack before bed as this will aid recovery through the night, and then do the same first thing in the morning, to stock up on protein and get those gains!

Eggs are a great source of muscle repair as they are high in leucine similarly to milk, which is one of the best amino acids for building muscle. Also remember to have some source of omega 3 as the body cannot make this nutrient, if you don’t like salmon or other fish that contains omega 3, try an omega 3 fish oil supplement, which although quite big, is worth the benefits it has, with improved oxygen (containing nutrients such as proteins) in the blood and to the muscles to aid recovery.

Sleep

sleepFor many, sleep is the part of the day you love most after a hard days work! For others sleep is a vital part of their growth and development, and here’s why.

A lot of the work your muscles do goes on after gym hours too. During sleep, your muscles carry out protein synthesis.

Dictionary.com define protein synthesis as the process by which amino acids are linearly arranged into proteins through the involvement of ribosomal RNA, transfer RNA, messenger RNA, and various enzymes. The usefulness of protein synthesis in muscle growth is that it helps individual muscle cells to get bigger, whereas the misconception is that it creates new muscle cells.

From experience, I’ve found that ideally 8 hours sleep is the best for recovery. Studies such as that by Angela Calder (2003) have concluded that sleep is probably the most important form of recovery for an athlete. However, the same study stated that too much sleep can be detrimental to performance as it can slow down the central nervous system and because of this, seven to nine hours is ideal. I’ve written a separate article on ways to fall asleep faster if you need it!

Drink water, drink a lot of water

drink-waterDrinking a lot of water will transport all those good nutrients from your diet such as zinc and magnesium, to your muscles. Keeping hydrated will also prevent your muscles becoming painful after exercise, which tends to happen if they are hydrated. To support this, many researchers have concluded that fluid ingestion is one of the factors responsible for the maintenance of muscle function.

It’s recommended that women consumer around 3 litres of water per day, and men consume around 4 litres of water per day. However, this is just a guideline and you’ll eventually figure out exactly how much you need, to stay energetic. Personally, to work at my optimum, I need 5 of 6 litres of water per day, but I didn’t try drinking that much straight away, it took me a few years to realise that.

Stretching

You may have been told to stretch as part of your warm up. But why is stretching useful during rest days? Stretching is useful on training days and rest days because daily life can generally just cause our muscles to tighten, whether that’s after a training session, or after sitting in the office all day. Stretching increases blood flow. This means that all the nutrients you’ve put in your body from your diet can make their way to the muscles and promote the healing process. This will lead to you having more energy, especially useful after a difficult leg day!

Massage

Similarly, to stretching, massage can reduce tightness and slow blood flow through improving someone’s circulation. Therefore, this gives someone more energy and ultimately their performance improves. Furthermore, massage therapy helps the muscles become more flexible as it stretches the muscle fibres, this can help reduce injury when doing strenuous movements.

Active Recovery

active-recoveryA walk or bike ride on a rest day could help with recovery. Similarly, to massage and stretching, it helps with blood flow and therefore circulation to the muscles. If you don’t feel energised or if you’ve had a tough session then by all means take the day off any exercise, however you should be able to have a short walk to the shop etc. If not then don’t worry, some stretches will work just fine!

Conclusion

For me recovery is very important because I train at least 4 times a week. For many athletes, all these points will be part of their weekly or even daily routines in order to get the optimum out of their training and reduce the risk of injury.

Let me know if this topic has helped you. If you have any experiences or questions you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below and I’ll respond as soon as possible! Have a good day!

Nick

References

Calder, A. (2003). Recovery strategies for sports performance. USOC Olympic Coach E-Magazine, 2003. [Online] Available at: http://www.smscs.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/recoverystrategies.pdf (Accessed 15th December 2018)

Dictionary.com (2018) Protein Synthesis [Online] Available at: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/protein-synthesis (Accessed 15th December 2018)

Gauchard, G. C., Gangloff, P., Vouriot, A., Mallie, J. P., & Perrin, P. P. (2002). Effects of exercise-induced fatigue with and without hydration on static postural control in adult human subjects. International Journal of Neuroscience, 112(10), 1191-1206. [Online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00207450290026157 (Accessed 16th December 2018)

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8 thoughts on “Muscle recovery after exercise”

  1. Hi Nick, great article about muscle recovery after exercise. I have to admit that I have been guilty lately for missing to do some of the stuff you have recommended 🙂 It is the holidays season after all! However, I think you have some high points here which should be taken very seriously by everyone who is “all in” to the lifestyle of fitness. I have found an enormous difference in the comfort level of my joints after I started with a daily stretching routine a few months ago. I know it improves blood flow which gives me one of the explanations why I have experienced such an improvement, but what do you think, what else can it happen to a joint after a good stretching routine that feels so good after?

    Ivan

    1. It is expected over the holiday season yes! Stretching can contribute to your joints general flexibility and strength. However if I have joint pain I don’t rely on stretching alone, I combine it with the right exercise (often lighter weights), a healthy diet and good rest. There are also things like acupuncture which is used to treat many physical and mental conditions.

  2. An article with sources, I love it! For someone who has a Bachelors of Science Degree in Wellness and Fitness (California University of PA) I crave fitness articles with sources. Something else I like is the fact that you pointed out while we need protein, we don’t need the rather insane amount some supplement companies mislead us with. I love the 1.5-2.2 grams per kg of bodyweight, which my weight in kg is 70.5lbs. I’m from the States so I’m used to lbs, but Standard International is so much easier (wish we’d switch to it instead of using our hybrid model!).

    I strive to get adequate sleep but I’m like the lightest sleeper on the planet. For a guy who exercises twice a day when he gets a chance, sleep is even more important. But, I’m a writer so I’m still sitting a lot when I’m not working.

    Water, check. I like to carry around a one gallon (3.7 liters, I think) jug. I try to get between 3-6 liters in per day. Stretching is something I’ll do before and after training and in the spring and summer, active recovery is my favorite form of recovery. Whether it’s walking (okay, jogging) the track, walking or jogging around the village in which I live, or even a light bodyweight workout, it’s something that allows me to rest while feeling like I still get my workouts in.

    1. The best way I think! I think the 1.5-2.2kg per per kg of bodyweight is such a good guideline to go by because people with both high and low metabolisms will suit that range and be able to increase muscle and strength! Over here in the UK we mostly use kg but I have noticed some gyms having weights in lbs, which can get confusing if you’re used to kg, and make it hard to keep progress of your gains. That being said, the more you train the better idea you’ll have of the conversion from kg to lbs! I do the same and especially on training days I try and get towards 6 litres of water to ensure I stay energised and all the nutrients get to my muscles! I’ve noticed recently how beneficial active recovery actually is, my muscles have been a lot less stiff.

  3. Some good methods to try and use. I often struggle with muscle recovery after workouts whether that’s due to overworking muscles or not cooling down properly. Will try some of these methods moving forward. Keep up the good work!

    1. Glad to hear you have learnt some methods to use in the future bro! Muscle recovery can be hard to control due to you sometimes training harder on one day than the other and being more sore, but I guarantee if you get lots of sleep, alongside a diet full of proteins, vitamins and minerals and plenty of water to get those nutrients to your muscles, you’re body will recover in no time. All the best bro!

  4. Hi Nick, I love all your tips for recovery after exercise and they are all spot on!
    Most people new to exercise and fitness totally underestimate the importance of good recovery using all your above methods, and so they end up sore and without enough energy to fuel a good workout the next session.

    I am a fitness fanatic too; have been all my life and I can’t help but say that I have noticed a marked difference in my fitness and recovery times since I cut out all animal products and went totally plant based. I’m not trying to promote it to anyone for any reason other than the fact that it really does make a difference due to the anti inflammatory and alklanising effects of plant based foods. Less inflammation in the body means I rarely ever feel any aches no matter how hard I work out and I feel like I barely need and recovery theses days.

    But you do have to do this kind of diet properly and make sure you get enough protein from powders with lots of green superfoods etc. Then it works like a charm. Have you ever tied this?

    1. I agree! I’ve recently switched to a plant based protein shake and I seem to recover faster! This might be because plant based proteins absorb quicker and leave someone less bloated than whey. Yeah I usually count my protein daily, not to the exact number but I like to know the approximate amount. I eat a lot of quinoa, spinach and other greens to gain all the vitamins and minerals I need to support my recovery.

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