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.
After 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.
For 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
Drinking 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.
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!
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.
A 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!
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!
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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