Working out regularly and intensively is the key to a chiseled body and peak physical fitness. However, if you want to get into the best possible shape and avoid injuries, allowing your muscles some time to recover is essential. With the right approaches, you may be able to speed up muscle recovery after a workout and improve your overall fitness in no time.
5 Steps for Post-Workout Recovery
In this article, we discuss five tips to speed up and enhance the effects of your post-workout recovery. Whether you work out by yourself at home or at a gym – with or without a personal trainer – it is important to give yourself a few minutes afterward. Your muscles need the time to rest and to adjust after intense training.
1. Drink Lots of Fluids and Hydrate
Any fitness enthusiast knows the importance of proper hydration prior, during, and following an intensive dose of physical activity. It is important to drink lots of fluids during all those crucial times if you want to avoid muscle fatigue, damage, and other complications. Unfortunately, many gym-goers focus on drinking water before their routine and forget to do it afterward as well. Others have the bad habit of only drinking water when they feel thirsty, which is not recommended.
To diminish the risk of tears, ruptures, and other sports-related injuries, always drink plenty of water after your training. If you are a fan of sports drinks enhanced with electrolytes or any other kind of post-exercise recovery drinks, popping open a Gatorade may help you as well. One study even found that chocolate milk is also a good post-workout recovery drink. Nevertheless, keep that in mind that at the end of the day, there’s nothing more beneficial than plain H2O.
2. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
It’s no secret that getting plenty of rest is the key to both mental and physical health. But did you know that the lack of it can greatly hinder not only the course of your muscular recovery but also your overall athletic performance? According to a 2008 study, sleep deprivation is detrimental to recuperation as it inhibits the body’s natural processes.
Therefore, getting eight hours of shut-eye per night may be important when you want to avoid any training-related complications. If your schedule allows for it, try to sneak in a few afternoon snoozes during the week as well. Waiting two hours after a workout and then taking a quick 20-minute power nap not only restores the muscles, but it also won’t inhibit your nocturnal slumber.
Related story: What Are the Benefits of Power Naps?
3. Focus on Your Protein Intake
Protein is the number one muscle repairing nutrient you can incorporate in your diet. Instead of adding supplements to your smoothies, focus on getting your daily intake of protein from whole foods such as eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and lean cuts of meat. These versatile ingredients make great snacks or full meals that will help with your recovery.
It is essential to consume a snack that is rich in protein before bed so that your muscles repair over time. The essential amino acids that are metabolized from this macronutrient not only bulk up your brawn, but also diminish the sensation of soreness you would otherwise get the next day. Don’t forget about your pre- and post-workout protein intake either. It is equally important.
4. Plan Your Rest Days Accordingly
When it comes to rest days, the general rule is to maintain a healthy gap of 48 hours between workouts if you are a fan of more physically demanding routines. Of course, this is not a universal rule, but rather a guideline that you can abide by or tailor to suit your personal needs and preferences.
Never forget about stretching, especially during recovery days. In time, this habit will help with your muscle recovery and won’t be a burden any longer.
Depending on your age and skill level, you might require less time to rest or more. If you find yourself taking longer pauses, try to squeeze in a couple of active recovery days each week. These consist of light exercises, such as yoga or tai chi so that you don’t lose track of your fitness goals while relaxing and recharging your batteries at the same time. However, if you feel an injury coming on, it would be the best to listen to your body and take some days off.
5. Take Cold Baths When Needed
Finally, when you find that the pent-up muscular tension and fatigue are becoming too hard to handle, science tells you to try a cold bath. Although the thought of immersing your aching body in ice water after an intense workout might seem scary, this will actually help reduce soreness and inflammation for a period of 24 to 48 hours. Ice will also act as an anesthetic that will numb the affected area and make the recovery a lot easier.
Another remedy for sore post-workout areas is to mix the juice from three lemons with two tablespoons of honey and microwave that concoction for about 30 seconds. Then, take a clean towel, dip it into the mixture, and apply it to the areas that you feel sore after a difficult workout. Because of lemon’s anti-inflammatory properties, this unusual remedy will help you with your muscle recovery.
The Bottom Line
To naturally enhance your muscles’ recovery period, stay hydrated, stretch frequently, and always be well-rested. Mind what you eat so that you don’t forget about protein, as you can’t really have too much of it during this crucial time. Tailor your off days according to your personal needs and preferences, and don’t be afraid to take a dip into cold water when you pushed yourself over the edge with the workout. With the right approach, you will reach your fitness goals sooner than expected.
Muscle Related Article: When It Comes to Health, Muscle Mass Matters
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