After a workout, your muscles are weaker, smaller, and more energy-depleted than they were at the start of your training session. That, obviously, is not the goal that you set out for. In order to catapult your muscles to renewed growth, increased strength, and greater energy, you need to follow time-proven muscle recovery strategies. Here are five of the best of them.
Once you’ve completed your final set, your body will be depleted of energy. Replenishing it requires the right sort of nutrients, supplied through the right types of food. Your immediate needs are for the following macronutrients:
After your workout, your body is in a muscle-depleting, catabolic state. Your goal should be to get it back to an anabolic, muscle-building state as quickly as possible. Your muscle recovery foods should include some quick acting carbs and lean protein.
You can achieve this with a 50/50 protein/carb blend post-workout shake. You can easily become overwhelmed by the post-workout shake options on the market. To make it easy for you, here are the three key ingredients you need:
- Whey Protein
- Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s)
- Quick Digesting Carbohydrates
Importance of Sleep
Most people don’t factor sleep into the recovery process. In fact, it is arguably the most important factor of them all. It is during this time that your muscles recover, repair, and rebuild the muscle tissue that has been broken down during your workout. To achieve this, it needs around eight hours of deep, restful slumber.
Obviously, when your body is resting through the night, it isn’t being called upon to carry out all of the energy-demanding requirements of the day. This allows it to concentrate on recovery and repair.
It is also during the hours that you are lying in bed that a pair of extremely powerful hormones are released to do their work. These two hormones are:
- Human Growth Hormone
As you probably already know, these hormones are essential for muscle recovery, repair, and growth.
When you work out, you place stress upon your muscles which can cause microtears in the fiber. You need protein, the building material of muscle, to repair and regenerate those muscles. This will keep you in an anabolic state and facilitate the process known as protein synthesis, by which muscles grow. Ensuring you are taking in plenty of quality protein around the clock is the best way to stay anabolic and allow the body to do its natural repair job.
Getting your protein from real foods such as chicken, steak, and fish (or beans, tofu, lentils, and nuts if you are vegan) rather than made products like protein bars and shakes will allow you to better utilize their amino acids for protein synthesis.
Both hot and cold therapy have been used for decades as post-workout treatments. Cold therapy has been shown to be an effective way to reduce inflammation, reduce pain, and increase recovery. The inflammation-reducing ability of cold treatment makes it more beneficial than heat treatment as a means of treating a training injury.
To use cold therapy to treat post-workout inflammation, apply a frozen bag of vegetables (wrapped in a towel) or an ice pack on the injured area for no more than twenty minutes. Move the ice around so that it doesn’t stay in one spot. You should also elevate the inflamed area so that it is above the heart.
Heat application after a workout has been shown to increase blood flow to more efficiently deliver nutrients and oxygen to your muscle cells. Heat also has the effect of loosening up your muscle cells and minimizing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Taking a post-workout sauna is able to increase the removal of waste products from muscle cells as well as increasing blood circulation.
Foam rolling has become a very popular method to recover from muscle soreness. It involves placing a heavy plastic roller (often with protruding nubs) between a part of your body and the floor and moving back and forth in a massage-like motion. Also known as self myofascial release, foam rolling allows you to get into the deeper layers of muscle to bring relief from trigger point pain.
Foam rolling has been scientifically proven to reduce post-exercise delayed onset muscle soreness. Here are four ways it does so:
- By softening fascia, which is the fibrous tissue which joins muscles together. Fascia is surrounded by lubricating oil. When the oil is thick, it causes pain. The process of foam rolling thins out this oil, lessening the pain.
- By improving their pliability and overall quality. To achieve this, you should perform long, sweeping foam roller movements.
- By relieving trigger points. These are the painful hot spots that are the focus of built up tension and/or inflammation. The roller is able to penetrate deeply and break up these pain areas.
- By breaking up scar tissue. Along with those micro gears that come from intense exercise, you can also end up with some scar tissue damage. This can cause discomfort, but foam rolling is able to break the scar tissue up and put an end to the pain.
What you do after your workout is just as important as what you do during your training session. Unless you provide the rest, nutrition, and muscle stimulation that your body is craving post-workout, you will actually get smaller and weaker as a result. In order to maximize your training efforts, be sure to get in a good protein/carb blend post-workout meal, get a good night’s sleep every night, eat whole food protein around the clock, take a sauna after your workout, and foam roll. Make use of cold treatment to reduce post workout inflammation.
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