Despite what you may read on some fitness blogs, there is no better way to help your muscles recover than by eating healthy foods and getting a good night's sleep.
Living an overall healthy lifestyle is the most important step you can take to maximize your muscle recovery. No recovery method can make up for poor nutrition and lack of rest.
Many people think they need expensive supplements to get results from their workouts. While some supplements have benefits, you're not going to maximize your performance unless you're already taking care of the basics. Nothing beats using a massage flex gun!
In this article, we give you 15 proven tips to maximize your muscle recovery and help you build a more consistent fitness program.
How our tips are classified
We will divide these tips into five categories:
- the drinks
- lifestyle habits
- things to avoid
Keep in mind that the following tips are intended to give you ideas on how to improve your muscle recovery, but they are not intended to be a complete list that you must follow point by point.
Your body type, fitness goals and current fitness level all play a role in determining the best way to recover.
Some techniques, such as contrast baths, can help you recover, but their effects are weak and probably only apply to you if you are an athlete.
1. Protein post-workout
When you exercise, the proteins that make up your muscle fibers are damaged. Consuming protein after your workout can help give your body the raw material it needs to repair this muscle damage.
Research has shown that 20 to 40 gramsTrusted Source of protein, or about 0.4 to 0.5 g / kg (0.9 to 1.1 g / lb) of body weight, is enough to maximize muscle growth.
2. Protein pre-workout
Eating protein before your workout can help increase muscle protein synthesis.
As with the post-workout recommendations, ResearchTrusted Source found that 0.4 to 0.5 g / kg (0.9 to 1.1 g / lb) of body weight was the optimal amount.
3. Carbohydrates after training
Your muscles store carbohydrates as glycogen for energy. During intense, short-term exercise, your muscles use this glycogen as their primary form of energy.
If you need to quickly restore glycogen levels in less than four hours, such as when you perform consecutive workouts, the International Society of Sports NutritionTrusted Source recommends consuming 1.2 g / kg body weight per hour with an emphasis on carbohydrates with a glycemic index (GI) greater than 70.
White rice, potatoes and sugar are three examples of carbohydrates in this GI range.
4. Eat an overall balanced diet
An overall healthy diet can ensure that you don't develop any nutrient deficiencies that could interfere with your muscles' ability to recover.
In general, this means:
- minimize your consumption of ultra-processed foods
- eat lots of fruits and vegetables
- obtain at least 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.6 to 0.8 g / lb)
5. Stay hydrated
Dehydration can affect your muscles' ability to repair themselves. You are especially prone to dehydration if you exercise in hot or humid weather.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound you lose during exercise.
6. Tart cherry juice
ResearchTrusted Source found that drinking tart cherry juice after exercise can reduce inflammation, muscle damage and muscle soreness caused by exercise.
More research is needed to fully understand its effects, but many studies published to date look promising. A typical dose used in research is 480 milliliters per day (about 1.6 ounces).HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERReceive our bi-weekly women's wellness email
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7. Creatine monohydrate
Creatine is one of the most studied supplements. Research consistently shows that it can help improve muscle strength when combined with resistance training.
ResearchTrusted Source also found that creatine can help athletes recover from intense training by helping to reduce muscle damage and inflammation, as well as helping to replenish your muscle glycogen stores.
8. Protein powder
Protein powder is a convenient way to add more protein to your diet.
Many types of protein powders contain a full spectrum of essential amino acids. Whey and collagen powders are two popular choices.
9. Get more sleep
Sleep gives your muscles time to recover from exercise. People who exercise intensely need even more rest than the average person. Some professional athletes sleep 10 hours or more a night.
Research has shown that sleep deprivation can impair muscle recovery by altering the body's inflammatory response and the production of hormones that promote muscle growth.
Many athletes incorporate massage into their training to reduce muscle soreness.
A review of the 2020Trusted Source studies found that massage has a small but significant effect on improving flexibility and decreasing late onset muscle soreness after exercise.
11. Compression garments
Wearing compression garments has become commonplace among athletes over the past few decades.
There are a limited number of studies on their effectiveness in speeding up recovery after exercise. But one smallStudy 2019Trusted Source found that they reduced body muscle recovery time in German handball players.
In the study, athletes wore the garments for 24 hours, then alternated between 12-hour breaks and 12-hour periods of wear for a total of 96 hours.
12. Contrast water therapy
Contrast bath therapy consists of alternating periods of immersion in very hot and very cold water.
This change in temperature stimulates the contraction and dilation of your blood vessels and changes your heart rate.
SearchTrusted Sourcefound that contrast bath therapy can help reduce muscle soreness after training. Results are limited and may only be relevant to athletes.
Cryotherapy is the technique of exposing your body to an extremely cold temperature for a few minutes.
Research has shown that it can speed up recovery by reducing pain, inflammation and muscle fatigue after intense activity.
Things to avoid
Drinking alcohol affects many aspects of your health.
ResearchTrusted Sourcefound that drinking alcohol after cycling impairs your muscles' ability to replenish glycogen after endurance exercise. Alcohol also impairs protein synthesis in your muscles.
Smoking tobacco has a negative impact on your musculoskeletal system.
Although research on the effects of smoking on muscle recovery is limited, there is evidence that smoking is associated with an increased risk of muscle injury.
Smoking is also associated with an increased risk of developing joint disease and an increased risk of bone fracture.
How long does muscle recovery take?
The time it takes for your muscles to recover from exercise depends on your fitness level and the difficulty of your workout.
The volume, intensity and duration of your workout all play a role in determining its impact on your body.
After a relatively light workout, your muscles can recover within 24 hours, while a harder workout can take two to three days. Very intense workouts can take even longer.
Other factors that can affect your recovery time include:
- how well you sleep
- how much nutrition you get
- what level of stress you are facing
- do exercises that involve many different muscle groups or near maximal effort
It is important to give your body time to fully recover after a workout. While you are exercising, you are damaging your muscles. It is only during the recovery period that your muscles can repair the tiny tears that form during exercise.
Your body also needs time to eliminate the lactic acid produced during intense exercise that makes your muscles sore and tired. If you don't give your muscles time to recover, you risk injury.
How to avoid injuries during muscle recovery?
The basis of any good training program is small, gradual increases in intensity or volume over time. If you jump too quickly, you put yourself at risk of injury or overtraining.
Different trainers have different philosophies about training. Many agree that you should leave your training session feeling challenged but not completely exhausted.
Even world-class athletes are strategic about the times or years they train at maximum intensity.
Designing your program so that you work alternate muscle groups in different workouts is a good way to increase recovery time between sessions.
For example, if you lift weights three times a week, try a program like this to give each muscle group a full week to recover:
- Monday: back and biceps
- Wednesday: chest and arms
- Friday: Legs and trunk
Athletes who train for specific sports, such as sprinters or Olympic weightlifters, often train the same body parts almost every day. They are usually strategic about how they set up their training. They often alternate high and low intensity days to give their muscles time to recover.
Are there any complications to not allowing time for muscle recovery?
If you don't let your muscles recover between workouts, you risk injury.
Repeated stress from exercise causes small tears called microtears that lead to muscle soreness and inflammation. A buildup of tears puts you at risk of developing torn muscles, also known as muscle strains or pulled muscles.
Muscle strains can range from mildly uncomfortable ruptures to complete ruptures that may require surgery to repair. If you don't fully recover, you'll likely notice that your athletic performance decreases over time.