You surely know this feeling. The soreness, the aches, and (sometimes) even pains, which result from starting a new workout routine or just pushing yourself harder than before.
On one hand, it can feel like a proof that you made the most out of your workout. On the other hand, it can make things harder for the next workout session, progress, or consistency.
While soreness is not the only indicator of a good workout (amazing results can be achieved without feeling sore), it’s still something you’ll inevitably encounter.
And, if you’re looking to see results, one killer workout alone won’t get the job done. This means you have to find a way to recover faster and beat that annoying soreness. Continue reading and I’ll show you how!
Two Important Recovery Rules
It may be hard to completely prevent tired muscles, however there’s still a lot you can do to speed recovery, help your body revitalize, and minimize the chance to get hurt or be sore.
But, before we go look at the best recovery techniques you can do before or after your workouts, it’s crucial to remember the basic rules of recovery: sleep and nutrition.
While there are many accessory options for recovery which can be used to complement these two, if you are not getting the right nutrition and enough sleep, nothing will work. Therefore, shift your focus on the recovery basics first, and then go for more!
Recovery Nutrition after Exercise
For anyone that is active, meaning that you train at least three times per week, a proper nutrition plan is vital.
Refueling accurately after workouts will repair muscle fibers, restore liver glycogen, replace fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat, and bolster the immune system. Fitness enthusiasts who get post-exercise nutrition right will perform better in their next training session, accumulating more progress than those who skip post-exercise recovery.
There are two important post-exercise nutrition windows. The first one is within 30 minutes after your workout session. The second is in the first two to three hours after that. Short and light training sessions do not require any special recovery nutrition.
So what should you eat and drink 30 minutes after exercise?
Protein, carbs, fluid, and electrolytes are the foundation of proper recovery nutrition. Immediately after training, it would be ideal to consume a sodium containing drink such as Gatorade, or just take a sodium rich food such as salted rice cakes and water.
To restore muscle glycogen and promote muscle growth, consume a protein and carb heavy snack. The perfect option would be a protein shake alongside a banana.
Additionally, antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin A, Creatine, and L-Glutamine can shorten recovery duration and are great addition to a recovery snack or drink.
What to eat two or three hours after exercise?
Now, it is time for your post-workout meal. Just to be clear, it is ok to eat earlier than this if you feel hungry. However, don’t delay this meal more than three hours.
The meal itself should contain a combination of carbs, at least 20-30 g of protein and a little bit of fat.
Here are some great post-workout meal examples you can make:
- Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread
- Grilled tilapia with roasted vegetables and rice
- Caesars salad
- Protein oatmeal
- Chipotle bowl
- Chicken or beef burritos
- Spaghetti Bolognese
- Bean salad
- Shrimp fried rice
- Falafel wrap
Proper Sleep for Best Recovery
Scientists indicate that longer sleep duration leads to increased performance and better mental health in athletes. We also know chronic sleep deprivation can hinder any progress in all areas of our life.
Therefore, you should sleep 8 to 10 hours every night. I know it is a tough call for many, however you have to understand that strenuous exercise requires more sleep in order to recover properly.
How to improve sleep quality and duration?
Besides how much we sleep, the quality of our sleep is also crucial. Sleep quality can be improved by reducing any disturbances, sleeping in a cool and dark room. Following a pre-sleep routine of relaxing activities, avoiding light exposure from screens an hour before bad, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol may also increase your sleep quality and duration.
Exercise later in the day can make sleep difficult for some athletes. Following up an intense evening workout with inadequate sleep is a poor combination.
Therefore experiment and see what works best for you, keeping in mind the end goal, which is quality sleep.
How to measure your sleep?
If there is a way to measure it, there is a way to improve it! Use a sleep tracking gadget or app to measure your sleep duration and quality, then see what factors improve it. For example, I was able to identify that carb-heavy meals in the evening disrupted my sleep quality and duration. Now I stay away from them, and my sleep and recovery are automatically better.
Do your own research, determine the factors which negatively impact your sleep, and fix them!
Accessory Recovery Techniques
Once you have taken care of the big two, nutrition and sleep, there are many accessory recovery techniques to add to your routine:
1. Stress management – Taking the time to relax every day helps to reduce stress and prevent its negative effects, one of them being the inability to recover properly. Listen to relaxing music, read a book, or simply take some time off.
2. Stretching – A good stretching routine increases blood flow to your muscles, reducing post-exercise soreness and recovery time. Aim to cover all major muscle groups.
3. Active recovery – Is a great way to fight fire with fire, meaning that this technique includes exercises which improve recovery. Typical active recovery includes walking, swimming, cycling, or active stretching. The key is low-intensity, so keep that in mind.
4. Cryotherapy – With cryotherapy you can stimulate circulation, and as blood flows through your body it brings more nutrients like oxygen to the muscles. This is a new technique, but it promises great results.
5. Ice – Diving in a bathtub filled with ice is a great way to reduce muscle inflammation and promote faster recovery. This is a widely used method, however it may be a bit uncomfortable.
6. Sauna – Having a sauna session can feel great on your sore muscles. Heat therapy has shown to increase the production of “shock proteins,” which repaid damaged proteins in your body and protect against oxidative damage.
Example Recovery Routine
- Recovery protein smoothie immediately after exercise
- Take a 10 minute ice-bath or cold shower
- 10 minute stretch, yoga, isometrics, light walking
- 30 minutes of relaxing, meditation
- Post-workout meal with plenty of carbs and protein, little bit of fat
- Go to bed early, getting at least 8 hours of sleep
There you have it. Eat and sleep properly, and recovery will never be an issue!