How To Promote Muscle Recovery After a Workout
Working out is intense. For plenty of people, it’s an integral part of their daily or weekly routine. Regular exercise can be essential, improving not just physical health, but emotional and mental health as well. But a good workout is only the start; an effective workout recovery plan is essential for keeping your body and mind in excellent health.
Why Is Post Work Out Recovery Important?
Workout recovery is essential for effectively resting and rejuvenating your body after intense exercise. Indeed, part of what makes working out so intense is the limited damage it does to your body, particularly through muscle strain and stretching.
Overdoing a workout, or completing insufficient muscle recovery after a workout, can quickly lead to bodily damage: muscle sprains, stress fractures, iliotibial band syndrome, and countless other damaging effects. In many cases, it can even contribute to negative psychological effects, including depression and hormonal changes.
On the flip side, resting appropriately after a workout helps build muscle and bodily health, and makes your time spent exercising that much more effective.
What Are Some Effective Work Out Recovery Tactics?
Muscle recovery after a workout functions differently for distinct individuals. For some, intense and unqualified rest may be the best tactic; for others, more “active” resting is the way to go. For many, the best bet may be a combination of tactics.
In general, the tips below can help you design a workout regimen that functions well for your body and helps you grow stronger over time.
Eat and Drink Well
Practicing quality nutrition after a workout is a sometimes neglected part of maintaining bodily health after intense exertion. Fluids are essential: be sure to drink lots of water during and after working out to replenish lost bodily fluids.
When it comes to food, you need to eat well after exercising to effectively fuel your post work out recovery. High-quality foods, particularly protein and carbohydrates, are essential. Good proteins include lean meats, fish, nuts and seeds, dairy products, and whey protein (among other foods) — while effective carbs include quinoa, oatmeal, whole grain pasta and bread, sweet potatoes, and other nutritious foods. Protein shakes and other supplements can be another way to add body to your meals.
Above all, do not skip meals! A regular eating schedule is vital in both the workout and recovery process.
Get Enough Sleep
There are few remedies as essential and consistent as a good night’s sleep. Getting enough high-quality sleep between workouts allows your body and mind to fully rest and rejuvenate, and despite being a relatively simple tactic, cannot be overstated as one of the most integral parts of the workout recovery process.
Practice Active Recovery
For many, total relaxation is not the most effective way to recoup from an intense workout. Active recovery involves gentle movement after or between workouts, helping your body to stay limber and vibrant, and particularly ensuring healthy blood flow between more intense periods. Slow jogs, light bike rides, yoga, and even active stretching can all be a part of “active” recovery. This can also help to avoid debilitating drops in energy that can occur between workouts.
Similar to active recovery, cross-training emphasizes not being completely passive between workout periods. Instead, the focus is on shifting the type of exercise from workout to workout. It might mean focusing on one muscle group on day 1, a different muscle group on day 2, and entirely on cardio on day 3.
While there are countless ways to cross-train, the emphasis is on allowing certain muscles to rest while others are pushed hard. It can also allow you to work out more consistently, as your rest periods for one part of the body will be at least partially contained in your exercise periods for other areas of the body.
Get a Massage
Massage, including self-massage, can be an extremely helpful workout recovery tactic. Massages allow blood vessels to dilate and the body to more fully relax, helping to avoid tension and strains that can result from incomplete recovery periods. While a massage from a professional is ideal, massaging parts of your body on your own, including with massage devices or a foam roller, can also be quite effective.
Try Hot and Cold Therapy
Alternating hot and cold therapy can be a highly effective way to stimulate muscle recovery after a workout. The concept of alternating hot and cool essentially stems from the idea that switching between dilation and constriction of blood vessels allows the body to effectively flush out toxins and rejuvenate more quickly and effectively.
There is no shortage of ways to practice this approach. Cold showers and ice baths are effective ways to cool yourself, while hot showers and soaks in a hot tub are effective ways to heat your body up. For an added bonus, getting a massage while in a hot tub can be even more effective at dilating blood vessels.
Tailor Your Recovery To Your Body
Ultimately, an effective approach to post work out recovery will be very different depending on your age, level of fitness, typical exercise regimen, and other factors. For instance, younger people (children and teenagers), as well as older adults, may need more recovery work than young adults.
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