4 WAYS TO MAXIMISE YOUR POST-WORKOUT MUSCLE RECOVERY

Written by: ASN

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Time to read 7 min

Andrew Cuneen, Personal Trainer

This article has been reviewed by and is endorsed by Andrew Cuneen, qualified Personal Trainer and co-founder of King Kong Strength

Sick of feeling sore and mentally drained? Struggling to overcome the plateau period? Not sure why you’re not seeing the results you’ve worked hard for?

One word: recovery

Incorporating exercise into your life, irrespective of age or fitness level, is paramount to maintaining your quality of life, reducing the risk of chronic disease, improving mood and ensuring optimal mental health.

However, while many of us think that progress is determined by how hard we train, how frequently we hit the gym, and how profusely we sweat, many of us fail to realise that the real secret to success lies in our approach to recovery.

While muscle recovery is widely spoken-about, it will likely come as no surprise that very few of us actually understand the importance of recovery and how to do it effectively.

So, let’s get started!

Why is post-workout recovery so important?

Simply put, recovery is essential for a number of physiological and psychological reasons. In terms of physiology, recovery is vital for your muscles to repair, rebuild and strengthen. From a psychological perspective, recovery is important for maintaining a healthy mindset and getting the downtime your body and brain need to hit the ‘reset’ button. It’s all about balance!

Before jumping into recovery, it’s essential to understand the difference between rest and recovery.

A rest day is designed to boost mental and physical recharging and to allow your muscles time to recuperate.

Recovery, on the other hand, is the overarching process that includes many more variables. Recovery is the techniques and actions you take to maximise your body’s ability to repair in-between workouts. From hydration, nutrition and supplementation to heat, ice, stretching, compression and stress management, recovery is essential for repairing muscles, balancing chemicals and hormones, repairing your nervous system, and maintaining positive mental health.

What happens to your body during recovery?

If you’re guilty of skipping rest days for the purpose of accelerating your results, you’re certainly not alone. However, this approach is far more damaging and counteractive than you may think. Wondering why? The process of building muscle doesn’t occur during your workouts. It begins the minute you put down the weights and start actively recovering. Here’s why:

Your downtime is when your body adapts to the stress of exercise, which allows the effects of training to truly take place.

Recovery helps your body to replenish energy stores and to repair the muscle tissue damaged during your workout.

Recovery reduces the risk of muscle breakdown by allowing your energy stores to be replenished and your tissue to be repaired.

Skipping rest days can lead to overtraining, often resulting in symptoms such as exhaustion, reduced sports performance, and increased risk of injury.

Ways to Maximise Recovery

Warm up before your workout

When done correctly, warming up (and cooling down, too) can help you maximise your recovery by reducing the risk of injury. So, how can you incorporate this into your training?

Warming up and cooling down involves slowing down the pace and intensity of your workout. Warming up helps your body prepare for training and can raise your body temperature and blood flow to your muscles. This helps reduce muscle soreness and the risk of injury (Mayo Clinic. 2021).

While warming up is a great way to get started, don’t forget to cool down after an intense training session. We know you train hard, so make sure you cool down before hitting the showers. Cooling down is easy. It’s hardly different to warming up, just done in reverse. Before finishing your session, slow down and reduce the intensity of your workout. This will allow you to regulate blood flow and ease out of exercise (Mayo Clinic. 2021).

Stretch & foam roller after your workout

You’ve probably walked towards the gym exit after a session and seen people on yoga mats stretching, using foam rollers, and bending their bodies in strange ways. You’ve probably ignored them too, but you should be joining them. Stretching and using a foam roller after training are great ways to ensure you recover better.

Ok, let’s start with stretching. One of the most overlooked aspects of training is stretching, but it is incredibly beneficial. Stretching can increase your flexibility across different muscle groups, making it easier to bend, stand, squat and more. It can also improve blood circulation, allowing your body to cool down and return your heart rate to normal. Stretching eliminates lactic acid, which makes your muscles feel tired and sore after training and can enhance your range of motion and increase your muscular coordination. Performing this after a session can help you reduce pain and can help you relax and relieve stress, too (Disc).

Now onto the foam roller. Foam rolling before training can help to loosen common areas of tightness before training while supporting your recovery by relieving muscle knots and trigger points. Foam rolling is basically a self-performed deep tissue massage that targets the fascia (think tissue that wraps and connects muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels) and can be used to alleviate muscle injury, inflammation, trauma and more. Foam rolling works by helping to lengthen and release the build-up tension in the fascia by breaking up adhesion ns scar tissue to accelerate the healing process after training (Australian Fitness Academy. 2019).

Take a cold shower

This one may sound horrible, but it works. You’ve probably heard a lot about ice baths, but a cold shower can also be effective when it comes to post-workout recovery.

While they may give you shivers, taking a cold shower after training can help you to reduce muscle soreness after an intense workout. How? Cold water has regenerative properties that can help your muscles relax and repair after a tough workout (Lindberg, S. 2023).

Keep moving on your rest days

We know rest days are meant for, well, ‘rest’, but the real key to recovery sometimes means getting a bit of light walking in. While it is important to rest up and recover, you can also enhance the recovery process after strenuous activity by going for a light walk, stretching, swimming or doing yoga (Chertoff, J. 2019).

Performing active recovery in the day or two after your rest days can help your muscles recover and is especially beneficial if you’re already experiencing the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (Chertoff, J. 2019).

Active recovery can accelerate the recovery process and can help your body eliminate toxins, reduce lactic acid build-up in muscles, increase blood flow, maintain muscle flexibility and, most importantly, reduce soreness. It is important to listen to your body when deciding how to recover. While active recovery can help you feel less sore and tight, if you’re feeling injured, in pain, or fatigued, forcing yourself to get active on a rest day may worsen your recovery. Sometimes your body just needs rest, so it’s essential to do what feels right for your body.

Add EAAs to your stack

After a gruelling workout, Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) are heavily and rapidly depleted, which ultimately impacts your muscles’ ability to grow and recover. The solution? Add EAAs to your supplement regime!

Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) are beneficial in helping you to maximise performance, recovery and all-round well-being. BCAAs may be effective in beginning the process of protein synthesis. However, adequate levels of all nine essential amino acids are required to complete protein synthesis.

If you’re looking to add amino acids to your stack, we’ve got you covered.

Consume protein after training

If you’re into the health and fitness scene, you likely won’t be a stranger to the benefits of protein powder for improving post-workout muscle recovery.

Exercise causes micro-tears in muscle fibres, which results in sore muscles. Supplementing with a quality protein source helps fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to help rebuild the muscle broken down during your training. Protein also plays a vital role in helping to restore some of the glycogen used during your workout, particularly when combined with carbs.

Want the best protein to fuel your recovery? We’ve got you covered with a comprehensive range of protein powders that can support your dietary and training goals.

Stay hydrated

While many of us understand the importance of keeping hydrated during our workout, very few of us realise that it is equally important during the post-workout recovery phase.

Did you know that your muscles consist of 75% water? From helping to digest vital nutrients to repairing the muscles damaged during an intense training session, water plays a significant role in all functions of the body and is particularly important when it comes to recovery.

Additionally, water is required to transport nutrients to your cells, excrete waste from your body, and help form the structures of protein and glycogen. If your body is dehydrated, it means your muscles aren’t receiving the electrolytes they require to function optimally, which will result in cramping. Optimal performance, results and recovery are dependent on hydration.

The Bottom Line

Recovery is important but often overlooked. Don’t waste those hard sessions at the gym by squandering your recovery. Take time, try the techniques above and do what works best for you.

If you are shopping for the right supplements to support your recovery or would like more advice on improving how you recover after training, our dedicated team are always eager to help.

At ASN, we have a comprehensive range of protein powders, amino acids and recovery supplements to help you get the best out of every workout. Just visit us in-store or reach out online for more help finding the right ones.

References

Mayo Clinic. 2021, ‘Aerobic exercise: How to warm up and cool down’, Mayo Clinic, accessed 20 April 2023, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20045517

Disc. ‘Benefits of Stretching after Workouts’, Disc, accessed 20 April 2023, https://www.disc-me.com/benefits-of-stretching-after-workouts/

Australian Fitness Academy. 2019, ‘7 Foam Roller Exercises for Recovery’, Australian Fitness Academy, accessed 20 April 2023, https://www.fitnesseducation.edu.au/blog/health/7-foam-roller-exercises-for-recovery/#:~:text=Foam%20rolling%20can%20be%20an,of%20tightness%20before%20a%20workout.

Lindberg, S. 2023, ‘Cold Showers vs. Hot Showers: Which One Is Better?’ Healthline, accessed 20 April 2023, https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-shower-vs-hot-shower#:~:text=Cold%20showers%20help%20reduce%20muscle,repair%20after%20a%20tough%20workout.

Chertoff, J. 2019, ‘What You Need to Know About Active Recovery Exercise’, Healthline, accessed 20 April 2023, https://www.healthline.com/health/active-recovery