Overlooked Essentials: 8 Tactics To Maximise Your Workout Recovery

By February 13, 2016Tips & Tricks
Workout recovery

Every hardcore workout will require a solid recovery period. 

People understand bodybuilding is a strenuous activity that requires an enormous amount of energy and effort to ensure results are achieved. But what most individuals don’t realise is that pumping a hard training session in the gym only equates to half, if not less of the whole equation that represents muscle growth. It is the fundamentals that people often neglect that prevent them from maximizing progress, one of which is providing their body with sufficient rest.

Let’s look at some things you can do to help accelerate your workout recovery!

Understanding Rest

More is better” might be a true statement for some aspects of your life, but for bodybuilding and many other sports, it’s far from correct. This is because more work means less rest, less rest means less recovery, and poor recovery means poor results, or in some cases, none at all. Therefore, no matter how determined or how hard you train, you will never get the results you want if you fail to provide your body with sufficient rest.

Workout recovery - WBFF Pro Muscle Model - Marko Djordjic

WBFF Pro Muscle Model – Marko Djordjic

When you train you may think you are growing, but that is simply not true. It’s what you do after a workout that determines how much you grow. When you give your body a rest day, the benefits are everything an athlete could ask for. Your muscles repair, you gain strength, your central nervous system recovers, joints take a break, practically every that occurs contributes to your development and recovery.

As you can see, rest is essential, yet there are so many people who underestimate the recovery process. Instead, they continuously train, pushing their body past its physical limits and disregard the consequences. Don’t get me wrong, the merit is there, but exhausting your body day after day without adequate recovery is not the correct way to progress. Bear in mind, resting is not just for your muscles. In fact, your muscles recover rather quickly. It is the rest of the body that requires the break the most.

To paint a picture, when you train for consecutive days, your body continuously breaks down, and your psychological and physiological energy begins to fade; weakening even the strongest of athletes. In order to prevent this depleted of energy from building, you have to rest and provide your body with a break so that it’s able to go back to 100% and promote an environment where it can efficiently develop.

So what’s the right way to recover ?

Methods That Promote Your Workout Recovery

1. Sleep

Sleeping without a doubt is one of the most important things you can do to repair your body. When you are sleeping, your body is extremely anabolic. Meaning, your body is focused on rebuilding and growing everything in your body.

Studies have also manifested that over 50% of your human growth hormone is secreted during your sleep alone. For those that are unaware, HGH is an anabolic hormone which is essential not only for grow and repair, but also fat loss. Not only that, but when you are sleep deprived, it instigates a change in your hormone levels. This alone sets off a domino reaction that decreases your body’s ability to function, and, of course, this includes muscle repair.

To break it down, a lack of sleep causes an increase in levels of cortisol (stress hormone). An elevation in cortisol is directly correlated to a decrease in testosterone production, human growth hormones and on top of that – a dwindling rate of glycolysis; the body’s primary system for energy production. As a result, you should always aim for at least five full cycles of sleep. For an average person, this is equivalent to 7 and a half hours of sleep each night. Quite little compared to the 9 or 10 hours professional athletes are advised to sleep for!

Workout recovery - Person in bed sleeping with one arm outside blanket

Professional athletes are advised to sleep an excess of 8 hours to hasten the recovery process.

2. Taking a Nap

If you are sleep deprived or feel tired after a vigorous workout that mind you is highly common for individuals who have just begun training or are adjusting to a new routine. Then don’t be afraid to take a nap.

Research has concluded by taking a nap between 20 minutes to 2 hours can provide significant dividends for your body. Your brain will be more alert, an additional batch of growth hormones can be secreted (if you sleep for around an hour and a half) and you will have more energy to pound through the rest of day.

3. Eating Right

For muscle cells to heal efficiently, you must provide your body with adequate nutrition. This is especially crucial during post-workout, the period where your body is most sensitive to nutrients. Since your body will be severely depleted of energy after the vigorous workout, the foods you eat during the first few meals post workout will go straight towards your workout recovery instead of becoming stored as fat.

What you want to incorporate are foods dense in protein and carbohydrates. The carbohydrates will go towards replenishing muscle glycogen and providing you energy for the next day. While the protein will kick start protein synthesis and begin the extensive process of muscle growth and repair.

With that said, do not neglect other meals throughout the day. It is essential that athletes eat protein throughout the day to continually promote protein synthesis; while fats and carbohydrates will vary depending on the individuals goals and dietary regime.  If you are having trouble creating your own diet, here is a step by step process of how to create a caloric surplus of deficit diet. While for the advanced lifters, try diets such as carb backloading or carb cycling.

4. Stay Hydrated

Water is a component used for all our body’s biological functions, from processing nutrition to minimising stress. And since we sweat and lose a large quantity of water during any vigorous exercise, it is essential to rehydrate your body immediately. The easiest way to check whether you are hydrated or not is to look at your urine. A clear to pale, yellow stream will indicate you are hydrated, while dark and pungent urine implies you need more fluids. And don’t feel you’re locked into only drinking water. Some great alternatives are coconut water and popular sports drinks such as Gatorade.

5. Stretching

Stretching has many perks. It increases blood circulation accelerating the supply of nutrients to your muscles, decreases waste products including lactic acid, and reduces stress and soreness from your muscles. An ideal time to stretch is after a workout, not before.

6. Cold Baths

Although having a cold bath may seem daunting and is probably the last thing on your to do list after a vigorous workout, it can provide huge advantages to athletes by accelerating the workout recovery process. When you sit in an ice bath, the cold water immediately begins to tighten your blood vessels. As a result, your body flushes out wasteful toxins that accumulated during the workout – the most common being lactic acid. Not only that, when you get out of the bath and begin to warm yourself back up, new oxygen begins to disperse throughout your body, another factor that induces a quicker recovery process. Though more studies needed to be conducted, it has suggested that cold baths also contribute to an increase in testosterone.

Workout recovery - Leave your ego at the door. Athlete - Steven Wong

Leave your ego at the door. Athlete – Steven Wong

7. Massages

Similar to cold baths, massages help dilate blood vessels and promote blood circulation. Results from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging at McMaster University portrayed that massages also promote growth of mitochondria and energy producing cells. To clarify, this means massages aid in pain relief as well as building muscles and helping them recover faster.

8. Foam Roller

The foam roller has been not only a great tool for bodybuilders but also a vast number of athletes from a variety of fields. The benefits of using a foam roller include an increase in the range of motion, acceleration in any workout recovery, and a reduction in stress for the manipulated muscle group. Foam rollers are very handy as it can take to as little as 1 to 2 minutes to target the desired muscle each day.Determine if you’re Over-Training or Under-recovering

When you’re over-trained or under-recovered there are symptoms and traits your body manifests that indicate you are pushing yourself too much. Some of these include:

  • Being frequently sick
  • A consistent feeling of fatigue
  • Little to no development
  • A decrease in appetite

All in All

If you want to build muscle efficiently, you must always provide for sufficient rest in your routine. As a general guideline, if you eat an adequate amount of food while providing your body with at least a day or two of rest each week, your body will be able to recover.

To ensure that your body is recovering at an optimal rate, use one or even a few of the methods above to accelerate your rate of recovery. Remember, it is not just your muscles that need to recover but also your central nervous system and joints as well!

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