Insider | Personal Training | Strength Training | General Health and Wellness | Muscle Recovery
Muscle Recovery: Your Secret To Workout Success?
Why is muscle recovery important?
Many experts believe muscle recovery is the single most important part of any strength training, weight training, or exercise program.
Although exercising, in its many forms, is good for your body, your muscles are being assaulted during your workout.
When you exert stress on your muscles, it damages the muscle fibers, causing micro-tears. At the same time, your muscles are producing lactic acid, and it builds up. This build-up, along with the damaged fibers, can lead to painful, sore muscles. If you exercise hard, you’re probably familiar with delayed onset muscle soreness (also referred to as DOMS). But there are ways to eliminate or lessen this outcome by practicing muscle recovery protocols.
Muscle recovery involves allowing your body to heal itself, leading to improved performance and decreasing injury risk. During recovery, these micro-tears that occurred heal and help the muscle fibers rebuild. This, in turn, makes your muscles stronger.
There are many protocols to help your muscles recover faster. Some are essential, while others are optional.
Best Practices for Muscle Recovery
Cooling Down and Stretching
One easy but much overlooked muscle recovery tool is stretching.
Cooldown exercises (such as stretches) can aid in releasing and removing lactic acid, helping to speed up your body's recovery post-workout.
Stretching your muscles correctly while they're still warm not only helps to reduce lactic acid buildup but also reduces your chance of cramps and stiffness and limits the strain on your joints and muscles.
It’s important to do stretches that are right for you and to perform them correctly. Stretching is an invaluable part of muscle recovery, yet it often doesn’t get the attention or time it deserves. If you’re not sure what type of stretching is best for you, a personal trainer can teach you different methods for stretching more effectively.
Stretching and foam rolling are often done together.
Foam rolling (with or without stretching) can have a positive impact on muscle recovery. According to onestudy, 20-minutes of foam rolling on a high-density foam roller immediately after a workout and every 24 hours after that for two more days may reduce the likelihood of muscle tenderness and enhance recovery of DOMS.
As with stretching, learning to use a foam roller correctly and effectively is key. You may want to consider enlisting the help of apersonal trainer to get you started.
Nutrition and Hydration
Protein and Carbs
Protein forms the building blocks of muscles. Numerous studies show that eating sufficient protein can help increase muscle mass and strength.
To gain muscle, your body must synthesize more muscle protein than it breaks down. There needs to be a net positive protein balance in your body — often called nitrogen balance due to the protein being high in nitrogen.
Research suggests that eating approximately 0.4 - 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight, pre, and post-workout, is the proper amount to maximize muscle growth. It’s also recommended to eat a total of 0.9 to 1.1 grams of protein daily.
But don’t forget the carbs. Muscle repair and rebuilding require both protein and carbohydrates. Protein helps restore muscle and build strength. But carbohydrates refurbish the glycogen levels. Glycogen is stored in the muscles and used by the body for energy.
Hydration is vital for muscle recovery. After exercise, the goal is to fully replenish any fluid and electrolytes lost from your workout.
Of course, it’s essential to be adequately hydrated before and during your workout, but it’s just as (or more) important to replenish fluids and electrolytes post-workout This post-workout hydration is often neglected.
Electrolytes, important for muscle health and muscle repair, are lost when you sweat. To speed recovery post-work, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends drinking 23 fluid ounces of water per pound of body weight lost during exercise. Be sure to weigh yourself directly before and directly after your workout to know how much you need to drink.
Your muscles don't grow while you're training. They grow when you’re resting.
Rest and sleep, like stretching, are often discounted activities. Yet, they’re vital for every aspect of your health, including muscle recovery. Your body can’t function properly without adequate restful sleep.
Aim for 7 ½ to 9 hours of sound sleep every night.
Rest also means giving your muscles a break. After exercising a specific muscle group, let those muscles rest for a day or two. This gives your muscles a chance to repair and heal. While resting these particular muscles, you can train different muscles if you want to train on consecutive days.
Besides these tried-and-true muscle recovery protocols, there are other therapies and devices you may want to try.
After exercise, massage therapy, especially deep tissue massage, helps eliminate muscle and facia adhesions caused by lactic acid build-up. It also oxygenates poorly-circulated areas of the body. Both of these actions speed up muscle recovery.
Hydrotherapy, also referred to as hydromassage, available at many Fitness 19 locations, is similar to traditional massage in its purpose. It’s a therapeutic technique used to help massage muscles and other soft tissues in the body. The primary difference is hydrotherapy uses water.
One common method of hydromassage is the use of a hot tub. But there are newer and more sophisticated devices like the Hydromassage loungers available at Fitness 19.
Most hydromassage machines require you to be submerged in water. But there are dry hydromassage loungers that contain the water and jets inside the device. This allows your body to experience the benefits of both heat and pressure while staying dry.
Like other types of massage, it can alleviate post-workout muscle aches and fatigue, increase circulation, improve muscle recovery and more.
Cryotherapy is a term referring to cold therapy. It can range from a simple ice bath or submersion in cold water to a sophisticated nitrogen chamber.
Cold therapy can reduce inflammation— a natural component of exercise and recovery. Reducing inflammation leads to a lower risk of muscle soreness and injury.
Red and Near-infrared Light Therapy
Red and near-infrared (NIR) light therapy involves using an LED device that shines red and NIR wavelengths of light on your skin.
Red and NIR light therapy can be used to speed up muscle healing and recovery from intense training by decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress. It can also increase muscle mass, offer pain relief, and support bone and connective tissue healing from sports-related injuries.
Compression garments, such as sleeves, tights, and tops, are another means of supporting muscle recovery. Compression garments cause accelerated blood flow that provides increased oxygen to the muscles. This, in turn, helps the body get rid of lactic acid and other metabolic waste. Detoxifying and increasing oxygen in the blood minimizes the impacts of DOMS and speeds up the muscle repairing process.
Muscle recovery is an essential part of any exercise program. To get the most out of your workouts, incorporate these important muscle recovery protocols into your exercise routine and try out some of these therapies and devices. Fitness 19 has many recovery tools available to all members, including Hydromassage Loungers and Redlight Therapy, as well as certified Personal Trainers ready to assist and teach proper muscle recovery techniques.