Protect Your Gains: Why Maximizing Your Rest and Rehab is Best
Those within the fitness community know that in order to build muscle mass you need to lift some iron. But that is only one piece of the muscle-building formula. So what are the other pieces?
In order to allow for the body to grow, or hypertrophy, you must understand that when working out, you are effectively creating microtears in your muscle tissue. Hitting the gym too soon or too hard will not allow this process to fully integrate with healing and subsequent hypertrophy, which will undermine your good gains. So basically, lifting too much too often of the same area with little rest will not get you big.
1. Feed Your Muscles
In order for your body to heal and repair the various microtraumas that are brought on by exercise, you need to balance this by consuming adequate fuel, post-workout. Not only will this help normalize energy levels, but it also feeds and promotes healing to the muscles.
This is accomplished most easily through a protein shake, mixed with some carbohydrates, or a meal, which should lean more in favor of protein over carbs (this can change depending on training).
Every athlete should have a health care team behind them. This ensures you know where to go before your body breaks down—so listen to what your body is telling you!
Foam rolling is an entry-level way to assist in breaking up scar tissue and muscular adhesions brought on through lifting. The benefits include decreased muscular soreness and improved range of motion. Depending on what your workout will be for the day, you may need to roll out and stretch areas that need mobility for a better quality workout.
If foam rolling isn’t keeping up with your workout regimen, then you may need to go up the health care ladder. Massage therapists are great because they get to the deep areas that are often too painful to do on your own.
Our bodies are fantastic machines. While you sleep, your body releases natural human growth hormones (HGH) which are like the midnight road repair guys who work on the interstate. When the traffic is low, they can get a heck of a lot done. Similarly, achieving a quality, uninterrupted night’s sleep will promote accelerated healing and muscle repair.
Consequences of poor sleep (i.e. less than 7-8 hours / night) include fatigue, reduced healing, and poor performance at the gym which will slow down your gains making you have to work even harder.
One consequence of a rigorous workout plan or a heavy lift day can result in delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. This is the dull, achy pain you experience usually 24-48 hours post-workout. To offset the discomfort, taking an ice bath (or water quite cold) by immersing yourself for 5-12 minutes will do the trick by taking the edge off.
A back-up to this more intense regimen can be using an ice pack on the affected area. A good rule of thumb is 10-15 minutes on every hour for 1-2 hours.
5. (Bonus!) Magnesium
It is not always easy to get all your macronutrient needs met throughout the day through traditional food sources, no matter how well-intentioned. Tacking on training and workouts places higher demands on your body which must be satisfied with increased intake of foods.
So why is magnesium important? Magnesium is a co-factor in the energy converting process that helps run our bodies (ATP à ADP + P + 2Mg, for you science guys). When we work out, we utilize a lot of energy to lift weight and move about. Your body normally has adequate supplies, but deficiencies arise, such as those experienced after a workout – meaning your body has nearly exhausted its supply and is craving more.
Satisfying this craving will reduce DOMS by preventing your body from stealing magnesium from other sources in order to help in the muscle repairing process. The best way to get adequate levels of magnesium are through reputable sources of magnesium (food or supplemental form).
The Bottom Line
Those who get the best results are those who are dedicated, determined and listen to their bodies. Feeding your muscles, getting body work done, proper sleep, stretching, foam rolling, icing and taking magnesium will not only maintain your mass, but accelerate good gains – all while reducing muscle soreness. The recipe for protecting your gains has never been easier. What do you do to maximize your muscle gains? Let us know in the comments below!