We have all been there when we leave the gym or finish an intense workout only to spend the next few days aching and in pain. Usually, this is because we didn’t take the time needed to help our muscles recover post-workout.
And whether you are new to the gym scene, or you have been an avid fitness fanatic for some time, it is essential that you take special care and attention when it comes to your muscle recovery.
Muscle recovery is often neglected when individuals set up their personal health enhancement schedules, but without it you will find it much more difficult to achieve the fitness goals you are dreaming of.
So, we have put together this beginner’s guide to muscle recovery which will show you why muscle recovery is so important, and how you can optimize your post-workout regime. But first…
What Exactly is Muscle Recovery?
Many people make the mistake of thinking that once they step out of their training session and head towards the changing rooms, that your muscles have finished working. But in reality, the minute you leave the gym is the time that your muscle’s work is just beginning.
While engaging in regular exercise is an important part of a healthy and active lifestyle, when we engage in intense workouts, such as HIIT, sprinting, or resistance training, it can have a significant impact on our joints and muscles.
And when working out, minuscule tears occur in our muscles, especially during intense workouts, and this leads to muscle soreness and aching in the days following a session. This is part of the hypertrophy process.
Therefore, muscle recovery can be defined as both the process and steps taken to give our muscles the best opportunity to properly recover and repair.
How Long Does Muscle Recovery Usually Take?
There is no set amount of time that it takes for muscles to recover, and recovery time can depend on a range of different factors, including gender, genetics, and training intensity. For example, high intensity training sessions such as HIIT and sprinting can take longer compared to low intensity forms of exercise such as jogging and cardio.
However, on average, muscles usually recover between 24 hours and 72 hours after training. This is why any good trainer or athlete will always schedule in rest days in their workout routine so that their muscles have enough time to recuperate and heal following an intense session.
You can help your muscle recovery along by having muscle recovery equipment you need on hand to ease and soothe your post-workout body and give your muscles the attention and care they need. For example, a foam roller is a great way to include performance enhancing vibration technology into your post-workout session, as it can improve your general muscle health and increase blood flow and oxygen to reduce muscle tightness and soreness.
Why Is Muscle Recovery So Important?
Taking the time to allow for your muscle recovery post-workout session is so important as failing to do so can have significant consequences for both your fitness regime and your long-term health. When you have got the fitness bug and find yourself keen to get into the gym each day to try and beat your personal best, it can be too tempting to skip your rest day.
However, in reality, without making the most of your rest day, your muscles do not have the time to repair any damage, meaning they can’t become stronger. By getting into the habit of enjoying an intense workout, followed by muscle recovery, you will notice your muscles continue to grow and develop so you achieve more in less time in your next workout.
But Don’t You Need to Feel Sore to Get Results?
We’ve all heard of the phrase “no pain, no gain”. Well, for years people believed that if they didn’t ache and feel sore for a few days post-workout that they hadn’t worked hard enough and that it hadn’t been an effective session.
However, as our scientific knowledge has developed, we are now aware that this is far from the truth. Instead, suffering from soreness post-workout without allowing for muscle recovery can cause your body to focus so much on trying to repair the damage done to muscles that they aren’t able to progress and develop.
While it is important to remember that a bit of post-workout soreness is to be expected, especially if you have just started a new exercise program, or added something new into your session, chasing that post-workout soreness without making the time for muscle recovery is not the way to reach your optimal fitness goals.
Instead, the more you push your body and damage your muscles, the less likely you are going to be able to stick to your fitness regime as your muscles or your motivation will give up first.
What Are Some Things I Can Do To Speed Muscle Recovery?
There are many things you can do to speed muscle recovery including ice baths, getting more sleep, foam rolling, et cetera. Also, hydration and nutrition play a big part too. Let’s take a closer look at these two…
You may be surprised to learn that even the simplest of changes to your post-workout routine can make a huge difference to your muscle recovery.
While we all know how important it is to have a bottle of water with us throughout our workouts to keep us hydrated, you shouldn’t ditch your water bottle once you set foot off the treadmill.
Drinking water, and then drinking a whole lot more is not only the key to keeping your energy levels up but is also a key element of easing post-workout soreness and reducing your risk of DOMS.
Research has shown that keeping up your water intake after you step out of the gym helps to minimise muscle soreness due to it speeding up the elimination of toxins from the body.
Focus on Nutrition
When you start a new fitness regime, you are most likely to focus on improving your physical exercise and nutrition. However, there is a lot more to nutrition than simply cutting out the fast food and adding a few salads to your weekly meal plan.
Instead, you can incorporate muscle recovery into the foods that you eat pre- and post-workout which can make all the difference to how much muscle soreness you suffer from, and how long your muscles take to recover.
For example, protein is the backbone of muscle growth and is essential in aiding our body’s ability to repair itself following a workout.
Other foods such as spinach, walnuts, and blueberries and raspberries have anti-inflammatory properties to help ease swollen and small muscles. So be sure to add these food types to your meals wherever possible.
The Bottom Line
By changing your post-workout habits and having muscle recovery equipment on hand, you can easily include muscle recovery into your workout regime and benefit from repaired and stronger muscles to help you achieve your fitness goals.
Decreasing your muscle soreness as quickly as possible will help you get back into the gym faster and take you much further towards achieving your overall health and fitness goals.
Those who skip out on post-workout muscle recovery protocols often hit a plateau or experience full on burnout. All in all, the importance of muscle recovery simply cannot be overlooked.