Maximize Your Muscle Growth with these Muscle Recovery Tips
Three key elements are necessary for muscle growth: nutrition, strength training, and recovery. This article will focus on the third and often overlooked recovery aspect of muscle growth.
Each time you hit the weights, small tears develop in your muscle fibers. These tears are what account for the sore, tired feeling you may have after an intense workout or a new type of workout.
Resting for a day or two following an intense workout session will allow your body undergo its natural processes to repair these microscopic tears, essentially adding more mass to your muscles and improving their strength.
Thankfully, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your post-workout recovery times so you don’t have to wait days and days before you’re ready to train again.
Avoid Heavy Lifting Between Workouts
I know this is probably common sense to some people, but if possible, you should avoid heavy lifting in between your workout sessions.
If you have hit your muscles hard, the minimum rest/recovery time before training the same muscle group is 48 hours. That means if you do a leg workout on Monday, don’t train the legs again on Tuesday, wait until at least Wednesday.
It might seem like more is better, but the opposite is true when it comes to muscle recovery. It is while resting that your muscles rebuild and become stronger and larger. Continuously stressing your muscles with weight forces them to tear down even further without giving them a chance to recover. Some people are eager to get back in the gym to pump some more weights, but this will only slow down your progress. As previously stated, both exercise and recovery are necessary to build muscle.
Heavy lifting applies to both workouts and day-to-day activities. Whether it’s hitting the gym or lifting heavy furniture, refrain from these activities until your muscles are ready. Try to plan your workouts so they make sense with the rest of your daily activities. For example, if you know you are helping a friend move their furniture on Saturday, DON’T train legs on Friday. If the move is intense and your legs get very sore and tired, you’ll be best off waiting until Monday to train them again. If the move ends up being lighter than you thought, you could probably get away with training your legs later on Saturday or on Sunday. The bottom line is that you need to structure your workout schedule to give your muscles a break so they can fully recover.
Eat the Right Foods to Support Muscle Recovery
Of course, supplying your body with the right nutrition will also reduce your muscle recovery times. Limit your intake of refined sugars (small amounts of fruit sugar is okay), sodium and saturated fat. When you’re shopping at the grocery store, a good rule of thumb to follow is to stick to the outside. Here, you’ll find all of the fresh vegetables, fruit, meats and bread. The inside aisles of most grocery stores contain highly processed foods and snacks, which offer little to no nutritional value.
Here are some more nutrition tips to help reduce your post-workout recovery time:
- Consume adequate amounts of protein. Too much is pointless and too little will not support muscle recovery
- Fish and chicken are two excellent sources of protein
- Add more color to your meals with red peppers, squash and onions. More color often means more nutrients
- Contrary to what some may believe, carbs are your friend when you’re trying to build muscle mass. Eating adequate amounts of carbs helps shuttle protein to your muscles
- Drink milk for additional protein paired with carbs
- Avoid sugary soft drinks and energy drinks; opt for water and fruit/veggie smoothies
- Nothing beats good old-fashioned H20 when it comes to rehydrating and flushing out wastes
The key to successfully eating healthy meals day after day is to plan them out ahead of time. I recommend hanging a calender on your refrigerator and making a note stating what you’ll eat for lunch and dinner on each day. Make sure you have these necessary ingredients before writing your meals down. Having all of your meals planned out for the week will make the process easier and less time-consuming. Plan your shopping trips to take place on a day when you have enough time to really focus on the task and on prepping some of the food ahead of the time. Also, it is key that you eat BEFORE going grocery shopping. If you go to the store hungry, you will undoubtedly come home with some junk that was definitely NOT on the list.
Get a Massage to Ease Tension and Improve Blood Flow
If your muscles are sore and aching, a light massage may offer some relief. A professional massage therapist can work out some of the tension created by an intense workout, which in turn will reduce recovery times. Increased blood flow due to massage may also help the muscles recover more quickly. It’s important to note, however, that only light to moderate massages will offer this benefit. Opting for an extended deep-tissue massage when your muscles are in the middle of their recovery process following an intense workout could have the opposite effect, actually increasing the tension and tears within your muscles.
Another excellent option is to use a foam roller both before and after your workouts to improve the pliability of and blood flow to your muscles. When you do self-myofascial release with a foam roller, you are getting many of the same benefits of massage without the hefty price tag. Now if you are on a time crunch and need to shave some time off your gym visit, it is better to skip pre-workout to foam roll post-workout.
The Bottom Line
Rest is really the most important factor in recovery, so be patient. Make sure you get plenty of sleep. This is important for everyone, but especially for active people trying to build muscle. Seven hours should be the absolute minimum. Eight or even nine hours of sleep is best during times of muscle recovery. Your rest days don’t have to be sluggish and inactive. Keep moving! Stretching and walking are both great activities to support your muscle recovery. Best of luck to you in your muscle-building quest!
Did we miss any of your favorite ways to speed muscle recovery? Let us know in the comments below!