Why is muscle recovery so important? It lets you work out again sooner and with less of an injury risk. That means you can get in more workouts, work harder, and see better results. How fast and well your muscles recover is largely up to you and choices such as nutrition, rest, and healthy lifestyle. Here are some proven tips to maximize post-workout muscle recovery.
The Need to Maximize Post-Workout Muscle Recovery
A hard workout is one thing, but keeping up with your workouts is the way to hit your fitness and weight loss goals. When you work out hard, you push your muscles past their limit. That leads to microtears, which you may feel as soreness. Tears need to heal as your muscles adapt to the demands of the workout. You can also deplete fuel stores in your muscles, and you won’t be able to perform optimally again until muscles are fully replenished.
Be Aware of Protein and Supporting Nutrients
Nutrients fuel muscles, but there’s more to the story. Your muscles need certain nutrients to recover fully, including to repair themselves and adapt to the demands of your workout.
Supplements for Muscle Recovery
There are some very specific compounds that can support muscle recovery and growth.* Creatine is often used to promote muscle function and improve your ability to push yourself during a workout. It can come in supplements such as Liposomal Creatine Powder and BSN Cell-Mass 2.0, which has glutamine, creatine, and amino acids and comes in Berry and Watermelon-flavored powders.
Branch chain amino acids, or BCAAs, are specific amino acids that your muscles can use for fuel and recovery. Scivation Xtend BCAAs are sugar-free and come in these flavors and sizes.
- Blue Raspberry Ice, 30 servings
- Glacial Grape, 30 servings
- Lemon Lime Squeeze, 30 servings
- Mango Madness, 30 servings
- Smash Apple, 30 servings
- Strawberry Kiwi Splash, 30 servings
- Watermelon Explosion, 30 servings
- Blue Raspberry Ice, 90 servings
- Italian Blood Orange, 90 servings
You can also consider HMB Powder. Beta-Hydroxy B-Methylbutyrate is a breakdown product of leucine, which is one of the BCAAs.
Snack Smart After Workouts
Protein is definitely essential for muscle function and recovery. Protein Shakes, Protein Bars, and Protein Snacks can all be easy, portable sources of protein to keep in your gym back or kitchen for muscle recovery.
But guess what: it’s not all about the protein. Many people believe that a low-carb protein snack is best after a workout, but that’s not true. That’s because your muscles use carbohydrates as source of energy. The carbs are in the form of glycogen, and a hard workout can deplete glycogen in your muscles. What’s more is that right after a workout, you have an hour-long window to optimally restock muscles with glycogen.
It’s best to have a ratio of 3 to 4 grams of carbs per gram of protein after a workout. Some examples of post-workout snacks with carbs and protein include the following.
- Half of a whole-grain English muffin with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
- ½ cup of cottage cheese with 1 cup of cut melon
- 1 banana and 1 string cheese stick
- Small baked potato with lean ground turkey
- ½ cup of beans with 1 ounce of melted cheese
Ice and Heat Can Support Muscle Recovery
Temperature changes are among the simplest and longest-used methods of supporting muscle healing and recovery. You can try any of the following.
- Alternating cold and hot water in a bathtub while submerging the muscles that you worked hard.
- Taking an ice bath, which you can do at home using a bag of ice in cold water in your bathtub.
- Signing up for sessions at cryotherapy facilities that are dedicated to cold therapy for muscle recovery.
- Alternating heating pads with cold packs can help you target specific muscles.
Changes in temperature can reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to your muscles.
Decrease Soreness with Massages
Massages can increase blood flow to muscles to stimulate healing, and massages can help reduce soreness. Professional massages are nice, but they’re not always realistic on a regular basis. Home devices, such as a foam roller, massage stick, massage gun, or massage ball, can be invaluable.
Rest Well for Muscle Recovery
Resting is crucial for post-workout muscle recovery. That might involve going easy for a couple of days, or even taking a day off, after a hard workout. You can also work a different muscle group on the day you’re letting sore muscles rest.
Getting adequate sleep is another way to let muscles recover optimally. While you’re sleeping is when a good amount of the muscle magic happens.
Some well-timed nutrition can help you double up on your overnight efforts to let muscles recover. Universal Nutrition Animal PM Recovery packets, for example, are designed to be taken at night. They have essential nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin B6, and zinc, for example, which are needed for normal mood and relaxation.* They also have sleep and relaxation-related compounds such as GABA, chamomile, valerian, hops, and L-theanine.*
What to Limit to Speed Muscle Recovery
It’s not all about what you do or take. Sometimes, what you choose to avoid is just as important, or more important, for muscle recovery and health. Not surprisingly, you may feel better if you limit or avoid alcohol while you’re training hard. Avoiding tobacco is also a good idea.
If you want to maximize the effectiveness of your workouts, you need to support muscle recovery. That way, your muscles will be more likely to adapt to the demands of your workout, and they’ll be ready to work hard again sooner. Good nutrition, adequate rest, ice and heat, massaging, and smart lifestyle choices can all help maximize post-workout muscle recovery so you can keep working out and getting great results.
*The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated these statements. Netrition products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Anyone with a medical condition should seek the advice of a licensed medical practitioner. Individual results may vary.