No matter how many hours you put in at the gym, your body will always spend more time in recovery. For example, let’s say you spend at least one hour training every day. Your body will have about 161 hours a week to rest and muscle recovery. What you do with your recovery period can greatly influence your workouts and help maximize your performance the next time you hit the gym. Creating an efficient muscle recovery plan requires focusing on more than just muscle repair but also chemical and hormonal balance, nervous system repair and mental state. These ten easy tips will help you prepare for recovery and enhance your overall performance in the gym.
1. Muscle recovery requires sleep.Lack of sleep has a number of effects on the body, including reduced tolerance to training and muscle recovery. Hormonal secretions that occur during sleep are incredibly important to muscle repair. The release of anabolic hormones that work to build muscle in the body increases during sleep. Broken or shortened sleep will negatively effect the release cycle of these hormones. To avoid this create a regular sleep routine and try to sleep between seven and ten hours a night.
2. Eat clean and nutritious meals.Eating clean and balanced meals is essential to improving performance in the gym and during recovery. Avoiding processed foods and alcohol can enhance your muscle recovery tremendously. Drafting a weekly meal plan and shopping ahead can help you avoid choosing unhealthy options and avoid slow muscle repair. Try having nutritious snacks available in your home and meals prepped in advance, that way eating healthy can be easier and muscle recovery quicker.
3. Stay hydrated.Monitoring your water intake is one of the major keys to improving muscle recovery. Water is one of the body’s most essential nutrients because of its influence on almost every bodily function. Increasing your water intake can positively influence nutrient uptake, improve skin tone, lower stress on the heart and even strengthen hair. The quickest way to check your hydration levels is to look at your pee. The darker your urine is the less hydrated you are and the more water you should be drinking. Try drinking between 2 to 3 liters of water a day, and avoiding sports drinks outside of workouts.
4. Load up on protein.Consuming an adequate amount of protein helps the body rebuild tissue and supplies your cells with the building blocks they need to repair your muscles. The amount of protein you should eat depends on the amount of time you dedicate to training each week. Recommendations range between 1.0 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. You can meet these guidelines by eating pre and post workout snack that are protein heavy. A protein smoothie or protein filled meal will help ensure that your muscles have the ingredients they need to keep building.
5. Maintain good posture.Most Americans spend the majority of their day sitting at a desk or in a chair. Sitting for an extended period of time can lead to bad posture, which negatively impacts the body’s muscles. Unwanted pain, stiffness or soreness are just some of the side effects that can be expected from bad posture. Try using a chair that offers ergonomic support or place a foam roller behind your back in a chair to force good posture.
6. Use heat and ice compresses.There’s been a long debate over whether heat or ice is better for muscle soreness so you might be surprised to find both have extensive benefits and aid in muscle recovery. A cold compress after a heavy workout has been proven to numb pain and narrow blood vessels, which helps to limit swelling. Heat, however, has the opposite effect. When applied after swelling subsides a heat compress will increase blood flow and aid in muscle recovery and reconstruction. Try using either a hot or cold compress in a cycle of ten minutes on and ten minutes off for as long as needed.
7. Loosen up tough spots using a foam roller.For years foam rollers have been used regularly by therapists, athletes and bodybuilders to relieve muscle soreness and aid in recovery. Foam rollers help release muscle tightness and loosen up trigger points across the body. Applying pressure using foam rollers will help your muscles return to their normal range and reduce soreness after your next workout. Try grabbing a foam roller to massage those tight areas after a tough workout.
8. Stretch regularly.Flexibility is an incredibly important skill that helps you remain pain free after a workout. Stretching increases flexibility and aids muscle recovery by increasing motion and blood flow throughout the body. Try including dynamic stretching in your warm ups and implementing static stretching following your workout. Mix up your stretches and throw in new ones so your body doesn’t get used to specific motions. You can also try out a yoga class to learn some new stretches.
9. Schedule down weeks into your plan.Your recovery process should be planned effectively and implemented safely along you’re your exercise regimen. Working out too frequently can lead to a lack of rest for your muscles and a condition know as under-recovery. Fatigued muscles can negatively impact training and cause you to underperform and feel more pain from your workouts. Every 3 to 5 weeks you should include a recovery week into training regimen. During this week reduce your load by half in the gym and perform half the number of reps.
10. Manage your stress levels.Stress has a large impact on both mental and physical health. Individuals suffering from an excessive amount of stress have been known to see declined immune function, increased illness and injury. All of these factors impact recovery and can lead to increased muscle soreness. Try to remain stress free during training by introducing hobbies or activities into your life that leave you stress free leading up to your workout.
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