Did you know that you cannot just workout out every single day? Constantly working out at full power can actually make you weaker. If you want to get stronger, you will need to take breaks too! While many professional athletes work out each day, they follow particular protocols and address different facets of fitness and muscle groups on a patterned basis.
Why Is Muscle Recovery Important?
Generally, during workouts, microtears may be created in the muscles engaged in activity, especially with weight training exercises. Exercise causes signals to the genes that trigger formation of certain proteins; it takes time for the body to make these. The repairs of microtears are traditionally thought to be what strengthen the muscles. If these microtears are ignored and not allowed proper recovery, the muscles will be susceptible to failure and degradation. This scenario is called overtraining which leads to increased cortisol levels that can lead to symptoms of stress, muscle breakdown, and adrenal fatigue. However, most strength and endurance gains actually come from changes in hormones, the mitochondria and the particular proteins that are made or not made in response to exercise. Microtears, it turns out, are less important.
The energy inside the muscles, glycogen, is also depleted during a workout. Without recovery time, glycogen levels will stay depleted resulting in muscle fatigue and increased risk of injury.
Without proper muscle recovery breaks, the body can actually become weaker! The recovery period allows for the proteins that are needed for the strength and endurance gains to be manufactured.
How Long Does Muscle Recovery Take?
The amount of time required for muscle recovery depends on the intensity of a workout including the weight load and energy expended. Age, fitness level, nutrition, sleep, and stress of an individual will also affect how quickly muscles recover.
At least 24 hours of rest between high-intensity workouts is recommended. For hypertrophy of muscle, this is longer - up to 3 or 4 days. There is a great deal of variability here that depends on your current fitness level and your goals for training. It is important to discuss this with your personal trainer, physical therapist, trainer or physician.
Can You Work Out While Sore?
Depending on where you are in your fitness journey, pushing through some soreness may be beneficial. Usually, second-day soreness should be a good indicator that a break is needed.
If you are not sure if your soreness is too much you should ask yourself the following questions to determine if you should proceed with your workout:
- Is there any swelling?
- Do I have motion in all of my joints?
- Is a part of my body overcompensating for others?
- Am I dreading this workout?
If the answer is yes to any of those questions, the best course of action would be to take a recovery day or two.
Another self-administered test would be the carbon dioxide tolerance test. We can discuss this in another blog.
How To Speed Up Recovery Time
Rest days do not have to be completely inactive.
You can perform active recovery exercises, which are low-intensity exercises like walking, yoga, stretching, and swimming.
Proper nutrition and hydration provide the body with an ideal cocktail of nutrients and minerals the body needs to repair muscle.
Pre- and post-workout exercises will prepare the body for the stresses exerted during a workout as well as jump-start the recovery process. Your cardiovascular gets a head start with pre-workout stretches and will ease back to normal during post-workout stretches. Heat and cold therapy might be applied for recovery as well.