10 Ways to Boost Your Post-Workout Recovery for Better Results
"Planning for your recovery is just as important as your workout routine," explains certified strength and conditioning specialist Robbie Davis, fitness advisor to Hyperice, a company that specializes in making performance-enhancing devices for athletes. "It's more than just resting after a hard training session, recovery needs to be purposeful."
Here are 10 ways to recover with purpose. The result: the workout results you want.
1. Spread Out Your Protein Intake
2. Cozy Up to Myofascial Release
Myo-what? Myofascial release refers to the application of pressure to the connective tissue surrounding your muscles, explains Davis. In addition to increasing flexibility, this form of treatment reduces post-workout muscle soreness, improves recovery and boosts subsequent exercise performance, according to 2015 research published in the Journal of Athletic Training. Your best bet: Follow a recovery routine that combines both foam rolling and massage, he recommends.
3. Get Your Five-a-Day
"Eating lots of fruits and vegetables helps arm your body with an array of antioxidants, which can help with dampening the oxidative stress that naturally occurs with exercise," Fear says. "Don't turn to supplements, though. They don't contain the balance of many different compounds found in whole foods and can easily give you too much of certain vitamins. Too much vitamin C, for example, has been shown to decrease mitochondrial biogenesis [the growth of your muscle cells' microscopic power plants] and caused decreased response to your training."
4. Go to Bed Early
Think of sleep as your body's ultimate recovery. "While sleeping, your body performs protein synthesis, incorporating protein into your muscles to strengthen them, while balancing your hormone levels, says certified personal trainer Lisa Niren, an instructor at CycleBar and Cityrow in New York City. If you have trouble getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night, she recommends trying to fit in a midday nap. Every little bit helps
5. Opt for Dairy as a Nighttime Snack
Speaking of sleep, if you find yourself craving a bedtime snack, opt for some dairy like Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, which are both rich in slow-digesting casein protein. While you sleep, your body is fasting, but the right nutrients can keep your body fed with the nutrients it needs all night long, Niren says. Research published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise suggests that consuming casein immediately before bed can increase your levels of circulating amino acids and your rate of muscle protein synthesis, clear until morning.
6. Check Your D Levels
While findings published in Nutrition Research show that close to half of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, levels tend to drop even further in the winter due to dark days and minimal time spent outside. However, too-low levels of vitamin D can impede exercise recovery, according to a 2015 comprehensive Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition review. Have your doctor run a simple blood test to ensure your levels are where they need to be.
7. Drink More Water
Hydration is important to more than workout performance – it's vital to recovery. "Staying hydrated before, during and after your workouts promotes glycogen synthesis [a process by which your body repletes its energy stores] and helps your body maintain proper temperature in order to mediate tissue breakdown, says Fear. The Institute of Medicine recommends drinking about 11 8-ounce glasses of water per day. In addition, try to get in about 8 ounces every 15 minutes during intense exercise.
8. Get Hot … and Cold
"Both heat and cold are beneficial for proper recovery," Davis says. "Cryotherapy, or cold therapy, is often used to treat swelling, pain and muscle spasms as a means of speeding up recovery time. Meanwhile, thermotherapy, or heat therapy, is effective for both warm-up and recovery. By increasing blood flow to stiff muscles, heat loosens up the body prior to working out as well as relieves sore muscles to speed up recovery afterward." Hot and cold baths can help.
9. Cut Back on Booze
"Excessive intake of alcoholic drinks, especially immediately following workouts, has been known to hinder the body's ability to properly recover after a workout," Niren says. For instance, one 2014 PLoS One study found that consuming the equivalent of about seven beers significantly suppressed participants' muscle protein synthesis – even if they drank after loading up on dietary protein.
10. Just Rest!
"Resting your muscles is the best way to let them recover and rebuild," Niren says. In fact, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that how much you rest after exercise is directly linked to your strength and cardio gains. "I recommend taking at least one active recovery and one full rest day per week," she says. "However, if performance is diminishing from one day to the next, it's time to increase the rest days even further."
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