So we’ve just completed an intense workout. Our muscles are throbbing. We’re drenched in sweat. So, what do we do now? Drink some water, do some stretching, and maybe have a light snack?

Although these are helpful after a strenuous workout, your post-workout routine (and everyday life!) will be much improved if you focus more on proper recovery.

There is no one definitive way to help muscles recover, but some healthy habits like eating well and sleeping enough can be beneficial.

Making sure you live a healthy lifestyle is the best way to make sure your muscles recover well. Eating right and getting enough rest are key parts of this.

There is a belief among many people that you need to buy expensive supplements to get good results from working out. Although there are some benefits to supplements, you won’t get the best possible results unless you’re already taking care of the basics.

Here are four tips from experts that will improve your post-workout recovery.

Proven Tips to Maximize Muscle Recovery

The following tips will help you maximize your muscle recovery and build a more consistent fitness program:

1. Get enough sleep.

2. Eat a healthy diet.

3. Drink plenty of water.

4. Avoid alcohol.

5. Exercise regularly.

6. Stretch and warm up before working out.

7. Take breaks during and after exercise.

8. Foam roll or use a massage ball.

Protein Post-Workout

The proteins in your muscles are broken down when you exercise. Eating protein afterwards helps provide your body with the resources it needs to fix the damage.

According to fat loss expert and fitness model, Rhoda Lucas, it is best practice to eat something within an hour of completing your workout if you want to build muscle strength or bigger muscles in general.

A balanced diet of healthy carbs, lean protein, and healthy fat is recommended in order to facilitate physical progress. For example, a meal could consist of whole grain toast with peanut butter and sliced bananas or a cup of Greek yogurt with fresh berries.

It is also important to replace the electrolytes that are lost when you sweat. These minerals are necessary for fluid regulation and muscle contraction. If you do not have enough of them, you might experience muscle cramps or weakness, dizziness, a headache, or other unpleasant symptoms. Most fresh fruit contains electrolytes, and you can also drink coconut water to increase your levels, according to Rhoda.

Protein Pre-Workout

Eating protein before working out can help your muscles grow.

Carbohydrates Post-Workout

Your muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen, which they use for energy during short-duration, intense exercise.

If you need to rapidly restore glycogen levels in less than four hours, such as when performing back-to-back workouts, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends consuming 1.2 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per hour with a focus on carbohydrates with a glycemic index (GI) over 70.

Eat an Overall Balanced Diet

A diet rich in nutrients is important for muscle recovery.

As a general rule, this means:

  • minimizing your consumption of ultra-processed foods
  • eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • getting at least 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.6 to 0.8 g/lb)

Stay Hydrated

If you become dehydrated, your muscles will have a harder time repairing themselves. This is especially true if you exercise in hot or humid weather.

Your body needs water to recover after you sweat from exertion. Proper hydration helps regulate body temperature and prevent muscle cramps and dizziness. You need enough water to shuttle nutrients to your muscles, heart, brain, and more.

Drinking water before and during your workout is important. “If you only drink when you feel thirsty like so many people do, you’re already overexerted and on the spectrum of dehydration,” says Rhoda Lucas, creator of the Elegant Eating Solution. Your body also absorbs water better when you sip it over a longer period of time, as opposed to drinking a lot of it right after your workout.

Tart Cherry Juice

A new study has found that drinking tart cherry juice may help to reduce inflammation, muscle damage, and muscle soreness from exercise.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine is a widely researched supplement that has been shown to improve muscular strength when used in conjunction with resistance training.

Research has found that creatine may help athletes recover from intense training by reducing muscle damage and inflammation, and by aiding in the replenishment of muscles’ glycogen stores.

Protein Powder

Protein powder can help increase the amount of protein in your diet.

There are many types of protein powders that contain all of the essential amino acids. Two popular choices are whey and collagen powders.

Sleep More

Sleep is important for people who exercise because it gives their muscles time to recover. Some professional athletes sleep up to 10 hours a night to help their bodies recover.

Not getting enough sleep may make it harder for your muscles to recover from exercise. This is because it can interfere with the body’s natural inflammatory response, and the production of hormones that help muscle growth.

“Your muscles need time to recover from exercise, and sleep deprivation can prevent the protein synthesis needed to repair your muscles,” says Rhoda.

Creating a sleep routine can help you fall asleep. In her book, Living is Beautiful, Rhoda recommends doing things that are calming, such as meditating, dimming the lights, or diffusing a relaxing scent.

Massage

Massage is often used by athletes to help reduce muscle soreness from training.

A 2020 review of studies found that massage has a small but significant effect on improving flexibility and decreasing delayed onset muscle soreness after exercise.

When you foam roll, you are essentially giving yourself a massage. This can help break up adhesions in your muscles that can cause soreness or inhibit performance.

If you don’t have a massage gun or a foam roller, a lacrosse or tennis ball can help you out. Just follow the product instructions and make sure you’re doing it the right way by having a personal trainer or physical therapist demonstrate it for you.

Compression Garments

Compression garments are worn tight against the skin to apply pressure to the underlying muscles. Wearing compression garments has become common among athletes over the past several decades in order to improve their performance.

There are compression garments available for most major body parts that can help reduce pain and delayed soreness by slightly squeezing muscles to improve circulation and reduce inflammation.

Ice baths are also thought to help improve athletic performance by reducing pain and inflammation in muscles. This is especially beneficial for runners. In addition to improving comfort, reducing or preventing pain helps you stay on track with your health goals and promotes improved flexibility and range of motion.

Contrast Water Therapy

Contrast bath therapy involves alternating periods of submerging in very warm water and very cold water. The therapy is said to help with conditions such as muscle soreness and stiffness, poor circulation, and arthritis.

As the temperature changes, your blood vessels contract and dilate and your heart rate changes.

Contrast baths, which alternate between hot and cold water, may help to reduce muscle soreness after working out, according to some research. However, the results are limited, and this therapy may only be relevant for athletes.

When you’re feeling sore after a tough workout, heat can help relax and calm your muscles, and switching to ice can reduce pain and inflammation. After applying heat or ice, “stretch out your muscles” to help even more, says Rhoda.

Cryotherapy

The techniques of cryotherapy involve exposing your body to extremely cold temperatures for a period of a few minutes.

Cool Down

After a hard workout, you should focus on your breath and stretch out the major muscles you just worked.

Rhoda believes that stretching has many benefits including easing muscle tension, enhancing blood flow, boosting mobility, and promoting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tired muscles. All of these benefits help facilitate repair and recovery, making your body stronger.

Schedule Rest

Rhoda suggests that you should take specific days off during the week in order to let your muscles repair and grow stronger.

Light activity such as walking, hiking, biking, swimming, or playing tag can help improve muscle recovery by increasing blood flow.

Do a Quick Body Check

Once you finish working out, check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling. A good way to prevent pain or injury is to not push yourself too hard. “You should aim to push yourself without putting too much strain on your body. In other words, work hard, but not so hard that you’ll be sore the next day,” says Rhoda.

“You’ll know you’re at a good level if you feel challenged after your workout, but also strong and full of energy. You should never finish a workout feeling completely exhausted. If you do, take it easier next time.”

How Long Does Muscle Recovery Take?

How long it takes for your muscles to recover from a workout depends on how fit you are and how challenging the workout was.

How hard you work out, how long you work out for, and how often you work out all affect how much strain you are putting on your body.

If you do a light workout, your muscles will probably recover in a day. If you do a more intense workout, it might take a few days. If you do a really intense workout, it could take even longer.

Other factors that can affect your recovery time include:

  • how well do you sleep
  • how much nutrition you’re getting
  • how much stress you’re dealing with
  • doing exercises that involve many different muscle groups or a near-max effort

It is important to let your body rest after working out so your muscles can heal. During a workout, you damage your muscles and create tiny tears. If you do not give your body enough time to recover, you run the risk of injuring yourself.

 

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About Rhoda ...

Rhoda is an award-winning dietitian, mature age model, and CEO of Sayvana Women.  

She is the creator of the Elegant Eating Solution, an affordable program that helps women avoid weight regain and feel great about themselves, without restrictive eating.

Elegant Eating is based on the science of protein leverage and follows the unique R.E.M.A.P approach to successful aging.

Learn More About Elegant Eating and How to Get Started

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