Anyone can go hard in the gym. But if you’re serious about making progress, it’s what you do away from the weights room that really counts.
During training, you’re not building muscle. You’re tearing it down. So if you want to come back stronger the next time around, you need to make sure you’re recovering properly.
Optimising your workout recovery will allow you to get back in training faster, which in turn, will accelerate the rate at which you make progress. If you're training hard but not making progress as fast as you should, I hope this article can help you.
If your muscles feel sore for days after a workout, or you struggle to train multiple days in a row without feeling the effects, then this article is definitely for you.
Here are 5 ways to accelerate your recovery, reduce post workout muscle soreness, and ultimately, become a better athlete than ever before.
#1 - Sleep
If you’ve been reading my articles for any length of time, you’ll probably notice that sleep is a consistent theme throughout them all.
That’s because virtually everything that you do comes back to how well you are sleeping. It's that important.
What does this mean for your training?
In short, if you’re setting your alarm early and missing an hour of sleep to get your workout in, you’re probably not doing your body any favours.
Sleep increases production of testosterone and human growth hormone, which help to build and repair muscle. At the same time, sleep reduces the production of cortisol, a stress hormone which promotes muscle degradation and fat storage. High testosterone + high HGH + low cortisol = optimised recovery.
Usain Bolt sleeps 8 - 10 hours per night, Roger Federer 10 - 11, and Mo Farah up to 14!
Sleep is the most important part of muscle recovery, which is why you won’t find a single elite athlete who compromises on it. And you shouldn't either!
#2 - Nutrition
Remember how we spoke earlier about exercise tearing down our muscle tissue?
Well, it’s the food we eat that repairs it. It goes without saying, therefore, that the greater the quality of food you consume, the greater results you will get from your recovery.
High quality sources of protein are non-negotiable. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are used to build and repair muscle tissue. If you’re training hard, you’ll need around 1.4g – 1.6g protein per kilogram of bodyweight each day to maximise muscle growth and repair.
Carbohydrates are equally important for recovery, as they help to replenish glycogen stores that get depleted during exercise. Healthy carbohydrate sources like sweet potato, white potato, bananas, butternut squash and white rice are excellent choices, especially in your post workout meal. I also recommend eating carbohydrates at dinner, as they assist with melatonin release which promotes healthy sleep.
It’s easy to get sucked into the ‘low carb’ diet trap these days, but as an athlete, this isn’t the right nutrition strategy for you. Regular exercise means that your body demands carbs.
I experimented with low carb dieting myself, and know plenty of others that have too. As a result, our performances all went the same way: down the toilet.
Lastly, you’re also going to want to take steps to reduce inflammation in your body. Inflammation, caused by poor dietary and lifestyle choices, is what causes muscle soreness and joint pain. When we exercise we are creating acute inflammation in the body. To combat this, eat a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods and limit the inflammatory ones. I’ve listed some of the most inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods below:
Factory Farmed Meat
As a general rule, a diet high in omega 3 fatty acids and brightly coloured fruits and vegetables is the optimum diet for reducing inflammation.
#3 - Supplements
Once you’ve got your nutrition dialled in, you can start to look at supplementing to give your recovery an extra boost. These supplements are by no means essential, but here are a few that I typically recommend to high performance athletes:
Protein Powder: Taking a high quality plant based protein powder around your workouts is a great way to kickstart the recovery process and ensure your body has all the amino acids it needs for growth and repair. Combine this with functional superfoods such as turmeric extract and Himalayan salt in PERFORM, and you have an epic recipe for ultimate post workout recovery.
Multi-vitamin: No matter how healthy your diet, it can be very hard to get all the vitamins and minerals we need due to the lack of nutrients found in modern day food. This is why I recommend taking a high quality multi vitamin (derived from 100% natural sources) to cover your back and make up for anything that may be missing in your diet.
Probiotics: Not just for athletes, I’d recommend a probiotic to anyone looking to improve their overall health and vitality. Probiotics are essential for a healthy digestive system, which in turn, improves the rate at which we absorb nutrients from food. Greater nutrient absorption equals faster recovery – making probiotics a game changer for athletes.
Does everyone need a probiotic supplement? Not necessarily. If you eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha on a regular basis, you don’t need to take a supplement. But as most of us don’t, a probiotic supplement is a good way to keep your digestive system healthy all year round.
#4 – Cool down and mobilise muscles
If you come home from training and collapse in a heap on the sofa for the rest of the day, you’re doing it wrong.
Firstly, after your workout, you’re going to want to lower your body temperature. Cold water plunges and ice baths have been used for decades by elite athletes, but simply taking a cold shower will be enough to help reduce muscle soreness for the next day.
Throughout the rest of the day, it’s important to stay active and mobile. Consistent, low level movement is the name of the game here. This will help transport nutrients and oxygen into the muscles, and prevent buildup of lactic acid. Walk more, stretch, and keep your body moving to prevent soreness and tightness the next day.
Finally, for an extra recovery boost, try employing self-massage methods such as foam or tennis ball roll outs. Paying a visit to a sports massage therapist every month or so can help really release the areas of tension you can’t reach yourself.
#5 – Take a salt bath
Lastly, a good Epsom salt bath in the evening is a great way to banish any lingering aches and pains and promote a deep, restorative sleep.
Salt baths are often used by athletes as an extra recovery booster, particularly in between days of hard training.
High quality bath salts provide an excellent source of essential minerals, which absorb through the skin as you soak in the bath. These minerals help to regulate muscle and nerve function, and soothe muscle soreness.
Epsom salts are also renowned for their high magnesium content, making them a great way to get more magnesium into your body if you don’t want to take a supplement.
To make your salt bath, dissolve 250g of salts in warm water (not so hot that you burn your skin) and soak for 15 – 20 minutes. Best in the evening, as it may make you sleepy!
Before I sign off this article, I wanted to throw another point into the mixer: stress. Whilst it’s not a recovery tip per se, it is essential to make sure your stress levels are low if you want to get the most from your workouts. Stress causes inflammation in the body, and as we know, inflammation severely impairs recovery.
So spend time with friends, meditate, walk the dog, or do whatever else you need to do to chill out. You’ll recover faster, perform at a higher level, and be an all-round better person for it.
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