Sore muscles and under recovering sucks. Your workouts are modified, you scale back only to train movements that don’t cause you discomfort, you skip training sessions—it’s not the same as before.
Seeing your physio every other week and using your new massage gun is a sure way to help you feel a little less beat up. However, when you’re as dedicated to your training as you are to everything else in your life, recovering well is super important when it comes down to progressing in your fitness.
Here are 5 ways to make sure you show up as fresh as possible every time you step into the gym, no matter how hard you went the day before:
- Get chilly. Coldwater immersion does reduce inflammation through vasoconstriction by lowering damaged tissue’s temperature and localizing blood flow. Using cold therapy can also help prevent bruising and swelling from waste and fluid build-up one can experience after an intense training session. If you’re finding yourself super sore days after a hard workout, crank the shower nob to the coldest setting for a few minutes right before jumping out and see how you feel afterwards!
- Sleep. There are quite a few people out there that wear sleep deprivation like a badge of honour. We hate to break it to you, but if humans didn’t need sleep, we would have evolved out of it centuries ago. 7 to 9 hours of sleep is a crucial component to proper recovery after a hard gym session. During this restful time, your body shuttles amino acids into cells using insulin to help promote protein synthesis. Your body also releases more growth hormone during a sleep state which is a vital part of muscle building. A few studies have also shown how inadequate sleep leads to inhibiting muscle growth and potentially loss of muscle mass. Keep your gains and prioritize your shut-eye time.
- Water intake. We’re not trying to sound like your mom here, but another simple way to ensure you’re staying on top of your recovery is getting enough water during the day. A sufficient amount of water not only speeds up the recovery of muscles post-training but also helps lubricate your joints. Water is a crucial nutrient in the makeup of the synovial fluid, which helps lubricate your joints and allows for ease of movement. Not enough water means not enough joint protection. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an appropriate amount daily fluid intake is about 15.5 cups (3.7 litres) of fluids a day for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 litres) of fluids a day for women (this is only in the form of water itself, not including water from food and other beverages). If you’re feeling a little achy every time you train, chug chug chug! Get that h2O in you.
- Creatine. There’s always a little bit of muscle breakdown that happens during any training session. By supplementing with creatine, you can reduce that rate and preserve the mass you have by taking a small dose of creatine daily. The direct effects of creatine on healing haven’t been studied, so it makes sense to maintain some skepticism. That said, one 12-week study showed supplementation of 5 to 10 grams per day (that’s a standard dose for athletes) helped to reduce muscle atrophy during 2 weeks of inactivity (1). They also noted enhanced muscle function and hypertrophy.
- Post-training protein. The most important of all!!! Immediately after you train, there’s a process called “protein synthesis” that begins (a fancy way of saying “repairing and building muscle”). 0.2–0.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (g/kg) has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis (2). So, depending on your body weight, the duration and the intensity of your workouts, this number will vary from individual to individual. Recovery always begins the moment your workout ends. Make sure to jump on that protein to maximize the work you just put into the gym!
When it comes to recovery, many of us are quick to jump on anything that gives us immediate relief. While there’s nothing wrong with a little massage gun here and there, being consistent with certain habits as listed above is what will truly make the most significant difference in your recovery and muscle mass retention. Give a few of these a try and make note of which ones give you the best feedback.
Author: Thea Lund