Yes, exercise is essential for muscle growth but it’s not the only thing that is essential. Equally as important as the movement and resistance is the recovery and all the steps involved. The opportunity for muscle growth begins the moment you stop lifting, and that growth can’t happen without proper recovery protocol. Your workout in the gym is merely a step towards getting your muscles to a point to where they can regrow into muscle. When you lift heavy, muscles suffer microtears and are actually broken down via a process called catabolism. Immediately after you lift, your body begins repairs, so you need to let it repair. This is why rest days and proper recovery following workouts are essential.
Take these tips seriously in order to maximize recovery, stay on top of your game, and ensure maximum gains.
Stretch it, massage it
You should always, always allot time for pre and post workout self-muscle massaging and stretching. Everything connects. If you begin to have problems with your hips, you’ll likely start feeling pain in your shoulders as well. If you take the time stretch your joints, ligaments, and muscles, you will be less prone to injury. This is massively essential in order to fully reap the benefits of your workouts and recovery.
Incorporate balance work
Gaining strength in balance allows your body to sync up with all of the movement you just completed and soak up the nutrients. Do a quick yoga flow post workout to let your body calm down and really accept the changes going on in your muscles. This is super detoxing and refreshing.
Get Serious About Pre-Workout Nutrition
This cannot be neglected. Just because you are working out does not automatically mean you are healthy. It’s important to understand that the foods you eat after your workout and throughout the day factor into the quality of your recovery. The foods you eat before a workout also play an important role in pre-empting the tissue-rebuilding process once the workout is over.
It’s best to consumer meals at least two hours before your workout so that digestion can do its thing before you get into a workout. Include a substantial amount of healthy, natural protein and carbs. Digestion is a lengthy process; proteins and carbs that you ingest prior to the workout will still be circulating in the body afterward. For this reason, choose your foods wisely. Make sure you get high-quality, lean protein along with some complex carbohydrates.
Don’t Skip The Stretching
Did we already mention something about this? It’s that important. Stretching is extremely underrated but an extremely important aspect of recovery and muscle growth. If you skip on on necessary flexibility and muscle pliability, you are shorting yourself on muscular gains in many compound lifts. For example, when your ankles are tight, you are unable to go as deep into a squat as needed to get the maximum benefits.
Stretching not only relieves muscular tension but it also helps dissipate future pain from soreness. Stretching does so much more than aid in muscle recovery. In fact, “prolonged stretching with moderate exercise and diet control will reduce cholesterol and significantly reverse hardening of the arteries,” notes Barbara Bolotte, IFBB pro.
Focus On Quality Sleep
This has been repeated time and time again but that is because it has to be because it’s that important. It’s still all too common to hear how many people get less than six hours of sleep. Sleeping isn’t something to take lightly. This is your recharging time. Just like food or water, it is absolutely essential for survival. Stressing this, think how it can affect your muscle recovery.
Sacrificing hours of sleep over a long period of time can even make you mentally weaker and negatively impact your drive in training sessions. At least seven hours is the ideal target to hit. Athletes may need up to nine hours. Do whatever it takes to get your zzz’s in. Find ways to make changes in your day that will allow you to get to bed earlier.
Do Some Active Recovery
Rest days are just as important as the days you spend in the gym. Rest days give your muscles a hard-earned break from self-inflicted muscle abuse. If you feel up to it, some light movement like walking to the store, an easy bike ride, throwing a Frisbee around, or even doing mobility drills could confer recovery-promoting effects as well. This is known as “active” recovery.
Do what makes *you* feel refreshed
Refresh your body in any healthy way that you love. Combine the tips above in a way that works for you. Have a day at the sauna, clock eight hours of sleep every night, and making sure you are getting all the fruits, veggies, carbs, and protein you need. Make it fun, try new things and make it work for you. It’s your time and your body, make it count.