Push Your Workout Barrier, Don’t Destroy it!
Pushing beyond your limits is a good thing, but just how far should you push? Focus on working the muscle enough to create the stimulus for muscle growth, but not to the point of destroying it so your muscles hurts for days. Always aim to progress at each workout but listen to your body and don’t push it if you feel fatigued or past the point of optimal training. Definitely stop as soon as your form starts to break down. Always “leave one rep/step in the tank.” Push yourself but not to total failure.
Optimize Your Peri-Workout Nutrition
The foods you eat before a workout can also play an important role in pre-empting the tissue-rebuilding process once the workout is over.
Digestion is a lengthy process- proteins and carbs that you ingest prior to the workout will still be circulating in the body afterward, so choose wisely. Make sure you get high-quality, lean protein along with some complex carbohydrates, especially if you plan on an intense workout. I recommend consuming your meals roughly two hours prior to your workout to avoid digestive issues or cramps.
In addition to eating near your workouts, there have been substantial reported benefits of taking BCAAs before and during a workout, as well.
Your post-workout meal is your most important meal is important but actually not as important as your pre-workout nutrition.
Including carbohydrates in your post-workout meal decreases muscle protein breakdown.
A meal containing both carbohydrates and protein is significantly more effective at replenishing muscle glycogen stores than an equivalent caloric meal consisting of carbohydrates alone.
When comparing active recovery to both passive recovery and stretching, active recovery was the most effective recovery method after exercise. Active recovery uses light resistance exercise to increase blood flow and nutrients to muscles post-exercise.
It also removes waste products that can hinder muscle recovery. Active recovery exercises are activities like walking, light biking, yoga, swimming, or any other low-intensity exercise.
Massage/Soft Tissue Therapy
The effects of massage on muscle recovery have been inconclusive. However, many studies have shown that using sports massage to improve recovery can be an effective way to aid recovery and performance after exercise. At the very least, the symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can be mitigated through massage. Myo-fascial release techniques and foam rolling are also beneficial post-workout to improve circulation and minimize post-workout soreness.
We know that a lack of sleep can cause weight gain and other negative effects on your health. It can also inhibit muscle recovery by causing negative changes to feeding behavior and glucose metabolism, and by causing an increase in cortisol and a reduction in testosterone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). All of these can lead to a decrease in protein synthesis, which can hinder muscle recovery.
Appropriate Protein Intake
A protein intake of 1 gram/kg up to 2g/kg of body mass is better at maintaining muscle mass. Protein intake is important for more than just building muscle. If you’re a highly active individual, or you have a low carbohydrate intake, your protein demands will be higher.
Proper hydration makes every function in the body more efficient. Your muscle is about 75% composed of water. Shoot for half your bodyweight in ounces a day; a gallon a day is a good estimate.
Glutamine is one of the most important amino acids, which serves as a building block for protein. Glutamine can increase muscle cell hydration and aid in protein synthesis. Since it is produced naturally in the body, glutamine levels are depleted when you exercise. Therefore you should take a 5-10 mg of glutamine (pill or powder supplement form) right after you workout.
Take Fish Oil
Besides the immense benefits of fish oil for the heart, it is also ideal for muscle recovery. Fish oil helps to reduce inflammation, which fights off the soreness you may feel a day or two after you exercise.
Every 8-12 weeks you should be looking to take some time off from intense physical activity to allow accumulated fatigue to dissipate. Whether this comes in the form of passive recovery (doing nothing) or active recovery using lighter loads is up to you.
The amount of time you should take off is variable. However, a period of one week should be sufficient to provide enough time to fully repair muscles and recover your central nervous system.
Many people do a warmup, but how many of them put the same focus on their cool-down? A 15 minute active cool-down plays an important role in muscle recovery. A cool-down more effectively returns your heart rate to normal and removes lactic acid waste – which in turn provides for a more rapid recovery.
Contrast Water Therapy
Contrast water therapy is effective in reducing and improving the recovery of functional deficiencies that result from delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Contrast water therapy is a recovery treatment consisting of alternating immersions in both hot and cold water.
The idea is that this process helps with the inflammation that results from exercise, which effectively leads to the restoration of strength and power of the trained muscle. Studies are mixed on this but if it helps give it a shot!