Everyone knows the key to building muscle and getting ripped is working out, plain and simple. However, most people seem to forget the importance of proper recovery. Overtraining, often referred to as the “overtraining syndrome,” poses several dangers and may even halt muscle-building efforts.
According to Mark A. Jenkins, MD, and Caryn Honig, RD, “if sufficient rest is not included in a training program then regeneration cannot occur and performance plateaus.”
Making efforts to ensure proper recovery is just as important as lifting and exercising. Fortunately, there are several great ways to optimize recovery periods.
Get A Massage
Pain and soreness in muscles is often a result of an intense workout and tend to inhibit subsequent peak performance and energy output. Fortunately, there is clinical evidence proving massages do more than provide pain relief and relaxation.
Dr. Mark A. Tarnoposlky, a professor of medicine and pediatrics at McMaster University, participated in a study analyzing massage therapy’s effects on muscle damage. Incisions were performed on both legs of test subject’s quadriceps for biopsies massaging only one of the two legs after an intense workout to compare results. Research shows massaging muscles reduces inflammation and stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis, the process by which glucose is converted into energy.
Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid stored in muscle cells as energy reserves. Creatine is one of the most studied chemicals in the sports industry because it supplies an extra phosphate to enhance ATP production. As a result, creatine storages are depleted after exercise, though not entirely.
Intense anaerobic exercises leave us feeling fatigued, feeble, and drained of energy. A preventative approach to optimize recovery periods is making sure you constantly refuel creatine storage. This makes it possible to recover faster between sets and have sufficient energy for subsequent workouts. Supplementing creatine through meat and fish consumption and sports supplements gives extra energy capacity to go from one workout period to the next without needing to take additional time to recoup strength and fuel.
Hit the Sack
Getting sufficient shut-eye is important for making a quick recovery. The sleep process affects the hormonal metabolic process and “is important in maintaining metabolic homeostasis.” Don’t neglect crucial rest days during your workout schedule.
A clinical study looked at the side effects of sleep loss on high intensity and exercise in 5 subjects. The study consisted of 2 trial periods separated by 7-10 days: subjects exercised for 20 minutes, rested sufficiently overnight, and performed another 20 minute exercise after; test subjects exercised for 20 minutes, stayed awake for 24 hours, and then performed another 20 minute exercise. Researchers noticed recovery ventilation and oxygen uptake were higher during slow phase recovery after exercising on no sleep. While sleep loss is said to not “overtly affect acute submaximal exercise performance,” it weakened the recovery period.
Strive for 7-8 hours of rest a night. Avoid drinking fluids late at night as this may cause nighttime urination and poor sleep quality. Another tip is to turn your cell phone on sleep mode, silencing distracting texts and alerts so you can catch up on rest.
Increase Protein & BCAA Intake
Protein recommendations are believed to be higher for active, athletic individuals. For endurance athletes, recommended protein amounts range from 1 – 1.6 g/kg per day. For strength training athletes, an appropriate protein intake is slightly higher: 1.6 – 2.0 g/kg per day.
Excellent foods to consume for protein and BCAAs include meats, poultry, and fish. Sports supplements like whey protein powder are also great all-in-one recovery drinks that supply protein and additional nutrients to enhance recovery time. Depending on the brand, protein powder may be a more cost efficient and viable to solution to expensive meat sources.
“Electrolytes affect the amount of water in your body, the acidity of your blood (pH), your muscle function, and other important processes,” says one online medical authority. “You lose electrolytes when you sweat. You must replace them….”
Insufficient rehydration interferes with peak performance. Electrolytes are a great way to achieve important nutrients and replace sweat losses without needing to eat tons of solid food.
Researchers indicate moderate salt intake “would appear to be beneficial as far as hydration status is concerned.” While water is important for hydration purposes, electrolyte beverages offer sodium, and moderately high sodium levels (around 50 mmol I-1) with additional minerals should be consumed after certain workout conditions like in heat.
Establish A Routine
Sporadic bouts of intense workouts throughout the year are hard on your body. By making exercise and workouts a consistent activity, you properly adjust to the physical demands of anaerobic and aerobic activity.
A New York Times article posted online explains endurance diminishes the more time passes between physical activity. Also, with prolonged breaks and bouts of inactivity come higher risks of injury.
A clinical study found risks of injury tend to increase when more time is taken between skillful and athletic activities. Treatments resulting from injury occurred less frequently for acrobats and athletes when less time was taken off when compared to multiple days off.
Drink Chocolate Milk
Not all post-workout drinks need to be boring. Along with its inclusion of protein, chocolate milk supplies adequate carbohydrates, which refuel muscle glycogen storages post-workout.
According to a WebMD article, William Lunn, PhD, revealed low-fat chocolate milk supplies a great carbohydrate to protein ratio for aiding in energy and muscle recovery. Fat-free chocolate milk was even shown to outdo carbohydrate sports drinks in effectiveness.
Consuming protein and carbohydrate-rich sources optimize recovery periods and allow you to push through performance plateaus to build muscle and strength in a safe manner.
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-  “Electrolytes.” MedlinePlus. A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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-  Gretchen Reynolds. “Ask Well: How Often to Exercise.” June 14, 2013. The New York Times.
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-  Charlene Laino. “Study shows Carbohydrates and Protein in Chocolate Milk Help Muscles Recover from Exercise.” WebMD.