Don’t let sore muscles and burnout steal you away from your training program. Here are seven proven ways to recover from exercise faster. And they promote total body-mind wellness!
1. Get Your Zzzzzs
Lack of sleep takes its toll on your physical and cognitive function. Research shows that sleep deprivation:
- Alters your mood
- Slows muscle recovery
- Increases cortisol and other stress hormones
- Decreases glycogen synthesis
A study published in Sleep and Biological Rhythms showed that depriving university students of sleep for 1 night adversely impacted physical function. They had increased systolic blood pressure post exercise as well as increased reaction times (1).
Compare this study to one showing the beneficial effects of sleep, such as quicker sprinting speed and hitting accuracy in college tennis players. Or the study that showed that when basketball players increased their sleep time from 6.5 hours to 8.5 hours their 3-point shooting improved by 13.7% and their free throws by 11.4%.
Sleep impacts virtually every organ and system in the body, from your heart and lungs to your brain and immune system. When you enter the realm of deep sleep, your body releases growth hormone (HgH) which goes to work activating muscle growth and repair, building bones, and burning fat.
A good night’s sleep is an essential part of the recovery process. Top athletes strive for 10-12 hours of sleep a night, plus a nap in the day to keep stamina and endurance high. If you are engaging in several hard workouts a week, you may want to follow suit. Otherwise, strive for a minimum of 8 hours of sleep to help support post-workout recovery.
2. Stay Hydrated
You may not feel thirsty before, during, or after a workout, but your body is craving water. In fact, you don’t feel thirsty until dehydration hits!
The daily minimum is 4-6 cups a day. But to improve athletic performance and speed exercise recovery, you’ll have to up your water intake.
The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking 17-20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before a workout, 8 ounces 20-30 minutes pre-workout, 7-10 ounces every 10-20 minutes of exercise, and 8 ounces of water 30 minutes post exercise.
When we don’t drink enough water and become dehydrated, blood volume decreases and the heart has to work doubly hard to pump blood through the body, which impairs performance and recovery. In contrast, a 2012 study showed that when participants drank water before and while they ran on a treadmill for 90 minutes they had significantly faster heart rate recovery (2).
In addition to supporting hydration, water flushes the body of metabolic waste that accumulates during a workout, regulates body temperature, carries oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, and hydrates muscles to support muscle protein synthesis—the building of new muscle tissue in the body.
But what if you could recover from exercise even faster by supercharging your water with muscle recovery nutrients? Turns out, you can!
3. Drink Your Essential Amino Acids
You’ve probably seen the tip to boost your protein intake to help support your fitness goals, whether that’s building muscle or recovering from exercise faster. There’s an even more effective way to do both—supplementing with the building blocks of protein...amino acids! Mix in a scoop of essential amino acids with 8 ounces of water and drink before, during, and after resistance training or aerobic exercise to accelerate recovery and maximize your fitness gains.
Essential amino acids (EAAs) are oxidized at an increased rate during endurance exercise. An EAA supplement is needed to replace these lost EAAs. Taking an EAA supplement before, during, or after exercise increases muscle protein turnover, which improves muscle strength and function. Damaged muscle proteins are broken down and replaced by new, better functioning proteins. As a result, you enjoy greater training benefits.
A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that taking 10 grams of essential amino acids (made up of 3.5 grams of leucine) during endurance exercise can increase muscle protein synthesis in the recovery period (3).
As for strength training efforts, taking an essential amino acid supplement after resistance exercise helps boost muscle protein synthesis and speed muscle recovery to a far greater degree than taking other muscle-building supplements on the market (4).
We recommend trading in the carb-loaded energy drinks for Amino Co’s Perform, an athletic performance blend of anti-inflammatory essential amino acids proportioned in the precise ratio to:
- Stimulate peak muscle response 4 times greater than testosterone or HgH
- Increase peak strength and endurance levels during exercise
- Improve brain function and focus
- Decrease recovery time by quickly rebuilding muscle
Want to jazz up your drink? Turn it into a protein shake, like this delicious Tropical Protein Shake.
4. Roll Out the Kinks
Exercise can cause fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds and supports every organ, to become knotted, contributing to delayed onset muscle soreness (DMOS). Foam rollers are designed to help roll out these knots, known as myofascial adhesions. Foam rolling helps to reduce tissue tension, improve flexibility and range of motion, and prevent muscle imbalances and sore muscles. We cover how to use a foam roller safely in this article.
5. Cool Off With an Ice Bath
Cold water therapy requires a dunk in water at or below 59°F (15°C). Studies show cold exposure can help reduce muscle soreness and speed muscle recovery by constricting your blood vessels and decreasing blood flow to the muscles, thereby mitigating inflammation and pain.
One study found that cold water immersion for 10 minutes after a vigorous training session reduced fatigued and muscle soreness (5). Another showed that athletes who soaked in water between 53-59°F after exercise felt less sore than athletes who did not (6).
6. Wear Compression Garments
Compression garments are worn by elite athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike to reduce muscle damage or injury during a tough workout and to shorten recovery time.
A meta-analysis of 23 peer-reviewed studies published in the journal Sports Medicine suggests that compression garments provide the most benefit for strength recovery (7).
7. Cool Down With Music
You know that up-beat music powers up your workout, but did you know that slow jams can also help power you down for easier exercise recovery?
Research indicates that slow-tempo music helps lower levels of blood lactate and your heart rate during active recovery (8)!
Bonus Tip: Pack Your Plate with Muscle Recovery Nutrients
A post-workout meal should contain all the macronutrients—protein, fat, and carbohydrates—as well as antioxidant-rich veggies and foods and fluids full of electrolytes like:
We've got six tasty muscle recovery recipes for you here.
And of all the recovery methods mentioned, there’s one that is a given, and perhaps the most important of all: rest.
No matter your fitness level, give yourself rest days between workouts to support muscle repair and avoid the injuries and stress that occur with overtraining. One day off, or even a few, means you can go even harder the next day. Be sure to fuel up with Perform on those recovery days to keep feeding your muscles the nutrients they need for strength and endurance.