Whether your fitness goals center around burning fat or building muscle, the key to success may be less about working out and more about rest and recovery. Follow these 10 easy tips below to help rest, recover, and refuel for your next workout:
Stretch to Strengthen
Dedicating 10-15 minutes at the end of each workout is a critical step towards attaining flexibility, agility, and even improved circulation. Flexibility is crucial for maintaining proper form during your workout. Gently stretching any targeted muscle groups post-workout also reduces muscle fatigue and soreness.
Pump Some Protein
The next time you experience post-workout hunger, reach for a protein-packed salad or shake rather than a hefty serving of carbs. While carbs may supply you with the necessary calories before your workout, post-workout protein is essential to restore your energy and replenish glycogen and insulin levels. Since your body is at its prime metabolic rate immediately after your workout, feeding it some protein aids in the breakdown of calories and the synthesis of stronger proteins, which can ultimately build muscle mass.
Don’t Skimp on Sleep
Not getting at least 7-9 hours of quality Z’s a night can easily be one of the biggest obstacles preventing you from reaching your desired fitness and weight loss goals. Sleep restores the body mentally and physically. It’s also when most of the metabolic processes that lead to protein synthesis and muscle building take place. For optimal sleep, try to avoid looking at electronic screens at least 1 hour before bed and skipping that post-lunch espresso.
While stationary rest such as napping, watching TV, or lounging on the beach are contributors to healthy muscle recovery, doing some light cardio such as walking or biking can help you recover even further. Active recovery is a good way to allow your body to reap the benefits of a well-earned break while also staying physically engaged just enough to prevent muscular shock when you’re ready to hit the gym again.
Say Goodbye to Stress
Studies have shown that emotional stress can stand in the way of adequate sleep and even muscle recovery. Without optimal focus and motivation during your workout, your physical form can suffer and inhibit you from achieving the results you’d like to see.
Protein synthesis and muscle recovery require that the body is well hydrated. Since you lose fluid during a workout, optimal hydration is an absolute must, whether or not you are physically feeling thirsty. By the time you feel thirsty during your workout, you’re probably already dehydrated. If you are dehydrated, the protein synthesis that rebuilds muscles slows down, subsequently delaying muscle recovery.
After an intense workout, it is important to massage your muscles, either manually or using a foam roller. This releases high levels of lactic acid and other toxins that accumulate and hinder muscle recovery. A thorough massage restores proper blood flow and circulation of oxygen. While a deep massage can be painful in areas where the muscles are sore or torn, it is crucial to work through these muscle groups for quicker recovery and to prevent stiffness in the future.
Practice Pre-Workout Nutrition
A well-balanced meal containing all four macronutrients 2-3 hours prior to exercise is key to smooth muscle recovery. It’s also a good way to ensure that you stay energized for the entire duration of your workout. Pre-workout carbohydrates supply glycogen to your body, and essentially act as an immediate source of fuel, while fat supplies longer term energy. Pre-workout protein is also a key player in initiating protein synthesis in your muscles and resulting in leaner body mass and increased strength overall.
Take an Ice Bath
If you can bear it, jumping into an ice bath for a few minutes after exercising can have a major positive impact on muscle recovery. The cold immediately reduces body temperature, consequently restoring blood flow and reducing inflammation and soreness in muscle tissue. This refreshing technique is a great way to quickly restore your body to its original, ready-to-work state.
Compress to Impress
Compression garments are super helpful when it comes to speedy muscle recovery. For high-intensity workouts such as running and cycling, these tight-fitting garments hold your muscles firmly in place and prevent common joint pain and swelling. Compression clothing also improves blood flow and circulation during your workout, limiting muscle fatigue and improving your athletic performance.
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