Picture this: you’ve just crushed a killer workout and go home feeling really good about how hard you worked. That is, until the next morning when you roll out of bed and get hit with muscle soreness!
Delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS, for short) can leave you feeling achy and in pain for days as your muscles try to recover from their workout. At its worst, it can even take you out of the game if it hurts too much to continue with your regularly scheduled workout program. But you don’t have to accept it as an inevitable part of your workout routine — you can always speed up your muscle recovery!
Read on for tips on improving your muscle recovery time so that you can get back to crushing workouts and working hard toward your goals.
How To Speed Up Your Muscle Recovery Time
Optimize your diet.
The old saying “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet” is especially relevant when it comes to muscle recovery! Food is fuel, after all, and the right nutrition is crucial for helping your body recover from a tough workout.
When you’re working your muscles, they get little micro-tears that need to be repaired with the amino acids from protein. So it’s crucial to get plenty of protein if you want to speed up your muscle recovery time and help those muscles grow. Make sure you’re getting enough protein both before and after your workouts, ideally within an hour of activity. Protein supplements are also a popular supplement and a good option if you aren’t getting enough protein from your diet alone.
Don’t forget the carbs either! While carbohydrates tend to get villainized, they’re an important source of energy for your muscles, and chances are that you’re using a ton of them during your highest-intensity workouts like HIIT cardio. Charge up and refuel from a big workout with high-quality carbohydrates like whole grains and starchy vegetables.
Don’t neglect warm-ups and cool-downs.
We tend to put a lot of focus on building our muscles with weights when we’re working out, but you can’t forget the flexibility on your quest to maximize your fitness.
Dedicating some time in your workout regimen to stretching can help keep your muscles strong and flexible, both of which are essential for preventing injuries that could hinder your fitness journey. So take some time for warming up and cooling down every time you work out, incorporating a mix of both static and dynamic stretches to help your muscles recover from the strain of your “main” workout.
You can also add some mobility workouts to your routine to improve your range of motion and further prevent progress-hindering injuries. Using a foam roller is a good tool for both stretching and improving your joint movement, and it is also an excellent way to relieve some muscle pain. Yoga is another good option: adding some yoga to your weekly workout routine is a great way to focus on improving your flexibility and mobility, all while working on building muscle strength at the same time.
Staying properly hydrated should always be one of your top priorities, but it’s especially crucial when working out. Your muscles are under a lot of stress during a workout, and part of the recovery process requires proper blood flow to those damaged tissues. So being dehydrated can significantly slow down the rate at which your muscles can repair themselves, and the sweat and exertion from a big workout can make your dehydration even worse.
Make sure that you are always carrying a bottle of water and drinking frequently throughout your workout to give your muscles the hydration that they need for proper recovery.
Try cryotherapy if you’re in pain.
The painful soreness that you feel after a big workout is caused by inflammation, an immune system response to the stress and damage that your muscles experience from strength training workouts. Cryotherapy, which literally translates to “cold therapy,” involves applying cold to your site of injury for a short amount of time. Studies have found that using cryotherapy can help reduce that inflammatory response, which helps you to both relieve pain and allow your muscles to recover faster!
Cryotherapy can be as simple as using an ice pack to nurse your sore spots and reduce the inflammation. However, there are other options like ice baths (a method especially popular with athletes) and even cryotherapy chambers that submerge your entire body in the cold!
Don’t skip your rest days!
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of giving those muscles a break every once in a while!
We sometimes feel like we just need to keep pushing in our workouts to get to our goals quicker, but this can actually hurt your progress rather than help it. Overtraining doesn’t allow your muscles enough time to recover from the strenuous activities that you’re constantly putting it under, and this can lead to fitness plateaus and even injuries that could potentially hinder or hault your progress all together.
Give yourself a couple of days every week to dedicate to recovery. If you can’t stand the thought of not working out, there are plenty of ways to stay active while giving your overworked muscles a breather, also known as “active recovery”. Go for long walks or practice gentle workouts like yoga to keep burning calories even while letting your muscles get some much-needed rest.
Get your ZZZs
A good night’s sleep is just as important for your muscle recovery and growth as a rest day! Your body depends on a regular sleep schedule to release hormones that are important for muscle recovery, including testosterone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF). So by neglecting your sleep, you’re actually slowing down all the progress that you made in the gym!
Getting fit is not all HIIT workouts and weight-lifting. You also need to take care of your muscles by watching your diet, warming up, cooling down, and practicing other healthy habits before and after your workout. Maximize your fitness potential by optimizing your muscle recovery time so that you can bounce back from even the toughest workouts and get back to making those gains!