Have you just finished a LSF workout?! Feeling sore in lots of different places? Exercise can take a lot out of your body – but that’s kind of the point! By exposing your muscles, heart and lungs to the stress of exercise, they increase in strength, fitness and work capacity. These adaptations to exercise happen during your recovery periods, i.e. in between your workout sessions.
Recovery is often thought of as a passive activity – something you just let happen. However, there are several things you can do that will speed up the recovery process so you can exercise harder, exercise sooner and see better results from your training! Read on to find out what they are.
Consuming food or drink immediately after exercise might seem counterintuitive – especially if you are exercising for weight loss – but if you imagine your muscles as dried out sponges, it all starts to make more sense.
Exercise takes nutrients from your muscles that must be replaced before you exercise again, and the sooner you restock your muscles with the nutrients they need, the sooner you can get back into the gym.
Also, exercise causes microtrauma to your muscles which means that, at a microscopic level, working out breaks your muscles down. To get stronger, your muscles must be repaired, and for this to happen you need to provide them with the right fuel – sooner rather than later.
To facilitate speedy recovery, make sure you consume a combination of protein (for muscle repair) and carbs (to replace lost nutrients) within an hour or two of finishing your workout – sooner if you can. This can be a meal or a lean protein and BCAA drink as preferred. You can shop supplements by clicking here.
Don’t worry too much about derailing your fat loss efforts; most of the food consumed in the post-exercise period will be preferentially directed to your muscles and away from your fat stores.
Move More, Sit Less
If you are tired from your workout, it can be tempting to spend your downtime doing as little as possible. This is doubly true if your muscles are sore. However, the less you move, the more sluggish your circulation will be, and the longer your muscles will feel sore, tired and tight.
Instead of just waiting for recovery to happen, speed up the process by getting up and moving. This will help redirect the pooling of lactic acid around the body and encourage your muscle fibres to repair quicker. A brisk walk, a gentle swim, some stretching – any of these things will increase your circulation, pumping freshly oxygenated blood to your muscles and speeding up the removal of waste products. This is called active recovery and will help speed up the recovery process.
Get A Massage
Massage might seem like an indulgence, but it can help you to recover from exercise more quickly, eliminate muscle stiffness and soreness and leave you feeling relaxed. Massage passively increases circulation and the removal of waste products from your muscles. It also gently stretches your muscles and calms the nervous system.
There are lots of different types of massage – from deep sports massage to more superficial Swedish massage – so choose the one that you enjoy the most and the one that you feel is the most beneficial to your body following the session. Make sure your massage therapist is properly certified and insured before getting onto their couch.
Heat It Up
Heat increases circulation and opens up your blood vessels in a process called vasodilation. This increases oxygenated blood flow to your muscles, which helps flush out the metabolic waste products of exercise, such as lactic acid and carbon dioxide.
Getting warm, albeit passively, can help ease muscle tension and speed up exercise recovery. Good options include:
- Spa bath and hot tub
- Steam room
- Heating pad
- Hot shower or bath
Make sure you hydrate to replace lost fluids and avoid getting so hot that you overheat – hyperthermia can be dangerous. Supercharge this recovery strategy by alternating with cold to create a relax/contract effect which further increases circulation, e.g. a hot then cold shower.
Most of your post-exercise recovery happens when you sleep, so it is crucial you try to get at least six and preferably eight hours of sleep per night! When you sleep, your body switches to “repair mode” and increases production of muscle-building anabolic hormones which increase protein synthesis and muscle repair. Too little sleep increases cortisol production, a stress hormone that can interfere with proper recovery, thereby having a strong consequential impact on your energy levels and mood for the day.
Make sure you get enough sleep by:
- Going to bed 8 hours before you have to wake up
- Not having any screens in your bedroom
- Using blackout curtains to darken your room
- Avoiding caffeine in the 4-6 hours before bed time
- Eating a small meal 1 hour before bed time
- Making sure your room is dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature
- Setting a sleep schedule and sticking to it
- Avoiding stress too close to bed time
- Not exercising too close to bed time
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