Whenever you work out, you are damaging muscle fibers and breaking down your muscle. If you do not recover properly, this can cause you to feel sore, immobile, or relatively weak for the next few days. This muscle soreness we experience is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
What is Post-Workout Recovery?
The goal of recovery after exercise is to restore physiological systems in your body. The replacement of fluids and fuels lost, restored body temperature, and repaired muscle tissue damage.
There are physical activities you can implement to your workout regime to not only help your recovery but increase flexibility, prevent injury, and reduce muscle soreness. We are going to give you some exercise and nutrition techniques you can do after your next workout.
Warming Up Before Your Workout
The best thing you can do for your muscles is warm them up before activity. Warming up can decrease the chance of sustaining an injury during your workout and help reduce muscle pain and soreness. By warming up your muscles before you exercise, you are preparing them for higher-intensity activity.
Loosen your muscles, joints, and ligaments with mobility movements. You can use a foam roller to help move the blood through major muscle groups like the back, legs, and glutes. You can also start moving through your already planned exercises without resistance or weight. You will get your body prepped and will teach muscle memory.
Start slowly increasing your heart rate to prepare for high-intensity activity. Start a low-impact activity like jogging to make sure you don’t push yourself too hard right away and build up to your workout. Try dynamic stretching that involves continuously moving through a range of motion. Make sure you’re not just holding a stretch for a long time, but instead try movements like big arm circles.
Warming up before a workout could not just reduce muscle soreness afterward but could also improve your overall performance. A warmed muscle contracts forcefully and relaxes quicker, which can enhance your speed and strength.
Stretching After Your Workout
Most of us grew up knowing that stretching is good before and after workouts, but what does stretching do for your body? Stretching helps reset your body to a natural position and posture. Stiffness and soreness may result if you neglect areas of your body that are overly tight.
One obvious benefit of stretching is increased flexibility and range of motion for your joints. Having flexible muscles can improve not only your workouts but daily tasks. Although flexibility tends to diminish as we grow older, you can regain and maintain flexibility through consistent stretching. By maintaining a full range of motion through your joints, you may have better balance and enhanced coordination. You will be less prone to injury.
Stretching allows blood flow to your muscles, improving circulation. Having blood flow to your muscles helps rid waste byproducts in the muscle tissue and nourish the muscles. Improving this circulation can help shorten your recovery time, especially if you’ve had muscle injuries.
When you’re stretching post-workout, you do not have to work every muscle does. Instead, focus on specific areas that are tight either from the workout or from the daily posture.
Foam Rolling Benefits Post-Workout
In conducting a systematic review, Cheatham et al. showed that foam rolling after high-intensity exercise helped prevent “decrements in lower extremity muscle performance and reduce perceived pain in subjects” (1). In other words, taking 10 to 20 minutes after doing high-intensity exercise helped prevent power loss in the subject’s leg, as well as helping to reduce muscle soreness.
When foam rolling, roll at a slow to medium speed to not cause any extra strain on your muscles or joints. Spend anywhere between 3 seconds to 1 minute in one spot, but make sure you don’t move too quickly from one muscle to the next. Start in a place of comfort and work to a place of discomfort. Don’t just roll in one direction! Tackle trigger points from different angles.
Cycling After Your Workout
A study by Tufano et al. showed that moderate-intensity cycling for 20 minutes following a DOMs inducing protocol improved peak isometric strength three days after the testing (think of isometric exercise as holding a peak contraction, such as planking). Compared to both a control group that did no active recovery and a low-intensity cycling group. All groups experienced increased pain after the exercise protocol, but the control and low-intensity groups remained constant in their isometric strength. The moderate-intensity group experienced increased isometric strength three days after the exercise and recovery protocol (5).
Benefits of Hydration on Recovery
Many ways are staying hydrated can have a positive impact on our recovery. Protein synthesis is the process of rebuilding damaged muscles after physical exercise and requires muscles to be well hydrated. If you are dehydrated after your workout, the protein synthesis that would rebuild muscle will be slowed, and muscle recovery delayed.
One of the most common signs of dehydration is fatigue. When you are dehydrated, your blood volume decreases, which means that the heart has to work harder to pump the blood to all of the parts of your body that need its vital oxygen and nutrients. This fatigue not only hinders post-workout recovery but feeling fatigued and lethargic reduces motivation for your next big workout.
Rehydration after exercise has an impact on recovery. It is crucial to develop a post-workout hydration routine that replenishes the liquids and electrolytes lost during exercise. Focusing on hydration will give you the extra boost you need to recover from a hard workout and get the most out of the next one!
Benefits of Amino Acids for Muscle Recovery
After your workout, your body needs proper nutrition to replenish its energy stores and start repairing the muscle damage incurred during training. Protein supplements are usually a go-to and can be beneficial. Your body will use the building block of protein - amino acids - to repair and build the muscles.
The amino acid blend of BCAAs, L-Glutamine, and L-Arginine found in Rapid Recovery are clinically proven to reduce muscle soreness and speed recovery. Amino acids are absorbed 3x quicker than a protein supplement, which means your body can put them to use sooner and start rebuilding the muscles.
In addition to amino acids, Rapid Recovery also contains complex carbohydrates. The complex carbohydrate, Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin, aids in the muscle recovery process. Carbohydrates are the key to muscle recovery because they help restore the glycogen stores depleted due to exercise.