You’ve really been pushing yourself at the gym. You went deep on every squat rep and you lift heavy. Your workouts have been tough for weeks now, but you haven’t built any muscle.
Muscle growth begins when you stop lifting, and that growth can’t happen without the proper recovery. When you lift heavy, muscles are broken down with micro-tears and when you stop lifting your body begins the repair process that builds muscle tissue. If you want to get the most from your workout, you need to prioritize recovery. Here are some tips to maximize your recovery:
No Pain, No Gain
Some people like to brag about their post-workout pain. If they have trouble walking up and down stairs for a few days after their workout, they take that pain to mean that they’re building muscle. But if you’re in so much pain that it prevents you going about your day-to-day, you aren’t building any muscle, and you’re over-stressing your body. You should be working out hard enough to push yourself past your comfort zone, but not so hard that you’re destroying yourself. It’s important to make steady progress rather than hurting yourself and having to stop for days at a time.
Your body needs plenty of nutrition to repair those micro-tears and build more muscle. You need carbs, fat and protein. Each play an important role in post-workout recovery. Carbs are important macronutrients and a primary source of energy. Carbs provide the energy needed for your workout and for post-workout repair. Healthy fats help boost metabolism and regulate hormone function. Cutting out healthy fats from your nutrition will diminish the function to grow muscle. Protein has essential amino acids that are necessary for muscle growth. Good nutrition and plenty of it is an important part of staying fit.
Post-workout protein is vital. Aim for 20-50 grams of protein after each workout depending on your bodyweight. Whey protein is the most popular protein supplement because it’s convenient and offers rapid absorption. Protein sources are required to rebuild muscle tissue and to supply the building blocks for various cells, tissues, enzymes, and hormones. A protein smoothie or eating a protein-filled meal can ensure the body has enough fuel to keep on rebuilding throughout the day.
Research suggests taking a nap around two hours after a workout helps the body enter deep, restorative states of sleep. It has been shown that lack of adequate sleep can decrease the reduce tolerance to training and negatively affect the physiological mechanisms needed to adapt the stresses of training. When we enter the deep sleep state, our pituitary gland releases a pulse of human growth hormone to help with tissue repair and growth.
Much of the soreness that goes along with exercise occurs when our connective tissue running becomes knotted. Stretching out muscles with foam roller can help remove those knots and prevent muscle imbalances from forming. Stretching out or getting a massage can promote circulation and induce a state of relaxation in the muscle. It might be painful during, stretching and massage can help to remove scar tissue and adhesions in the muscle.
You get stronger when you recover, not when you’re training. While some say to take two days between workouts involving the same muscle group, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for recovery time. Only you will know how much time you need by experimenting and trying different things out, keeping in mind that things like age and fitness level are important in determining how much rest we really need. If performance is decreasing from workout to workout, it might be time to schedule in a few extra rest days. A rest day doesn’t necessarily mean staying completely sedentary, although it might. You might do some exercise — but stuff that’s lighter and different than your main training routine.