If you're tired of waiting too long for your body to recover from exercise, here are a few things that you can do to speed up the process.
How to Recover Faster From Exercise
1. Get enough rest
Your quality of rest will determine the amount of rest that you need to recover. Make sure that you get enough sleep and that you don't challenge your body too much straight after your workout. This will allow your body to spend more resources (energy, nutrients and biological processes) on recovering. When you are physically doing too many things at the same time, your body spends fewer resources on recovery because it needs to dedicate a portion of those resources to other activities. Make sure that you sleep enough. Sleep is a very important factor in recovery. It is the time your body uses to do most recovery-related activities. It is also the time that it regulates muscle-growing hormones that directly affect muscle growth, strength, power and (you guessed it...) recovery. Here are good ways to maximize your rest times.
2. Get the right nutrients
Your body needs the right nutrients to recover. Absence of these essential nutrients will inhibit recovery. Not only can recovery take longer, but it can also limit the amount of recovery that your body gets. Furthermore, lack of nutrients can decrease the rate at which your body grows and strengthens as a result of exercise. Someone who does the exact same exercises as you but has the right nutrient intake will become faster, better and stronger than you if you aren't eating right. A bulking diet is great if your goal is to pack on as much muscle, as quick as possible. Taking different proteins at different times will ensure that your body has all the protein it needs, all of the time.
3. Stretch it out
Stretching your muscles out will increase blood flow to them, so that those precious nutrients will get to the right places. Blood flow will also allow waste products (including waste products stuck in the muscles from exercise) to get out of the muscle fibers. Static stretches are a great form of stretching for rest days because they relax the muscles, along with increasing mobility. Static stretches before exercise aren't recommended because the relaxing effect will lead to lower power output. Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, make for great warm up stretches because they prime the muscles for movement and exertion. Warming up before exercise and cooling down afterwards will also decrease recovery time. Increased blood flow during exercise will get nutrients to the places that need it and blood flow after exercise will help them usher out the waste products like lactic acid. Lactic acid is the stuff that makes your muscle feel sore and stiff after working out. It is produced as a by-product of muscle activity and is biologically used to stop you from over-exercising a muscle and damaging it.
4. Cool off
After exercising, cool your body down. When your body temperature returns to normal, your body exits its 'ready for action' state and enters into its 'recover from action' state. This will also help to bring your heart rate back down to normal. When the body is cooler, it is more relaxed and less stressed. This will take you out of catabolism (breaking down muscle for energy) and put you into anabolism (using energy to build muscle). If your body still feels like it needs to be ready for physical activity, it will hold onto energy that it could use for recovery in case you need that energy to survive. This is part of our survival mechanisms that ensure our survival. When you are stressed, your body keeps energy aside to escape from danger or face it (fight or flight). When you are not stressed, your body will use this energy to recover so that it is better prepared for the next physical challenge it might face.
5. Warm up
Ironically, warming up also increases the rate of muscle recovery. It does this by increasing blood flow. When your body temperature increases, blood vessels widen. When blood vessels are wider, more blood can move through them. Muscle tissues also expand with heat and can therefore accept more nutrient-containing blood and expel the blood again, which will contain the waste products. Try to cool down after your workout, and then increase your body temperature later on, or on rest days. Heat patches are a nice way to increase heat to a certain area or muscle that needs specific recovery. Steam rooms are great to increase heat throughout your whole body and increase blood flow everywhere.
6. Use a foam roller
Men's fitness recommends using a foam roller to speed up muscle recovery. This is good if you are feeling tightness or pain in a specific muscle or muscle group. Rolling your muscles out with foam rollers will give you similar effects to a massage. It will loosen up the muscle tissue so that new blood can enter and old blood can leave. A tight muscle takes longer to recover and loosening the muscle will allow it to undergo the right recovery processes that it needs to go through to get better. It will also break up scar tissue in the muscle if there is any. This scar tissue, if there is any present in the muscle, hampers proper muscle function. Lingering scare tissue could be in the way of optimum recovery. Knots in muscle tissues will also be eliminated.
7. Don't push too hard
Pushing your body too hard could lead to longer recovery periods needed before you can get back to your next exercise session. If this period gets too long, the amounts to exercise sessions (and total stimulus) that you miss out on could be greater than the initial workouts that grounded you in the first place. You must aim for a good balance of optimal training and recovery. When one overtakes the other, you will not be bettering your personal goals as quick as possible. Bodybuilding.com says that too much damage will force your body to use more of its resources on recovering from the intensity of exercise, instead of improving itself for the next workout.
8. Lighter exercise
Light forms of exercise that work the same muscle groups can speed up recover. Note that the point of these exercises is not to stimulate the muscle or body to get stronger, but rather to speed up recover. Since recover is the goal, exercises will be a lot lighter. A light walk will get the juices flowing and fire up your body's internal functions. For example, exercise can push your liver to work harder. If exercise is light enough, the liver's hard work (and increased functionality) won't go towards recovering from the current exercise, because the exercise it too light to demand too much resources. Instead, the extra resources woken up from the lighter exercise will be allocated to recovery. Men's Health recommends using resistance bands to perform similar, lighter versions of your exercise to speed up recovery.
9. Get enough water
Fit Day says that staying hydrated during exercise reduces the chance of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Not surprisingly, hydration also allows your body to get rid of more waste products, like the lactic acid that is responsible for delayed onset muscle soreness. The more hydrated your body is, the better it performs at all of its biological functions and processes. The better your body can do what it naturally does, the better it can recover and get back on track. Water will also prevent the muscles from tightening, which will take them longer to heal because they need to relax first before being able to recover fully.
10. Use proper form
This could be classified more as preventative advice, but using the right form will decrease the amount of time that you need to recover between exercise sessions. This applies to weight lifters, runners and soccer players alike. Nerd Fitness says that improper form is one of the leading causes of prolonged exercise recovery time. They also say that using the wrong form over and over again will almost definitely lead to injury. Injury could take you out of the game permanently, or for too long a time. I once had to stop training for 6 months because of a shoulder injury. Many end in surgery because of it. Ensuring proper form is one of the best ways to avoid these situations. If you are using the wrong exercise form, this will increase your required recovery time.
11. Get a massage
Live Strong cites proof that a massage reduces delayed onset muscle soreness by 30% when done after a workout. They recommend getting a massage once a week if you can. If you have been stuck in recovery for too long or need to gear up quickly for a major event, a good massage might be just what the doctor ordered. Massaging the muscle works to speed up recovery by deeply penetrating its tissue and loosening up and tightness, knots or scar tissue. Live Strong says that getting a good massage at the end of every week will prime your body for optimal performance in the week to come.
12. Decrease stress
Active.com recommends trying to avoid mental stress in order to improve physical recovery. Stress releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone is the body's primary survival mechanism to get it ready to face a challenging situation. Higher cortisol levels decrease your body's ability to recover from exercise. This happens because your body is getting ready to face danger and does not want to use its energy to recover. It saves this energy for the perceived danger that cortisol is priming the body for. Try to avoid situations where you feel negative emotions. Dedicate time to doing things that you enjoy and that make you feel relaxed.
Great Supplements for Recovery
Would this list be complete without the best supplements that will aid recovery? I don't think so. Here are two great supplements that will help you get back on your feet again.
Glutamine is a super recovery supplement. It is one of the amino acids that make up protein. It is naturally found in your body. Exercise greatly depletes this amino acid and loading up on it will speed to recovery. It can also be used by patients in hospital to decrease the amount of time that they have to stay after surgery. It also helps with injuries and shortens the time of illnesses like flu and colds. Nutrition Express recommends consuming 5 to 8 grams of glutamine post workout for optimum recovery. They also recommend making sure that your protein powder and meal replacements have a few grams of the stuff.
2. Branched chain amino acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Branched chain amino acids are three specific amino acids. These are leucine, isoleucine and valine. They promote protein synthesis and promote the muscle healing process. They also stop the body from breaking muscle down for energy. This is because your body can use these BCAA's for energy instead. They speed up muscle recovery during exercise and therefore increase physical performance. Taking them during exercise will decrease the amount of damage done to muscle and taking them afterwards will aid protein synthesis (turning protein into muscle), stop muscle breakdown and decrease recovery time.
I hope this article helps you in your quest to become the best. Remember to take your journey one step at a time and that everybody worth remembering started at the bottom. I am looking forward to reading your comments. STAY STRONG!