By now, everyone knows about the importance of strength training. Building muscle mass leads to more calories burned, which ultimately leads to faster weight loss and improved balance, endurance, and an overall greater quality of life. But what you may not know is that the actual time spent exercising is only half of the battle; recovery time is what truly helps build the muscles you're working so hard for. Read on to find out how to make the most of your post-exercise recovery.
The process of lifting weights actually tears the muscle apart on a microscopic level. During the recovery process, these small tears are healed and, in turn, made stronger. Prioritize your recovery to make the most of your workout by following these tips:
After a strenuous workout, you're likely anxious to get in the shower to cool off and clean up. But don't rush off too fast. Take at least 20 minutes post-workout to recover with a cool down. A simple way to remember to cool down is to plan for enough time as a part of your allotted exercise. If you only have an hour to workout, make it a 40-minute workout with 20 minutes of cooldown built in. The cooldown should include:
- Easy cardio: Walk slowly, focus on slowing your breathing and lowering your heart rate in a smooth transition.
- Stretching: The best time to stretch is after your muscles are warmed up. This will ensure you remain flexible and able to move your body as needed in future workouts. Stretching also helps relieve tension in the muscles, which can also help avoid intense muscle soreness the next day.
- Massage: Massages can assist in relieving soreness of the muscles. Acupressure, which can be done at home by yourself with a tool like the Q-Flex, is another great way to ease muscle tension.
Protein is an essential building block for muscle growth. The typical person needs somewhere between 20 and 50 grams of protein after a workout. Some easy ways to get the protein are:
- Whey protein: Many athletes swear by whey protein for its fast absorption into the body. It's also really easy to shake up so you can quickly replenish lost nutrients and gain that valuable protein. This is a great on-the-go option.
- Eggs, Chicken, and Tuna: If you're at home or near a restaurant, opt for a warm meal that can include eggs, chicken, tuna, or any other lean meat. Add a pile of veggies for a complete meal to help your muscles recover and fill your empty stomach.
Potassium is known to help cramps and it's also essential for building muscle. Bananas are a quick and convenient option, as well as potatoes if you have more time to cook it up.
Not right after a workout, but be sure that you are getting good quality sleep each night. This is the body's opportunity to repair itself. Aim for at least seven hours of solid, restful sleep each night. If you have trouble falling asleep, consider limiting your daily caffeine, or cutting down on screen time right before bed. Some studies have shown that watching TV or spending too much time on a tablet or phone could interfere with your ability to sleep properly.
Take a Rest Day
There's no need to work out hard each and every day -- in fact, it could be detrimental to your overall body goal. After a tough work out, be sure to get out the next day to walk around the block or take a relaxing bike ride. Any light movements can assist in the blood flowing properly around the body, which will ultimately help it recover.
Exercise recovery is a serious part of any overall health and wellness program. Remember, you're not wasting time by following this type of recovery process -- you're making your body stronger and healthier!