5 Ways to Maximize Your Recovery After a Workout
Our bodies need to recover. The harder you train, the more important it is to make time for it. Preventative care is so important, yet many of us wait until we’ve pushed ourselves too far. I hear it all too often, the frustration from clients who’ve suffered an injury because they weren’t proactive or they ran themselves into the ground. Recovering from an injury is stressful and a test of our mental strength. Trust me, I’ve been there myself. Unfortunately some injuries are unavoidable. Whether they happen by accident or you’re an athlete constantly trying to find your physical limit. But many injuries can be avoided. Especially for those of us who aren’t elite athletes and just want to train to be healthy, strong and look good. No matter what your goal is, practicing these recovery techniques on a daily basis will help you achieve your goals faster in the long run. It might seem like a good idea to sleep less so you can get in an extra cardio session, or to skip your warm up/mobility/accessory work because you’re short on time, but it doesn’t work that way and it will eventually catch up you. Treat your body well and it will reward you.
There are 5 things essential to any workout routine and the more consistent you can get with them, the better you’ll feel, look and perform.
Number 1: NUTRITION
Obviously I’m a huge advocate for a healthy diet and it’s something I’ve dedicated my life to educating people on through Black Iron Nutrition. When it comes to recovering from a workout, its important to consume an adequate amount of protein and carbohydrates.
Protein plays a wide variety of roles in our body from rebuilding muscle tissue to providing the building blocks for various cells, enzymes and hormones. After a workout our bodies break down old proteins and we need to synthesis new ones to rebuild our muscles. Protein intake varies person to person, but a good starting point for someone who’s active is 1.5-2 grams per kilo of bodyweight. I recommend dividing that amount evenly amongst your meals and snacks for the day. There’s no need to slam a shake post workout (unless you want to, you can), but do plan to get some protein in with a meal or a snack within a couple hours of a hard training session.
During a workout we also deplete our glycogen stores which give us energy. Eating carbohydrates pre workout will give you energy and eating them post workout will replenish your glycogen stores. The amount each person needs varies greatly based on how hard you’ve trained, what your goals are and your physical size. I recommend consuming about 30-40% of your carbs within the 3 hours prior to your training, and 30-40% of your carbs within the 2 hours after.
There are basic calculators online if you’re looking for a starting point for your macros. We also have a book, Flexible Dieting 2.0, that will help you figure out what your body needs based on your goals. And we provide one on one coaching if you prefer to check in with someone each week.
Number 2: HYDRATION
Staying hydrated regulates our body temperature, lubricates our joints and helps us maintain electrolyte balance. If you aren’t hydrated your muscles will fatigue and your workouts will suffer. The best way to monitor your hydration is by looking at the color of your urine. Your urine should be clear or pale yellow. A darker yellow means you aren’t drinking enough water. There’s no way to know exactly how much water YOUR body needs, but shooting for a half an ounce to an ounce per pound of body weight is a good starting point.
If you struggle to drink enough water throughout the day, check out my other post, 7 Ways to Drink More Water
Number 3: SLEEP
Adequate sleep is essential for our bodies to recover.
Our central nervous system recharges in our sleep and our energy stores are replenished, which means the better you sleep, the better you will perform the next day.
We secrete growth hormone while we sleep which is essential for the growth and repair of muscle tissue.
Sleep also controls the hormone cortisol. Increased cortisol is detrimental to our already elevated state of stress after we train and adequate sleep helps to regulate it.
If you feel like you aren’t getting enough sleep, or you struggle with your sleep routine, I’d suggest reading this article that our coach Megan wrote, Wide Awake: How Sleep Affects Your Health, Body Composition and Performance Goals
Number 4: REST DAYS AND ACTIVE RECOVERY
You have to give your muscles time to recover between workouts. This can be done in a variety of ways depending on what your training program looks like, but it needs to be planned and scheduled just the same as your workouts are. Like I said in the beginning of this article, it’s important to be proactive with your recovery to prevent injury and overtraining.
After an intense workout, your muscle fibers start to break down. Weight training creates micro-tears in your muscles that need time to heal and repair. We already talked about the importance of protein, by consuming adequate amounts your body can repair the damaged tissue and you can get stronger. But in order for that to happen, you have to rest the muscles you’ve damaged. Low intensity cardio is okay to do on a rest day (aka active recovery). Hiking, biking, swimming, jogging, etc. These activities typically aren’t taxing enough on your muscles and still allow them to repair. But just be smart about it. There are definitely forms of cardio that can still be quite taxing on your muscles. Save that stuff for a training day. If you’re someone who alternates muscle groups every day, you can get away with less rest days. But if you do CrossFit or something similar that taxes your entire body, you should consider programming in at least 2 rest days per week.
The most important thing, and I can’t emphasize this enough, is that you listen to your body. It will tell you when it needs a break.
Number 5: MASSAGE AND FOAM ROLLING
It helps to reduce muscle stiffness, promote circulation, break up scar tissue and improve mobility.
Massage and foam rolling are essentially doing the same thing. Foam rolling is great because it doesn’t cost anything (well a small price for the foam roller) and you can do it on a daily basis. There are always benefits to working with a professional who understands the body though, so if you can afford it, I would suggest incorporating both into your routine.
Author: Ashley Beaver, BIN Director of Nutrition, myactiveroots.com