If you workout hard you need to recover even harder. Proper recovery will improve your strength, your aesthetics, and most importantly your health. I think most of us understand this, but still need to be constantly reminded. The old adage that “more is better” does not usually apply to working out – and that is a tough pill for many to swallow…even for some of our contributors. (I’m looking at you, Steph).
Here is your daily plan to eliminating muscle soreness and enhancing recovery:
- Hydrate. You have heard it a thousand times and…well there is a reason you have heard it a thousand times. This is simple – wake up and start drinking water. Drink before your workout, during, and definitely drink post workout. Your performance will improve and your body will recover more efficiently. The simple reason is that water helps your body to function better in every possible way. Serious exercisers put serious stress on their bodies. And the body’s natural recovery process will work much more efficiently if it is properly hydrated. As an added bonus, for you figure conscious athletes, water also helps your metabolic function and you burn more calories when you are hydrated. Experts argue over how much water an athlete should drink, but a good rule of thumb seems to be to drink over half of your bodyweight in ounces.
- Warm up. This one sucks. It takes time and for most of us, time is at a premium. But rather than spout all sorts of data as to why warming up is important (I’m sure you’ve read that article enough), let me offer you this advice. Warm up what you need to warm up. Most athletes know their strengths and weaknesses. I have an issue where my glutes don’t fire naturally and therefore if I jump straight into squats or deadlifts, my lower back does a lot of the work. I know that I need to fire up my glutes before I jump into these types of lifts. So that is where my warm up begins. Another example would be that some days I am really tight in certain areas. I realize this needs to be addressed before I start my workout. It is not something I need to do before every workout, but some days my performance will suffer if I don’t loosen up. A few years ago, I read how Christian Thibaudeau never plans his workouts. He simply goes in with a rough idea and then sees how his body is feeling and takes it from there. I don’t recommend this extreme example for most athletes when it comes to your workout, but I think that when it comes to warming up, this strategy makes a lot of sense. Check out the example below from Mobility Wod. I really like the hip adjustments she makes (again Steph looking at you). And if someone could please explain to me in the comments section below what the dude was talking about with his “circle in a circle” diagram on the white board, that would help my brain out — the rest of the video is exactly what I am referencing when it comes to warming up:
A proper warm up not only speeds up muscle recovery but it helps performance too. In a recent conversation I had with Tori, she indicated that she always PR’s after she does yoga. I am not sure of the science here but I imagine it has to do with blood flow, the release of toxins, and stress reduction — all things a proper warm up addresses.
3. Post Workout Nutrition. If you eat carbs, then the absolute best time to eat them is post workout. And the simple sugars are perfect. Yes, this is that one time of day where you can eat candy and pretty much get away with it. There is a window of about an hour after your heavy lifting workout (NOTE: this rule does not apply to cardio workouts) where carbs will help with muscle recovery.
During this window, the muscles are most efficient at carb uptake; therefore, the bulk of your daily carbs should come during this post-work out period. Fat is burned at high rates during this period regardless of what macronutrients you take in so your concentration should be replenishing your muscle energy stores and recovery. To do this, ingest carbohydrates and protein – about a 2:1 ratio is perfect.
If you eat 100grams of carbs in a day then try to get most of them in your postwork out time period. Think about it this way: do you want your carbs to go to fat stores or muscle recovery? Yeah that is what I thought – eat your carbs after you workout.
4. Supplementation. Before I start telling you what supplements you should take for recovery, let me be clear that I do not consider whey to be a supplement. The word supplement implies something added to make up for a deficiency. Well whey is a requirement, a staple food. Whey is arguably the single best thing a person can ingest to help in all areas of health and fitness. In fact, studies have shown that whey does more to help overall health than green leafy vegetables. For you regular readers, I swear the reason Steph scored a blue on the biophotonic test measuring her antibodies is because that girl eats a lot of whey! I believe whey and her greens supplement put her in the Dr. Oz level. And whey also helps with recovery. Ok so what actual supplements should you take?
Lets start with fish oil. If you are health conscious, then I am reasonably sure you are already taking this. But you should know it also helps with muscle recovery. First, it reduces inflammation. Second, fish oil actually increases muscle protein synthesis — the process that repairs muscles and makes them stronger. I take Carlson’s Finest Fish Oil in liquid form and lemon flavored. I think it tastes fine. I have heard others say it tastes like Pledge. Steph loves Barlean’s Key Lime Ultra High Potency Fish Oil. Yep, you read that right: Key Lime. It sort of tastes like a dessert. But the important thing is that it is a potent form of fish oil. And potency is crucial.
ZMA: Before you get too excited about this one let me warn you that some of you with active digestive systems might want to avoid this. But if you can handle it, ZMA is amazing in that it helps you sleep and helps your muscles relax. ZMA is basically a synergistic combination of zinc, magnesium aspartate, and vitamin B6. Most people lack these minerals and vitamins in their diet and their cellular function depends on them. Unfortunately, magnesium acts like a laxative for many people. But if you can handle it then add it to the list.
Glucosamine: This article is pretty much only dealing with muscle recovery but if you suffer with joint recovery then also include this natural substance found in cartilage on your supplement list.
5. Massage/Foam roll: One of the best ways to prevent muscle soreness is to get the blood flowing. And a deep penetrating massage through activities like foam rolling and trigger point massage (tennis ball in your problem areas) does just that. I’ll admit, I am not an expert on myofascial massage but I do know it sure feels good to foam roll. And if it feels good then why not do it anyway? Foam rolling will also help eliminate knots that will build up in your muscles.
6. SLEEP: I will defer to the expert for this one:
Sleep is the single best weight loss tool, muscle gain tool, training tool, life tool, I have ever encountered — Dan John
Ok if Dan John says that about sleep then what more could I possibly add? Other than I struggle with it. Damn I wish my body could handle ZMA.
BONUS: As an added bonus I think I should mention cryotherapy. If you have ever seen pro athletes sitting in a tub of ice, you may be wondering why. This is cryotherapy: the extreme cold reduces inflammation and it aids in flushing waste products, such as lactic acid, out of the muscles. I have always used ice for myself and all of my athletes post injury. But I have not experimented much with using cold water in enhancing muscle recovery. But if the pros do it then it must work some how. Maybe Steph can comment below? I think I saw an Instagram photo of her in a cold whirlpool after 13.3.
How do you recover? I know bodybuilders and powerlifters often talk about taking an entire week off. If you have tried this and have been successful, please share below: