The science behind fitness and health can be confusing—and it's certainly ever-changing. One minute, a study supports a particular food/exercise/claim, then the next, a newer study reports that eating, doing or trying that thing is the worst thing you could possibly do to yourself.
We read a lot of studies here at MensFitness.com—so we know how frustrating all of that apparent flip-flopping can be. In order to help make sense of all the breaking and headline news, we've aligned ourselves with some of the industry's top experts—clued-in doctors, trainers, dietitians and researchers who can help us separate fact from headline-grabbing fiction and give us the real-deal advice on how to live a healthier, fitter lifestyle...every day.
This week, our expert explains how to maximize your muscle and workout recovery process.
Q: How do I recover faster after workouts?
A: The subject of recovery covers many different realms. The classic “one day of rest between workouts” can help the novice lifter introduce recovery into his regime. But you’re one step above “novice”. You train.
When you train, you tear your muscle tissue which is know as microtrauma. From a general perspective, 48 hours is a decent amount of time to wait before training the same muscle group again. Shorter time frames can produce poorer performance in the gym, or possibly overtraining the muscle, and as a result, cause injury.
There are instances, however, when weightlifting can lead to prolonged soreness and fatigue. A heavy workout can result in 4 days (or more) of soreness. What we do with our bodies in and around training days can help your cause.
Improve Tissue Quality – foam rolling and stretching can go a long way to improving the elasticity and condition of your muscles. Remember, in the weight room, we’re constantly shortening muscle tissue, and the lack of flexibility will just lead to more tightness and increase the time needed to recover. Over time, chronic pain could also result due to joint stress.
Do 'Easy' Cardio – light jogging, cycling, swimming, or lower intensity sports (say, a basketball “shootaround” session) can do well to flush lactic acid and promote recovery. The aerobic training can send oxygenated blood to muscles and improve circulation. This, coupled with the dynamic movements involved, can allow the body to “loosen up” and improve recovery time between workouts.
Train Regularly – If you are a weekend warrior, or train sporadically at best, it could be a screaming indication of the amount of time it’s taking for you to recover. Even if you do the same thing each weekend, the amount of time spent in absence of athletic endeavours per week is leaving your body as shocked as ever as soon as you leave the gym. Try to get training a minimum of 3 workouts per week, and you’ll notice your body give you a much more “manageable” response to your training.
Eat The Right Foods - the amount of time it takes for our muscles to recover from a workout is directly contingent upon the foods we decide to fuel our body with. We all know proteins are building blocks to muscle development. That said, we should be having plenty. Remember that our workouts break our muscle tissue down. It’s up to us to build them back up again, and protein-rich foods are key.
Rest, Relax, Recover – if your sleeping habits are off, they’ll have an effect on your recovery time. Cortisol levels can elevate, and testosterone and HGH levels can drop. These hormones need to be in the right balance in order for you to get the most from your workouts, or else you could just end up overtraining, and ultimately losing muscle. Take a week off of training if you notice you’re still sore after a few days, susceptible to colds or illness, aren’t motivated to train, having poor sleeps, and aren’t feeling as strong in the weight room.
About the Trainer: Lee Boyce
Lee Boyce, CPT is a strength coach based in Toronto, ON. A former Kinesiology Major, Lee competed as a sprinter and long jumper at the National level. His work has been featured in many major magazines including Men's Health, Musclemag, TNATION, and also on national television. For more on Lee, check him out at leeboycetraining.com, @coachleeboyce and Facebook.