There is nothing quite like a good workout, but a good workout often results in stiff, sore muscles for days on end. If you have plans to continue training — or you just don’t want to deal with the discomfort — you need to take active steps to help your body recover. The most common recovery methods are rest, gentle stretching, hydration and more rest.
However, these aren’t the only ways to relieve the aches and pains that come after vigorous exercise. If you are looking for a new way to speed up recovery, you might try any of the following science-backed recovery solutions:
Even More Protein
Anyone moderately interested in health knows that protein is a macronutrient vital for developing and maintaining muscle mass, among other things, and if you have enjoyed some exposure to the fitness industry, you should be aware that eating a large amount of protein will help you gain strength and stay fit.
However, when you eat protein can affect how your body recovers from a vigorous workout. Research suggests that there is a critical two-hour window after exercise when your muscles are primed to break down nutrients that stimulate repair, growth and strength. By taking in about 20 grams of protein, ideally in the form of a lightweight protein shake, immediately after you finish your workout, you can take advantage of this window.
Additionally, sleep is an important period of rest and repair — but your body can only repair your muscles if it is properly fueled. Again, a high-protein snack before bed will help keep your body working to improve your muscles, and it might be wise to hit the protein again as soon as you wake up to keep your body on the right path to recovery.
Admittedly, smoking a joint after an intense sweat session isn’t going to help your muscles synthesize protein, so getting high probably isn’t going to contribute to your gains. Even so, there are some science-backed reasons you should consume marijuana during recovery — namely pain relief.
Hard or unexpected exercise causes muscle fibers to tear, which is what results in the feelings of soreness and stiff-ness post-workout. Cannabis is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and it has demonstrable benefits in mitigating both chronic and acute pain. Most importantly, cannabis is much, much safer than other over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen which can cause kidney failure if you are dehydrated. Thus, if you live in a place like Oregon where adult-use cannabis is legal, you might opt for a pre-roll or an edible to help manage the post-workout pain.
Perhaps most important to workout recovery is sufficient hydration, which will help your body regulate its temperature, prevent joint damage and keep your mood high with post-exercise endorphins. One of the best ways to rehydrate after working out is with green tea, which is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that make it easier for your muscles to repair. Studies also indicate that green tea might prevent decreasing iron levels after cardio exercise, like running.
Perhaps one of the most surprising sources of post-workout nutrition, heavy and sweet beets probably aren’t something you want to chow down on immediately after a strenuous workout. Fortunately, you can get all the recovery-inducing nutrients from light and refreshing beetroot juice, which eliminates oxidative stress and reduces inflammation, encouraging muscle repair. Experts recommend sipping 7 to 10 ounces of beet juice immediately after heavy exercise, like high-impact intervals or heavy resistance training. Then, if you regularly consume beets, you have a higher chance of keeping your blood pressure low and reducing your risk of heart disease.
A Cold Bath
Cryotherapy is gaining some popularity as a quick and easy recovery solution, but the truth is you don’t need to pay exorbitant fees to access specialty cryochambers — you could just take a chilly plunge in your tub. Cold water helps reduce inflammation the same way an ice pack does, so submerging yourself could be beneficial after a rigorous whole-body exercise, like a triathlon. However, as popular as such cold-water treatments are, science shows they are roughly as effective as…
When you are sore after a hard workout, the last thing you want to do is move, but studies show that light movement works wonders at speeding up recovery and providing other benefits to your training, too. Passive recovery can be slow and arduous, and it often results in decreased mobility. In contrast, non-taxing workouts even on your most-sore days will break up scarring tissue and facilitate blood flow to your muscles. You can find all sorts of resources to help you build a helpful active recovery workout, which should include lightweight lifts, full range of motion movements and plenty of stretching.
It is important to exercise and put your muscles to use, but it is also important to give your body the right tools to recover properly. Muscles are grown after the gym — and they are grown faster and with less discomfort when you use the above tips and tricks.