By Christine Ruggeri
A common misconception regarding muscle growth is that it happens while you’re exercising or lifting weights. The truth is that your muscles grow and repair during the recovery period, in the hours following a workout. That’s why muscle recovery is so important and why you want to avoid doing it all wrong.
The time needed for muscle recovery depends on the person and fitness routine, but typically it takes 1–2 days of rest, and even longer for more vigorous workouts.
Allowing your connective tissues to recover is also critical for building muscle and maintaining healthy joints. Fortunately, there are therapies, foods and supplements that can help to speed up or support the recovery process.
Immediately Post-Workout Therapies
Foam Roller Exercises
Foam roller exercises are a form of massage that loosen sore muscles and tight joints. Foam rolling may decrease muscle tightness, reduce post workout stress and ease stiffness after exercise.
Using a massage gun after working out may help to improve responsiveness after a workout and delay muscle soreness. This is a type of vibration therapy that can improve range of motion and shock absorption, while easing muscle tightness.
Cold Bath or Cryotherapy
Taking a cold bath or doing a cryotherapy treatment, which involves exposure to extreme cold air, may help to support recovery and reduce muscle soreness.
Eating good quality protein before and after a workout can help with muscle recovery. High-protein foods will give your body the nutrients it needs for muscle and tissue recovery. Some of the best foods for muscle recovery include grass-fed beef, organic chicken, lentils, beans, nuts and eggs.
Your body needs to restore glycogen to maintain healthy energy levels after exercising. Glycogen is a readily available source of glucose and energy for tissues, and it helps to refuel the body and aid muscle recovery. The best glycogen foods that should be consumed after a workout include starchy carbohydrates (like sweet potatoes, carrots and butternut squash), whole grains, legumes, beans and organic dairy.
Healthy fat foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids support a healthy response to inflammation and may benefit muscle recovery. Some great options include wild-caught salmon, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds.
Eating nutrient-dense anti-inflammatory foods can support healthy muscle repair and growth. Some of the best options are green leafy vegetables, broccoli, ginger, turmeric, berries and coconut oil.
Don’t eat processed or packaged foods that are often made with trans fat and other inflammatory ingredients, and reduce your sugar intake, sticking to natural forms of sugar from fruits and vegetables instead.
It’s important to drink plenty of water after exercise, especially if you’re sweating and losing liquids. Staying hydrated can support muscle recovery and help prevent overheating. You can drink plain water, lemon or lime water, or coconut water.
Don’t drink alcohol during the muscle recovery and rest phase or drinks that are made with added sugars or artificial sweeteners.
Bone Broth Protein
Bone Broth Protein powder is a superfood protein that supplies essential minerals and compounds, including glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid. These components work together to support your muscles and joints, which is why taking Bone Broth Protein after a workout can help “feed” your connective tissues and muscles, helping to support healthy muscle recovery.
Multi Collagen Protein
Muscles need collagen and protein after exercise for recovery and growth, which is why collagen protein aids muscle recovery and helps reduce stiffness. Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein features 10 types of collagen that supply amino acids including proline, glycine and arginine that support healthy connective tissues in the joints and ligaments.
Plant-based protein powders, like the Plant Protein+ made with organic seeds and botanicals, are a great option for consuming the amino acids needed for muscle recovery and performance.
Omega-3 fatty acids promote a healthy response to inflammation and can help support healthy joints and muscles, contributing to muscle comfort after exercise. The Ancient Omegas capsules provide this essential type of fatty acid and offer other body-wide benefits as well.
Get Enough Sleep
Muscle recovery happens while you’re sleeping and resting your body, so make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Opt for at least seven hours a night and ideally closer to eight.
Stress and heightened levels of cortisol are going to slow down muscle recovery, so manage your stress by taking time to rest, walk outdoors, meditate or try other calming activities that put your body and mind at ease.
Not only will getting outdoors reduce stress and boost energy levels, but getting enough vitamin D from exposure to sunlight has shown in some studies to improve muscle strength, especially among older adults.
It’s important to leave time for muscle recovery in between workouts. While you may think that overtraining will lead to better results, the lack of rest can actually do more harm than good. Your body needs about two days to recover, sometimes more depending on your age, fitness level and workout.
In order to avoid risk of injury, please seek advice directly from your physician, especially if you have existing medical issues, before beginning any exercise or nutritional program. Also, be sure to stretch after exercise to avoid muscle and joint tightness.