1. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
You really can’t overstate the importance of sleep. Getting enough sleep is so important, because your brain and body both recover best while you are asleep. The non-REM phase of sleep, which accounts for about 40% of total sleep time, is especially helpful for muscle recovery.
During this phase, your blood pressure drops and your breathing slows. This is when your brain is able to rest the most, and so it needs less blood supply. That extra blood supply is able to flow to your muscles, bringing oxygen and nutrients that can help with growth and recovery. Not only that, but sleep also helps to regulate your hormone levels. During non-REM sleep, growth hormones are also released that aid in tissue growth and muscle repair.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
When you work up a sweat, your body’s fluids get depleted. To keep yourself from getting dehydrated, you’ll want to be sure to hydrate as much as possible after a tough workout. Drinking enough water can help your body transport important nutrients, and also prevent muscle soreness and tension.
If you really want to step up your hydration game, you can try adding lemon and a little bit of salt to your water. The lemon provides extra flavor to encourage more consumption, and the salt can help provide your body with important electrolytes, which also help with workout recovery.
3. Consume protein
Even if you are well-hydrated, water on its own is not always enough to provide you with the best recovery after an intense workout. There are a few other things you should also be sure to consume to help your body recover.
First up is protein. Protein serves to both decrease muscle breakdown and increase muscle growth (or muscle protein synthesis). During a tough gym session, the glycogen stores in your muscles get depleted. Eating protein after a workout helps to replenish those glycogen stores and prevent potential muscle degradation.
4. Consume carbs
Carbs are another thing you’ll want to eat for workout recovery. Like protein, carbs play a major role in replenishing your body’s glycogen stores. Carbohydrates can also help with disease prevention. During recovery, your body’s immunity can be temporarily decreased. Carbs have protective benefits to keep you healthy while your body heals.
5. Never skip the cool down
Once you’ve worked out and you’re exhausted, all you may want to do is lie down immediately. It can be tempting, but don’t make this mistake. Always, always, always cool down after a workout. Be sure to stretch so your muscles don’t get tense or tight. You can also try engaging in an active cool down or active recovery. Whatever it is, just make sure you’re cooling your muscles down after working out.
6. Let your muscles rest
Even if you’re doing everything right (hydrating, consuming carbs and protein, stretching), that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to bounce back immediately from a super tough training session and dive right into another. Giving your body time to truly rest after an intense workout is extremely important. As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as overtraining, just under recovering. You can absolutely push yourself to the limit during your workout as long as you give yourself plenty of time to rest and recover afterward.
7. Cold shower or tub
Last but not least, if you’re feeling the pain after working out, a cold shower or bath can help to soothe your muscles and ease your pain. Your body can release adrenaline in response to the cold water, and it can be a great way to clear your mind as well. The cold water also helps to reduce inflammation, thus decreasing your chances of delayed onset muscle soreness.