Aching muscles, pounding heart, shaking legs - exercise can be tough. But we love it, it’s physically and emotionally uplifting and we can’t wait for our next session. For some of us, the recovery can be tougher, especially when you’re itching to get back out there. But don’t underestimate the importance of good recovery; taking time to rest properly between workouts is incredibly important to ensure your workouts are as effective as you want them to be and to prevent injury, so it is crucial to get the most out of your recovery time – sitting on the sofa isn’t going to cut if you really want to optimise your results. Here are my favourite tried-and-tested ways to maximise your recovery and thrive:
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Up to 60% of our body is made up of water, it is incredibly important for ensuring every cellular process runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Dehydration is common, especially when performing intense exercise, as your body sweats to help cool you down, but this can impair muscle recovery (and leave you with a rather nasty headache!) (1). While the amount of water we need varies from person to person, ensure you stay adequately hydrated by drinking around 2 litres a day, more when exercising. You may also wish to add a pinch of salt to your water post-exercise, to help replace electrolytes lost through perspiration - coconut water is also a great option for replenishing electrolytes.
Give yourself enough time between workouts to allow your body to heal properly. How many days you need will depend on your workout routine – for example, if you are training upper body on day one, you can train lower body the next day, so long as you are giving specific muscle groups enough rest. If you are doing cardio, you may need to give yourself a day or two in between, depending on the intensity of your workout. The important thing is to listen to your body and do what works for you. But don’t stay stagnant for too long as you may risk seizing up. Instead, gentle movement like walking is great to keep you active on your days off, while still allowing your body to recover.
When we exercise, muscle fibres are torn and reformed to create bigger, stronger muscles - no wonder you're aching after a heavy workout!. As they begin to heal, they can become tight, so it may be useful to cool down and stretch after and between workouts to prevent muscle stiffness and aid flexibility (2). Try incorporating a few simple stretches into your routine, or even a yoga or foam roller session, to support your recovery.
4. Refuel with good food
Despite the rumours, you don’t need to be throwing back a protein shake within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. Of course, refuelling properly post-workout is crucial for replenishing nutrients and aiding recovery. Research suggests eating a meal containing a high-quality source of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats (such as omega-3) within 2 hours of your workout will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to repair sufficiently (3) – and that goes for your rest days too. Something like a salmon and vegetable omelette is a great option.
5. Consider supplements
Finally, you may want to consider some additional support from supplementation - omega-3, creatine monohydrate, tart cherry and curcumin may all be useful options for reducing inflammation and promoting muscle protein synthesis (4), both of which can support your body to repair to have you fighting fit for your next workout. For more information, I’ve explained more about the benefits of omega-3 (access it here) and curcumin (access it here) in previous articles.
An effective option is Rhythm Nutrition's Liposomal DEFLAME, a product with 4 powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients (Curcumin, Ginger, Vegan Omega 3 and Indian Frankincense) that has been designed for mobility through reduced pain and faster recovery!
Incorporating these tips into your routine will support your recovery and help you to get the most out of your workouts. I'd love to hear how you get on adding these steps in and what difference they have made to you - Let me know in the comments below.