Working out doesn’t make you stronger or build muscle...at least not in isolation.
Most men in the gym make the serious mistake of ignoring their recovery. While your workouts provide the stimulus to get stronger, build muscle, and improve your health, you get all the benefits only after your body repairs itself from the workout.
So if you are someone who doesn’t prioritize recovery, you’ll eventually experience:
- Significant muscle soreness
- Achy joints and pains throughout your body
- An increased risk of injury
- Little to no progress
...Or are already suffering from these symptoms of under-recovery.
I know...not seeing results because of under-recovery can be hard to believe. But if you haven’t previously optimized recovery before this, then keep watching…
Because I’m going to show you exactly how to recover faster from workouts.
You’ll feel fewer aches and pains, reduce your risk of injury, bust through plateaus and make faster progress, feel more motivation to workout, and experience less muscle soreness.
Which leads me to an important point: Recovery is a bit more complicated than just muscle soreness...
So What Is Recovery?
Let me first tackle an important myth. So-called experts used to think muscle soreness is caused by a build-up of lactic acid.
Thanks to research like this study from Auckland University of Technology, we know that a combination of microtrauma to muscles and connective tissue, also known as muscle damage, is the biggest factor causing muscle soreness .
Lactic acid is usually cleared out of your bloodstream quickly, so it’s not a significant factor in what we call delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), but muscle damage is!
Muscle damage is primarily caused by workouts that are intense, include a lot of volume, and cause a significant stretch under load like during a Romanian deadlift.
But having sore muscles doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train. And not being sore doesn’t mean you should train.
That’s because recovery actually includes all of the following:
- Muscle recovery
- Connective tissue recovery
- Joint recovery
- Nervous and endocrine system recovery
- Replenishing glycogen
- Reducing system fatigue that builds up over many workouts
- Lowering inflammation
Now that you know recovering from the workout is extremely important for your results and wellbeing, and that proper recovery requires more than just reducing soreness...let’s talk about what to do and what not to do to recover faster from workouts.
What Not To Do
There are 3 surprising things that don’t work well to help you recover faster.
1 - Stretching
If you thought stretching is a useful way to help recovery, you’d be wrong. A 2011 study suggests stretching doesn’t help reduce muscle soreness .
Stretching is more useful to improve your flexibility and mobility.
2 - Anti-inflammatory drugs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen help reduce inflammation. According to research, they actually can help with recovery. The issue is that NSAIDs blunt the anabolic response to lifting weights. This study from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences found that muscle protein synthesis is reduced when you take NSAIDs .
In other words, unless you are elderly or are experiencing extreme pain like from an injury or specific condition, then maybe NSAIDs would be better as a last resort.
3 - Cryotherapy
I’m using cryotherapy to include all cold therapy methods like ice baths. Research shows that it’s not a reliable way to help with recovery . So while there’s good research to show it isn’t that effective for recovery, it is effective at helping you build mental toughness.
A cold shower is an uncomfortable thing. The more we do uncomfortable things that we don’t necessarily want to do, the tougher we become.
With all that being said, how do you recover faster?
How To Recover Faster From Workouts
#1: Active Recovery
Active recovery is just a light form of exercise that’s easier than your actual workout. For example, you could go for a light ride on a recumbent bike or go for a brisk walk after a workout.
According to the National Research Center for the Working Environment in Denmark, doing active recovery after exercise significantly reduces muscle soreness. You don’t have to do it long because the majority of results are experienced in the first 20 minutes .
Active recovery probably works well because it allows blood flow through your muscles, joints, and connective tissue so that your blood nourishes the regions you just worked and clears away metabolites.
Of all the active methods out there, active recovery is one of the most researche-backed ways to enhance recovery...without hindering muscle and strength gains.
You can start doing active recovery by doing a 10-20 minute brisk walk or bike ride after a workout. It’s likely better to do an upper body form of active recovery after an upper body workout, so that could include using an arm ergometer or swimming.
Just remember, you should feel better after active recovery. It’s supposed to be light and relaxing.
#2: Foam Rolling
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release. You have a fibrous tissue called fascia that surrounds your muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. With overuse or even inactivity, the fascia experiences a lot of tension that restricts your mobility and blood flow.
The goal of foam rolling is to cause a sensory input that allows your nervous system to relax your muscle and fascia. You do this by applying pressure to trigger points in your fascia and muscles, which causes your body to relax .
Like we discussed, static stretching was a common way people try to help recovery. But according to research, stretching not only is ineffective for that purpose, it can also hinder your gains. Research from the University of Northampton found that static stretching for 1 minute impairs your performance with that muscle you stretched .
That’s why some were afraid foam rolling would also somehow hinder results. Fortunately, research from the Memorial University of Newfoundland increases mobility without hindering your strength .
But we’re focused on recovery. So how does foam rolling actually help?
Research published in the Journal of Athletic Training compared men doing 10 sets of squats for 10 reps who either did 20 minutes of foam rolling after the workout or no foam rolling. The ones who foam rolled experienced less muscle tenderness and enhanced recovery. Arguably the most important results was that the men who foam rolled reduced the decrements in performance that were caused by delayed onset muscle soreness .
That means foam rolling improves your mobility, reduces muscle soreness, and helps you recover to maximize performance the next time you’re in the gym...all without hindering your results.
To improve recovery, you can foam roll for 5-10 minutes immediately after a workout.
Like foam rolling, massage involves applying pressure to cause the muscle and fascia to relax.
A study published in Edith Cowan University had participants do 2 workouts. One arm had 10 minutes of massage 3 hours after the working out. The massaged arm had 30% less muscle soreness. But they didn’t see improvements with muscle strength and range of motion .
You can do a massage with tools like a Theragun or get a professional massage. If you’re lucky, you can have a partner give you a massage too.
#4: Eat Enough
Eating the right amount isn’t just for building muscle mass. And it’s definitely not just for losing weight. If your body doesn’t have the food to fuel all the processes in your body, keep your metabolic rate up, plus provide the calories to actually repair your body, then you won’t recover.
Studies even show that when you don’t eat enough, your body’s ability to repair itself, build muscle and strength, and perform are all hindered .
A study from Washington University School of Medicine even showed that under-eating destroys your male hormone profile such as by tanking your testosterone. It also blunts the anabolic response to working out. That means you experience less muscle growth and recovery in general .
Eating enough doesn’t just mean total calories. You have to make sure you get enough of each macronutrient.
Protein is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of muscle tissue. So if you want your muscles to recover, you need to have enough protein every single day. In fact, research suggests you need at least twice as much protein as a sedentary person .
In terms of carbohydrates, you need enough because they provide glucose in your bloodstream and are stored as glycogen which are important for performance in the gym .
Plus, having some carbs actually inhibits muscle protein breakdown by releasing insulin .
Of all 3 macronutrients, fat and then carbs are most important for your testosterone levels. So consuming enough saturated fat like from animal products, monounsaturated fat like from olive oil and avocados, and carbs from natural starches like potatoes is a good idea .
Sleep can’t be under-emphasized enough. For recovery, it’s just as important as a proper diet.
In fact, most of your recovery occurs while you sleep. For each hour that you reduce sleep, you have a significant increase in inflammation in your body that hinders recovery .
Like I’ve mentioned in other videos, not sleeping enough hours or having enough deep sleep can literally cause you to lose muscle and even gain fat instead .
A study from the University of Chicago examined men who dropped their sleep from 9 hours to 5 hours for just 1 week. Their testosterone levels dropped by 14% in that short of a time .
Getting enough deep sleep or just recovering in general can still be a challenge, especially as you get older.
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Studies show that what’s most important isn’t just how many hours you sleep…
The key is actually how much deep sleep you get. This is when your body truly repairs and recovers from your workouts.
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Alright man, that was how to recover faster from workouts. Now that you know how crucial recovery is to your workout results and wellbeing, apply those tips and you’ll experience less soreness and pain, and be ready to crush every workout.