What does recovery mean to you? Your first thought might be stretching, which is something that a lot of us struggle to do. After a workout, most of us just rush to get home or back to our daily grind and can’t spare a few minutes to stretch properly. However, taking just 10 minutes to work on your muscles after exercise can help to improve your recovery and increase your gains.
Rest days are also part of the recovery process. But rest days are for the weak, right? Wrong. A day without a workout helps your muscles to recuperate and build, allowing them to be even stronger the following day.
A good nutritional routine is also a huge part of recovery. The food you put in your mouth after a workout can affect how your muscles build, so eat well! Recovering from a workout properly by following the guidance in these areas can lead to you feeling better overall, as well as a lot of progress towards your goals — whether that's muscle building or weight loss. So how does recovery work?
After exercise of any kind, our muscles experience micro-tears. These are literal tears in our muscles and cause the soreness and stiffness felt after a workout. When muscles are stiff, small build ups can occur in the capillaries, which are tiny blood vessels in your body. This build up can prevent important nutrients from being delivered to tissues which help those muscles recover. Stretching releases any blockages and increases the amount of nutrients and fluids brought to the muscles. In turn, muscles recover from micro-tears quicker, resulting in faster muscle development and more gains. Stretching also helps fluids reach joints faster, reducing stiffness and improving overall mobility.
Don’t skip rest days! Although your know-it-all gym buddies might tell you that rest days are useless and should be viewed as another day to work on your arms, they’re totally wrong. Imagine you have a scrape on your knee. Would continually bending that knee make it heal faster, or would that reopen the scrape and prevent it from healing? The same reasoning applies to those micro-tears in your muscles if you continue to work out and don’t let them recover. Resting heals the muscles, so when you do continue to exercise, more muscle is built on recovered tissue. Hence, more recovery, more muscle development.
A similar result is seen for weight loss. Exercise releases a stress hormone called cortisol, which stimulates your metabolism and helps to lose weight.
However, too much cortisol can hinder your metabolism and actually slow down your progress. Taking one or two rest days a week is more beneficial than not taking any. So listen to your body and not your gym buddies. Take a rest day and try to throw in some stretching in as well.
Nutrition is one of the final parts of a good recovery. After any sort of workout, your body needs nutrients to heal those muscular micro-tears. Studies have shown that consuming protein before, during, or after a workout can help with this muscle recovery, as this external fuel prevents the utilization of proteins already within the body. So next time you get a workout in, try eating some protein to help build and tone your muscles up.
Recovery is key. It helps your body make progress, whether that’s for weight loss or muscle gain. Make sure you take the time to stretch to increase the flow of nutrients to the muscles, rest to allow them to recover and build, and eat protein-packed food to help rebuild important tissues.
Maddy has worked in the health and fitness industry for 5 years. She has a bachelors in Exercise Science and has recently received her Masters in Exercise Physiology. She has worked with a wide demographic of clients as a Personal Trainer and loves helping people reach their goals and continue to grow. She is an outdoor enthusiast and dedicates her workouts to rock climbing, hiking and whatever new experiences may come her way.
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