Focusing on muscle recovery after a good workout session as well as after a physically demanding sporting event is vitally important. Every time you work your body, the physical exertion will cause tissue wear and tear and you will need to take steps that will help minimize damage and rebuild muscles. If you ignore the need for muscle recovery, not only will you end up with a lot of aches and pains, but there will also be a delay in the healing process. Significant delays in the healing or recovery process result in failure to progress or even over-training.
Prepare your body for the demanding workout
Stretching and warm-up routines are essential regardless of the workout regimen that you intend to follow. In fact, you will just be risking a muscle injury if you indulge in physically taxing exercises without preparing your body for the intense movements that are to come. Yoga, particularly sun salutation, is the perfect way to stretch the muscle tissue and increase flexibility in the joints. This one routine combines the benefits of several yogic poses that warm and loosen them muscles and strengthens the core. Of course, if you do not have the time for the entire routine, you can also do a concise version that can even be performed right before a competitive event.
Give your muscles the fuel they need for top performance
Properly “fueling” is a must both before and after intense physical and can significantly improve post-workout recovery. Fitness enthusiasts and competitive athletes from marathoners, cyclists and triathletes to people participating in activities like CrossFit, P90X or Insanity should know that it can be detrimental to work out or physically exert themselves on an empty stomach. One must be careful, however, to not overload the stomach with food just prior to a workout as it can lead to nausea and significant gastrointestinal upset. In general, regular meals should not be consumed within 3 hours of a workout or competition. A small snack can be consumed within 2 hours. If you need calories close to a workout, focus on liquids and gels (Doc’s favorite is HammerGel) or a sports nutrition bar that is easy to digest (Doc’s favorite in this instance is good ol’ fashioned Powerbar). Around 200 Calories consumed within an hour of a workout ought to get you jumpstarted for any workout (refueling DURING the workout is another story and needs to be considered for workouts over 45-60 minutes depending on intensity).
Feed your muscles
Depletion of muscle glycogen and breakdown of muscle can be addressed with a post workout protein/carbohydrate shake that is consumed within the 15 to 45 minute “carbohydrate window” following a workout. There is some evidence that consuming carbohydrates and protein in a 4-to-1 ratio improves recovery and can massively increase muscle glycogen (which should equate to improved endurance). There are numerous commercial drinks on the market that employ this formulation (our favorite at Doc’s is Endurox R4).
Deal with the pain
Whether you are a seasoned athlete, a swimmer, a cyclist or a newbie at the gym, there will be times when pushing your body to its limits will leave you with physical discomfort. This signals the need to give your muscles some TLC. It is crucial to understand that the pain you feel after an intense round of exercise is not bad but the pain has to be addressed. Early after a workout and up to 48 hours later, an ice bath may help flush lactic acid and chemicals from tired muscles on top of providing a nice analgesic effect.
Following an ice bath, gently massaging the tired muscles helps promote the return of healthy blood flow needed for repair and recovery. For a post-workout massage, you need a preparation that is all-natural, offers the right slickness but dries off without leaving a sticky, oily residue. One product that does this is Doc’s Natural Massage Elixir which was specifically designed for post-workout self-massage.
A muscle balm like Doc’s Natural Muscle Balm is another preparation that works extraordinarily well on tired and sore muscles. In fact, it is so potent that it is often found in the first aid kit of physiotherapists who are attending to professional triathletes and football players. The hot and cold effect of the balm not only offers instant relief from the soreness, but it may also help muscle recovery. If you have residual soreness following an ice bath and massage, then slather some of this stuff on.
Workouts and competitive sports undeniably leave you with a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, but they don’t necessarily have to leave you groaning in pain for days on. These tips will have you up and running in no time and aid in muscle recovery while the tissue builds up faster and stronger than before.