A Quick Guide to Muscle RecoveryJan 16, 2023
Muscle recovery is a long and complicated physiological process. It can be optimized through many factors including our hormone release timing, antioxidant intake, fatty acid intake, post exercise procedures and a slew of other stuff that people generally won't do.
If you’re like me, hearing all of this stuff can turn you off to this idea of improving your recovery because there’s almost a sense hopelessness in being overwhelmed with information. It’s not that this information is without it purpose or importance, but for the layman, it’s just downright confusing. That’s why I wanted to make a short and simple guide to muscle recovery. Let’s start with these tips for now and we can worry about all of the cortisol dumping and other junk later on.
No matter your activity, the number one factor that we should take into account for our muscle recovery is sleep hygiene or the habits that surround our sleep cycle. Inconsistent bed times, overuse of stimulants, poor sleep environment and total amount of sleep are just a few examples of what makes up our sleep hygiene. In todays world, it’s not terribly uncommon for us to neglect these factors in favor of work or social activities, but most people underestimate the effect that this has on our body, especially when involved in intense physical activity. Sleep deprivation can cause major issues in our recovery time, physical performance, hormonal balance, etc., so it’s important that we are getting the recommended 8 hours a night.
There are factors that may be hindering your ability to sleep other than having an overly busy schedule. Blue light, like that emitted by our phones, laptops and tablets, has been proven to disrupt our natural sleep-wake cycle. Making the effort to stay off of your device within an hour of bed time can prove hugely beneficial for not only getting to sleep, but staying there. Important too is making sure that we're not spending too much time in our beds. Our beds should only be used to sleep and not to stare into the ceiling or browse our phone/laptops. If we find yourself unable to sleep for any particular reason, it's really best to get out of bed and do something, like read a book, so as not to associate our bed with discomfort and the inability to sleep any further.
WATER + ELECTROLYTE
Another factor contributing to our recovery is our diet, which includes everything from water intake to mineral and macro nutrient intake. Staying amply hydrated is important in ensuring proper muscle cell health and can be hugely impactful on our training. Just 2-3% dehydration can make noticeable decreases in our physical performance. A generalized intake amount is 3.7 and 4.7 for women and men respectively. Increased water intake also leads to the idea of mineral balance and micronutrient intake. We want to make sure that we're maintaining proper electrolyte levels, especially in the hot summer weather. Calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium are all responsible for the actions and contractions that our muscles produce so be sure to have these included somewhere in your diet.
Macro nutrition is another major component in muscle recovery. Attempting to source as much of our daily protein intake from whole foods (fish, poultry, beef, legumes) is optimal, but protein supplements (whey, whey isolate, pea, hemp, almond sources) can get the job done if we’re short on time. Depending on our activities and our personal physiology, we make want to prioritize fats over carbohydrates or vice versa. Unfortunately there’s not enough room in a single blog to describe everything that goes into macro intake, but getting proper protein and carbohydrate both pre and post workout can have a significant effect on our performance and potential recovery.
In terms of more extrinsic interventions, adding dynamic stretching and foam rolling to our post workout routine can prove useful for tissue recovery, even if minor. These could certainly decrease the potential for the next day muscle soreness we typically experience and can increase blood flow to a particular area which can aid overall muscle cell health. These types of post workout activities may also come with the added bonus of increased flexibility and mobility, which can help us prevent injury and truly utilize our newly recovered muscle.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
If this mass of information scares you off for any reason, don’t overthink it. We can break everything here down in a few words.
1. Get ample sleep
2. Eat whole foods
3. Drink plenty of water and
4. Throw in some foam rolling here and there.
Exercise and recovery doesn’t have to be a complicated process. If you feel that you may be lacking in some aspect of your recovery, try a couple of these tips out and see how it goes. If you’re enjoying what you do and are feeling great doing it, then keep it up!