If you’ve ever had an intense workout, you’ll know all too well that encumbering muscle ache that often appears in the days following training. But how do you set about improving your body’s ability to cope with muscle recovery and accelerate it, so that you can get back to training like a pro? Thankfully, there’s no need to suffer intensely if you’ve had a particularly tough workout session. There are plenty of tips and tricks out there that can help you maintain a steady training programme and smash those fitness goals.
How Long Does Muscle Recovery Take?
Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is that painful feeling that permeates the muscles after they’ve been worked intensely. You won’t feel DOMS during a fitness session; it usually arrives a day or two later. It often peaks up to 3 days post-workout, after which, it usually begins to ease.
If you’re suffering from DOMS, you may feel:
- Muscle fatigue
- Pain and stiffness
DOMS is a perfectly natural aspect of the recovery process. During intense training, your muscle fibres suffer from microscopic tears. Inflammation is the body’s natural response during the muscle repair process, which leads to soreness and stiffness.
DOMS can affect anybody, regardless of their level of fitness or their age.
How to Speed Up Muscle Recovery
Fortunately, there are steps that we can take to increase the quality and speed of the muscle recovery process. While time is the main treatment in muscle recovery, there are some natural remedies and self-care steps to help you feel tip-top whilst those muscles are rebuilding. You’ll be back in the gym in no time!
Anti-Inflammatory Creams and Balms
Many athletes turn to CBD balms or creams that can help with inflammation, both pre- and post-workout. There is a great range of anti-inflammatory creams to choose from; some balms heat up the muscle and are great for stimulating blood flow prior to a fitness session, whilst others cool and soothe the muscle once your workout is done. Missions C creams and balms are infused with natural extracts such as non-intoxicating CBD; a legal compound taken from the cannabis plant that has been shown to have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
We all know the importance of staying hydrated on a daily basis, and hydration is fundamental for the muscle repair process. Dehydration, which often occurs after intense exercise, can significantly hinder your muscle’s ability to recover. This is especially true if you have exercised in a hot environment.
The best way to keep hydrated is not only to drink plenty of water, but to replace the electrolytes lost during a workout. Electrolytes are minerals such as potassium, sodium and magnesium; these can be found in many common foods such as fruit and vegetables, and you can also purchase electrolyte-infused drinks.
Choosing a healthy snack following a fitness session is vital for providing the muscles with the nutrients required for optimal repair. An ideal post-workout snack is high in protein and carbohydrates and is best consumed up to 90 minutes after exercise. Some fruit with Greek yoghurt, for instance, is an excellent and healthy food choice for keeping the muscles happy.
There are additional healthy food choices you can make to aid muscle recovery. For instance, eating a snack that is high in protein in the evening can assist in overnight recovery. Studies also show that healthy plant-based diets can promote muscle growth and repair.
Eating an overall balanced diet reduces the risk of developing nutrient deficiencies, so making a conscious effort to consume more fruit and vegetables and reducing your intake of processed foods can support healthy muscle healing and growth.
Some athletes use supplements to promote peak muscle recovery. Protein powders and Creatine are two of the most popular supplements. Creatine can reduce inflammation and muscle damage, while replenishing glycogen for better repair. Protein powders contain essential amino acids and are a convenient, sometimes tasty way to boost your protein intake.
BCAAs (Branch-Chain Amino Acids) taken prior to a workout can reduce the risk of muscle soreness and longer recovery time.
Obtaining these nutrients from a healthy, balanced diet should be your aim in the first instance, but supplements can provide an extra boost to the recovery process.
Massage & Foam Rolling
Studies have shown that those who receive a massage following an intense exercise session are likely to experience less muscle soreness than those who don’t. It may not be feasible to receive a professional massage after every workout, however, you can perform self-massage on key areas such as calves, thighs and arms. Foam rollers have become increasingly popular as a post-workout tool also; these can provide an deep tissue massage when rolled against the muscle.
Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is absolutely crucial in the muscle recovery process, and if you have experienced intense exercise, then you need even more rest than usual. Sleep deprivation affects the inflammation response and can significantly impair your muscles’ ability to repair themselves. Make a conscious effort to get an early night after your workout and your muscles will thank you for it.
DOMS is a natural symptom of the muscle repair method. Everyone can experience muscle soreness, but there’s no need to let it hamper your fitness programme, thanks to steps you can take to improve recovery and reduce discomfort.
The most important factors in maximising muscle recovery after a workout are to sufficiently rehydrate, get a good night’s sleep and to eat healthy protein and carbohydrate-rich foods. You can add supplements, anti-inflammatory creams, massage and foam rolling to give muscle repair a further boost and you’ll be back to your training routine in no time.