Recovery may not be as exciting or feel as crucial as all those brutal routines and hard-won reps you knocked out at the gym, but what you do post-workout can have a huge impact on your overall fitness, progress and results. Put simply, your muscles can only do so much for you—especially if you don’t allow them to recover and give them what they need to perform. Taking care of your muscles after maxing them out in the weight room should be a regular part of your routine.
HELP YOUR MUSCLES HELP YOU
You can lift weights all you want, but if you’re not consuming protein afterward, you’re your own worst enemy. Protein delivers essential amino acids that are used to rebuild muscle and tissue after strenuous exercise. When you don’t provide your body with the replenishing nutrients it needs, you limit your gains. If you’re a healthy weight-training athlete, you should be consuming around 1-1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
GET TYPE AND TIMING RIGHT
In addition to consuming small amounts of protein-rich foods like Greek yogurt, eggs and chicken throughout the day, there are two different types of protein you may want to consider. When taken within 30 minutes of working out, whey isolate protein—a supplement that is around 90 percent pure protein—is an effective way to supply your muscles with the nutrients they need to recover. Whey isolates are more rapidly digested than many other sources of protein. They also contain the full spectrum of essential amino acids.
At night, opt for a casein protein, which is more slowly digested by your body. This helps provide a steady release of amino acids while you sleep. Like whey, casein protein packs all nine of the essential amino acids needed to support nitrogen balance. Maintaining a positive nitrogen balance allows for optimal protein synthesis, enabling you to drive your overall performance. When you keep your protein intake consistent, you safeguard that balance.
EAT, SLEEP, LIFT, REPEAT
Be sure to pair all that post-workout protein with some carbs to help replenish muscle glycogen stores, which support muscle energy regeneration. Consider restorative exercises like yoga to keep your muscles limber and resilient, and don’t underestimate the power of stretching. If you’re feeling extra sore in specific spots, foam rolling is a great way to target and relieve trigger points. Aim to massage sore spots for about 30 seconds, or until you feel pressure release.
A good night’s sleep might sound like a no-brainer, but are you truly sleeping well and sleeping enough? Quality slumber is a state in which your body rebuilds and recovers from the stress of your day. Deep, restorative sleep is also necessary for the release of many hormones. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day and consider a melatonin supplement to help support restful slumber.