Optimize Your Muscle Recovery

The next time you’re feeling sore after leaving the gym, there’s a few things you might want to take into consideration. 

  1. Are you getting enough sleep? 

  2. Omega 3 fatty acids

  3. Protein consumption

  4. Hydration 

Sleep is your biggest recovery tool. 8-10 hours of sleep is ideal, not only for muscle recovery, but brain function and physical performance. You won’t recover well or have a solid training session if your brain is cloudy from a sleepless night. REM sleep, your deepest sleep cycle, allows the body to restore, replenish and circulate human growth hormone. The human growth hormone is an amino acid produced in the pituitary gland of the brain, your muscles need this. Ever watch a baby? Babies just sleep, all day long! Their body knows that sleep is the best way for growth and recovery.

You may want to consider taking fish oils if your diet doesn’t consist of fatty fish (such as salmon, sardines, trout). Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. Fish oil contains the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which help your body maintain normal brain and heart function as well as aid in muscle recovery and joint support.

Stay hydrated, drink water throughout your day to help flush out toxins in your body. Since your body is made of 60-70% of water, if your cells are dehydrated (muscle cells hold up seven times more water than fat cells) it delays protein synthesis and can result in the breakdown of muscle tissue. Dehydration typically results in spasms, cramps and slowed muscle growth. Goal water intake generally is ½ your body weight in ounces of water. Example: 125 lbs./2 = 62.5 oz. of water per day. However, you may need more if you are constantly losing water through respiration, urination and perspiration. Branched chain amino acids, BCAAs, also optimize muscle protein synthesis.

Working out breaks down muscle, to rebuild that muscle, you must consume protein. Most clients I first work with aren’t even close to a sufficient daily consumption of protein, they’re under eating. Evenly distributing your protein intake throughout the day helps maximize protein synthesis; muscle growth and repair. The common protein intake suggestion is 1 gram per pound of body weight. Example: If you weigh 125 and want to maintain that size then you would consume 125 grams of protein for a whole day of eating. If you eat 5 meals a day, that would be 25 grams of protein per meal. If you want to gain weight, however, you would eat your goal weight in grams per day. Train like an athlete, eat like an athlete, recover like an athlete. 

Sleep, hydration, protein intake and vitamins can all play a major role in muscle/post-workout recovery but don’t forget the importance of a proper warm-up pre-workout and mobilizing post-workout. Like most things, it will depend on the individual. The only way to see what works best for you and your body is trial and error.