6 steps to fast muscle recovery between workouts

Fast muscle recovery

We all have busy agendas. Jobs, housework, meeting friends or that hiking trip to the mountains last weekend. Every activity bites a small share of our “energy pie” and in some cases what is left is not enough to serve as a fast muscle recovery.

I truly believe that when done right, there is time and energy for everything. It’s only about putting priority to it.

It’s very hard to say no to exciting things, but then again there is no fun in feeling like a dried fruit during the workout, right?

I’m not saying we should say no to a stuffy Christmas dinner and feel like a rolling potato on the run next day (we probably should, though). Instead, there are some easy things we can improve to make sure our muscles are ready to rock and roll when we need them.

Scroll down for my 6 steps to fast muscle recovery and watch out for those stuffy dinners.

Step 1: Proper nutrition – basis for fast muscle recovery

Only a few small changes to eating habits will already get people more energetic, healthier and able to recover faster.

Make changes gradually, though. Give your body at least a week to adapt.

Macronutrients. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats all serve a purpose. Carbs are the main source of energy, proteins are building blocks for muscles and fats ensure a well-oiled cardiovascular system.

No need for a strict diet. Eat balanced meals and consume enough calories.

60% of carbs and 20% of each fats and proteins is the way to go in endurance sports.

Drink plenty of water. Whenever we get moody during the day or feeling tired, most often it’s due to dehydration. Water is required for energy production, so if there’s not enough – our batteries are empty.

Skip dinner, enjoy breakfast. If we eat late our body digests food while we sleep and is unable to fully relax. The quality of sleep is poor and fast muscle recovery is impossible.

It’s much better to go to sleep with an “empty” stomach and get a solid breakfast to fuel the day.

I was serious about stuffy Christmas dinners – all that excess food is stored as fat.

Ditch “bad” food – sugary, processed, packaged and junk. It makes people sick and fat, raises the level of bad cholesterol that clogs arteries and takes extra energy to digest artificial things.

Consume good fats instead (those in nuts, avocados, etc.) and complex carbs (whole grain).

Step 2: Balanced training plan for focused effort

If you’re looking for a silver bullet that will get your recovery on track there is one. It’s called a training schedule.

Consistent results are like a German vacation – they require a proper plan, preferably half a year in advance.

If you are thinking of mixing up a stressful job and high intensity training schedule to compensate for it, think twice. Stress at work and from the workout will leave you tired and tense most of the time if not burned out completely.

High intensity training promotes hormone production – good news for anyone aged 14 to infinity. Hormones stimulate athletic improvements, muscle growth, fat loss and are a natural substitute to all what beauty companies advertise.

Too much stress, however, causes muscles to accumulate fatigue and can lead to plateau or even over-training.

Both intensity and recovery have to be planned in advance and, possibly, adjusted along the way. Without a goal you can’t score, they say…

For endurance sports a simple rule of thumb to remember is to limit high intensity work to no more than 20%. And also not to train until muscle fatigue to preserve endurance.

Step 3: Sufficient sleep to allow fast muscle recovery

This one’s a biggie.

Every day there is a struggle – stay up a bit late or go to bed. And there are so many distractions that don’t really help – late-night TV shows, movies and infinite scrolls of Facebook and Instagram.

It’s easy to cut on sleep in favor of something. After all, there’s always the whole night ahead and coffee will help, right?

Wrong. The reason it is so hard to wake up in the morning is because the body doesn’t get required 7-8 hours of sleep and coffee only postpones problems. In fact,

Getting 5-6 hours of sleep every day and sleeping until noon on weekends doesn’t work.

The body doesn’t somehow store “non-sleep” hours to use later. It’s quite black and white – some processes slow down (coordination, critical thinking, etc.) and body uses reserves only when absolutely necessary.

Fast muscle recovery will not be possible without sufficient sleep throughout the week. Body simply doesn’t have the time and energy to deal with all the accumulated stress and fatigue.

It means less energy for something exciting.

Napping helps fast muscle recovery
Don’t be shy to squeeze in an extra nap when you feel tired or out of energy. Sleep is critical for proper recovery – that is the time when our muscles grow

Step 4: Progressive loading to minimize fatigue

Getting faster and stronger comes down to one thing – supercompensation. It’s this magical time when we are fresh, happy and quicker than before.

Progressive loading means scheduling your key workouts at complete recovery. If every couple of weeks you feel stronger – you’re doing it right.

My advice to beginners is to take it easy. Start slow and gradually build up to where you want to get. Don’t lie to yourself and remember about the power of progression. If it’s too heavy, don’t suffer – drop the intensity.

To ensure constant improvement and avoid accumulating too much fatigue add no more than 10% progression to your calculated training load week-on-week.

Also, don’t forget to include a week of reduced mileage at least once per month and stick to it.

Take it easy during this time even if you’re not tired. Supercompensation is a hard bird to catch when you’re not paying attention.

Step 5: Cross-training to engage other muscle groups

Sometimes no matter how organized we are muscles still get tired.

Too much walking during the weekend or doing a push-up challenge – anything can happen.

In such cases a thing to remember is that we don’t need to stick to our training program 100%. Muscles are getting their stress, we’re getting our hormones and that’s all that matters. 

This can be an opportunity to switch sports and develop other muscle groups. While cross-training we give joints and muscles extra time to recover while preserving fitness. It can even be an only option to train in case of small injuries.

Swimming is by far one of the best cross-training option. It puts very little pressure on joints and develops core strength that helps to prevent injuries.

Cross-training for fast muscle recovery
Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Have fun and try new things. You’ll be surprised how it can improve fitness.

Step 6: Easy-paced workouts to utilize lactate

I saved the best for last.

Easy-paced efforts should form the majority of any training plan. Around 80% of a healthy training plan should consist of low intensity running, cycling, swimming or simple gym training.

Simple is the opposite of CrossFit, just in case.

Limiting high intensity training ensures you don’t pull yourself over the edge to over-training. It also helps to keep your workouts highly focused as you don’t spill your energy on intervals when not properly recovered.

Low intensity, however, helps you to recycle accumulated lactate and build your aerobic capacity which later translates into fast muscle recovery during and after the workout.

Easy is often overrated. It’s not the time for showing off – leave it for the race day. If it feels slow – it should be even slower.

As much as I like speed, I try hard to keep myself focused and not push myself every time. I do very short sprints and a fartlek every now and then just, but most of the time try to end the workout with a lot more left in the tank.

Thanks for reading! I wish you fast muscle recovery between workouts and don’t forget to say hi here or on Facebook.

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