To become a high-performance athlete, one of the most important factors that is often overlooked is the recovery phase. After any workout, it’s absolutely crucial that you eat a balanced high-protein diet, relax and get quality sleep.
Additionally, there are some more “recovery hacks” you can use to improve the speed of your body’s recovery. To find out what are the best “recovery hacks” specifically for athletes hitting the gym regularly, we asked a group of health and fitness experts what their best health tips are for speeding up post-workout recovery.
Here are their answers:
✅ 1) Try foam rolling, hot/cold showers, ice baths and some easy cardio.
Pat Gilles, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Owner of Pat’s Gym.
My top four recovery tips include foam rolling, hot/cold showers, ice baths and easy cardio.
- Learn to love the foam roller. I suggest 20-30 minutes of foam rolling a night. Rolling helps heal achy muscles as it releases blood flow. You can massage anything from your upper back, IT bands and calves.
- Hot and cold showers are great for recovery. I recommend one minute cold, followed by one minute hot. I’d do five-eight sets.
- Ice baths help constrict blood vessels, flush waste products and reduce swelling and tissue breakdown.
- Easy cardio can consist of biking, rowing and swimming for 30 minutes.
✅ 2) Improve the process of how you eat before and after your workouts.
Clint Fuqua, Fitness Trainer and Health Coach at Personal Health Care Reform.
There are two things that happen in the gym. You are either exercising for general health or you are training to achieve some sort of Athletic/Aesthetic goal. The following tips will help for both, but the person training for something MUST do these 3 things or all the effort in the gym is just wasted.
- This one thing encompasses everything you eat and drink from the time one training sessions ends until the next training session begins. Most importantly hydration and micro-nutrient need to be optimized for the best performance and to get the most out any pre-workout mixtures taken in 30 minutes before a workout. The amounts of nutrients are very individually specific depending on goals so make sure you are working with a professional that can help create a plan for your needs.
- This encompasses everything you eat and drink for 2 hours after a training session. This short window of time is the best chance at super loading your muscle cells with need carbohydrates, amino acids, micro-nutrients and water to repair damage and create a higher metabolic rate for increased protein synthesis. This is very important because it is the very start of PreFueling for the next training session and done wrong will have you playing catch up for the next few hours and days.
- Rest Actively
- Sleeping deeply every night is number one as it is a very active process for recovery and repair, however recovery workouts can aid in recovery and increased performance. A recovery is a short duration medium intensity workout performed 1-2 days after a primary or intense workout. Basically, if you do Chest day every Monday you better be doing a minor chest day on Wed or Thur to help your body recover and increase nutrient flow through your muscles to aid in better repair and performance.
✅ 3) Supplement with magnesium citrate after your workout.
Carolyn Dean, Medical Doctor, Author and Nutrition Expert at Nutritional Magnesium.
- Three minerals that work synergistically to contract muscles and relax muscles are calcium and potassium for smooth muscle contraction and magnesium for muscle relaxation and recovery from sore muscles. Along with sodium these are the key electrolytes.
- The kingpin of these minerals is magnesium. Too much calcium in the body without enough magnesium throws off this delicate balance causing muscle spasms, cramps and muscle soreness.
- Due to a diet of processed foods, caffeine, sugar and depleted minerals from our soils, most people do not get their RDA of magnesium and are deficient in this mineral.
- Additionally, when people sweat, they lose potassium and sodium. What most people do not know is that magnesium is also lost through the sweat glands. Magnesium deficiency leads to blood vessels and muscles that are less relaxed and more susceptible to soreness, spasm and tension.
- Replacing potassium alone doesn’t help people who are also magnesium deficient. Without enough magnesium the body is unable to metabolize potassium and deliver it to the cells.
- Magnesium assists in over 700 enzyme actions in the body including the production and transport of energy, temperature regulation and the synthesis of protein, while it also relaxes muscles, assisting in muscle recovery and preventing cramping especially important to athletes and anyone suffering from sore muscles and cramping.
- Not all forms of magnesium are easily absorbed by the body. One of the most absorbable forms of magnesium is powdered magnesium citrate that is mixed with hot or cold water and can be sipped after a workout and throughout the following day.
✅ 4) Stimulate your body’s natural recovery process with a low-intensity aerobic workout.
After your workout, the two big buckets are going to be recovery of the tissue and recovery of the nervous system. There’s a lot of hype and disingenuous marketing surrounding recovery supplements and protocols. For someone doing strength training, I have two recommendations:
- A post workout shake with 20-30g of protein, (like whey), 20-60g of fast-digesting (like dextrose) and 5g of creatine monohydrate. Note: that some people don’t tolerate whey well and some people don’t tolerate simple sugars well – modify as necessary. May also be relevant to reduce post-workout calories by limiting carb for someone looking to lose weight.
- Easy aerobic work helps move lymph and stimulate the aerobic system to clean up metabolic waste and resynthesize substrates. The trick is that this has to be *easy*. Shoot for something like 50-70% effort.
A good way to structure this is around the world – a series of one minute intervals on low intensity work. Try something like:
- 20 min @ 50-70% effort:
- 1 min step-ups, alternating
- 1 min farmer’s walk at moderate load
- 1 min side plank – 30s/side
- 1 min single-unders
- 1 min airdyne
✅ 5) Take Lipsomal Glutathione and Agmatine Sulfate supplements.
Dani at Simplesa Nutrition
Lipsomal Glutathione & Agmatine Sulfate can help people recover faster from workouts in the gym and provide overall health benefits.
Glutathione (GSH) is critically important for detoxification. With its anti-inflammatory properties, glutathione is considered one of the most important antioxidants in the healthy functioning of cells. The body uses glutathione to protect against toxins that enter our body from the foods we eat and those encountered in everyday life, including pollution, radiation, carcinogens, heavy metals and drugs. Cells deficient in glutathione have difficulty defending against these toxins and resisting the effects of aging and disease.
Agmatine is a molecule that the body makes naturally from the amino acid arginine. Laboratory and clinical studies show that Agmatine can exert a wide array of impressive health benefits on many different organs of the body, including the kidneys, the heart and blood vessels and the brain. Agmatine Sulfate helps lowers blood pressure and heart rate while helping the kidneys get rid of excess salt and fluid. Agmatine Sulfate may also represent a new type of painkiller that controls pain without directly affecting the opioid receptor. This means it can block pain without the risk of addiction.
6. Take active recovery measures to help your body repair your muscles.
Rome Za, Martial Arts Teacher at the OMG Academy
- 8-10 hours of sleep on a schedule. I like to shut off all electronics with bright screens about 2 hours before bedtime and just do some reading.
- Ice baths and/or contrast showers with 30 seconds hot and 30 seconds cold for 8 sets.
- Chiropractic adjustments with deep tissue work.
- Sports massages.
- Foods that help with detox like a lot of green salads, pure water, water with Himalayan salt.
- Great quality protein immediately after workout.
- Turmeric Curcumin with black pepper. Nature’s strongest anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
- More than a joint supplement this Glucosamine supplement contains powerful adaptogens, vegan glucosamine, Rhodiola for improved sleep, and green tea for energy.
- Meditation helps me relax which lowers my stress levels which improves recovery. I like to use This Meditation Tool called Headspace.
✅ 7) Eat plenty of food, eat more carbs between workouts, and get enough sleep.
Henry Halse, Certified Personal Trainer at Halse Strength and Fitness.
- One of the biggest mistakes that I see is actually people not eating enough. Your body will have a hard time recovering from exercise if you don’t consume enough calories to keep it going. The first priority is to simply get enough calories in your diet, then you can start to change the amount of carbs, fats, and protein. If you don’t consume enough calories in a day but are worrying about what supplement to drink before your workout it is like trying to get a PhD before you get a bachelors. If you don’t have the most basic aspect of nutrition down then you can’t get in to the specifics.
- Once you are sure you’re eating enough, focus on making sure you get enough carbs in between workouts. It doesn’t have to be an incredible amount but you need enough carbs to fuel your workout. Remember that your muscles are a big storage facility for glycogen and they need enough stored up to work properly. Make sure that you feel energized going in to your next workout
And if you don’t up your carb intake until you have more energy.
- Sleep is a huge factor in recovery. In fact, as little as three nights in a row of reduced sleep is enough to hurt performance. During sleep you replenish neurotransmitters, repair muscle, and rest your body. Who doesn’t want more of that?
The biggest mistake that people make is not taking care of the basics first. Eat plenty of food, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep. Everything else will have a small effect compared to these big 3.
✅ 8) Eat quality, protein-rich whole foods after your workouts.
Chuck Mullins, Registered Dietitian and Blogger at Paleo Plan.
Proper post exercise nutrition supports muscle repair and in addition to replacing depleted glycogen stores and lost electrolytes, energizes you for rest of the day. If you work out intensely, or moderately for longer than 60 to 90 minutes or if you work out multiple times a day, eating a post workout meal within 30 minutes of exercise and a second meal an hour or two of that will produce faster recovery.
First meal within 30 minutes of exercise completion:
- Consume high-quality protein-rich in the branch chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine for muscle repair. Egg whites, whey protein and meat are excellent sources of these amino acids.
- For glycogen repletion, consume carbohydrates in the forms of both fructose and glucose. Fructose replenishes liver glycogen and glucose replenishes muscle glycogen. Blueberries, pineapple and sour cherries contain fair amount of glucose and comparable amounts of fructose.
- Liquids are easier to consume at this time, provide faster delivery of nutrients to cells and rehydrate all at once which is why drinks and shakes made with protein powders are a favorite post workout meal. This poses a problem for the Paleo dieter who relies on unprocessed whole foods for nutrition and avoids the very foods most commercial protein powders are typically derived from such as soy, peas, whey and rice (not to mention that protein powders are highly processed – an anathema to the Paleo set.)
However, even for some of the most committed Paleo dieters, eating whole foods right after a workout isn’t convenient or appealing and if this is the case, a shake will have to do. Paleo peeps, look for a protein powder that you tolerate, perhaps a pastured egg white or grass-fed meat based powder or a whey protein hydrolysate that is very easily digested and absorbed. Mix in some fruit juice (or blend in some whole fruit) as well as a pinch of salt to balance electrolytes and you’re good to go.
Second meal within one to two hours of exercise:
- This meal and hour or so after your first post-workout meal consists of whole foods with an emphasis on micronutrient density and continued electrolyte repletion. How much you eat depends on your individual needs and goals. Ideally, this meal includes high quality protein, low glycemic carbs such as sweet potato and plenty of leafy green and other non-starchy vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes as well as healthy fats including olive oil, coconut oil and grass-fed butter. Fruits and veggies replace potassium losses and eating pickles or olives helps replace sodium losses. Healthy, whole, unprocessed food is full of anti-inflammatory antioxidants and phytochemicals that help heal the inflammation created by exercise and promote faster recovery.
✅ 9) Supplement your diet with healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
Dr. Bo Martinsen, Omega-3 expert and the leader of Omega-3 Innovations.
Having worked with omega-3 supplementation for both race horses and people for many years, here’s my advice for workout recovery:
Omega-3 fish oil helps improve recovery time by reducing soreness and stiffness after a workout. Because omega-3 fish oil helps reduce inflammation, it combats the muscle fatigue that might prevent you from getting back to the gym for another two or three days. I recommend taking one tablespoon of a fresh liquid fish oil every day. One tablespoon of fish oil – roughly the equivalent of 10 to 12 regular fish oil capsules – matches the doses used in research studies revealing omega-3’s anti-inflammatory properties.
✅ 10) Alternate between hot and cold in an Epsom Salt bath.
Laurie Towers at Physical Advantage
My favorite two choices that are the cheapest and easiest to implement are ice, and Epsom Salt baths after a workout…
- Ice increases blood flow and circulation to the area which is a muscles lifeline to nutrients it needs such as oxygen.
- Epsom Salt baths will pull any excess fluid from the muscles which had been brought about by trauma or insult Contrast Bathing works best which is both of these happening in a short sequence Heat/Ice within a few minutes of each other.
Most people see that the wealth of good this does towards recovery is with its weight in gold….and ironically is the easiest and cheapest.
Let us know your own personal “recovery hacks” for speeding up post-workout recovery. Share them with our community in the comments below.
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