Muscle recovery is arguably one of the most important parts of any training regime, but how long should you allow for recovery and is there anything you can do to speed things up?
When discussing exercise, the emphasis always seems to be on increased loads and higher intensity. We are still trapped in a world that views exercise like a montage from a Rocky movie – namely you can do anything with hard work, an intense training routine and an uplifting soundtrack. However, many people are not fulfilling their potential because they are forgetting about one important thing – muscle recovery.
Why is muscle recovery important?
Recovery is the most important time in any exercise program. This is the moment when muscles rest, recover and – most importantly of all – get bigger.
The process of exercise damages muscles, creating micro tears in the fibres. Eventually you reach a stage of muscle exhaustion, which is why, after a heavy training session, you’ll wake up with your muscles screaming in protest at every move.
When your muscles are exhausted, their capacity declines. You won’t be able to run as fast or lift as heavy weights as normal. Exercise will cease to have the same effect and may cause damage. After exercise, therefore, you need to give muscles time to rest.
During this time, they will repair themselves, overlaying proteins on the site of damage and building themselves back bigger than before, so you are better equipped to handle exercise next time. If the work out is the ‘pain’ part of the equation, therefore, rest is the ‘gain’, when all the things which lead to improved performance actually happen.
How long does it take to recover after exercise?
So, how long should you give yourself to recover? Times can vary depending on your own levels of physical fitness and the intensity of your exercises. In most cases, though, muscles should be recovered within 24 to 48 hours. If it takes longer you may have a more serious issue.
During this time, you can either rest up completely, try some low intensity exercise such as a light jog or try exercising a different set of muscle groups. This means you’re training one group of muscles while others take a breather.
How can I speed up muscle recovery?
There are some things you can do to speed up muscle recovery including:
- Drinking water: Rehydrating in the first ten to 15 minutes after exercise helps to replace the fluids lost in sweat during your workout. It’s a good idea to do this even if the temperature is cool and you don’t feel particularly thirsty.
- Ice baths: It may be painful at the time but a ten minute ice bath could reduce muscle soreness later. The cold water reduces nerve impulse transmissions which can reduce the perception of pain. It also constricts blood vessels in peripheral tissues which may reduce inflammation caused by exercise.
- Eat a healthy, balanced meal: To help your muscles recover, it’s also a good idea to eat a healthy balanced meal. This will replenish your body’s nutrients and give it the fuel it needs to repair muscles more quickly.
- Take a short walk the next day: Rather than resting completely, a gentle walk can stimulate blood flow to your muscles which will accelerate the healing process.
- Get some sleep: Sleep gives your body more time to repair itself and releases protein amino acids into the bloodstream which will improve the rebuilding process.
The growing supplement scene
In addition to these options, many people are turning to the supplements market, and a range of products that deliver a substance called urolithin A. This improves the health of mitochondria that generate most of the energy required to repair cells.
As we age, they become damaged at which point your body breaks down malfunctioning mitochondria and reuses their molecules. This process of mitophagy decreases as we age which makes us less able to replace damaged mitochondria.
Urolithin A induces mitophagy, thereby improving muscle recovery and keeping our bodies functioning at a high level for longer.
You can find urolithin A in pomegranates. However, our body’s ability to absorb it depends on the microbiomes of our guts. In around 60% of cases, we simply won’t be able to make use of urolithin A no matter how much pomegranate juice you drink.
Supplements such as Mitopure have been shown to bypass problems with the microbiome and deliver urolithin A in a package that your body can use. In trials it has been shown to have a scientifically significant impact on muscle endurance.
There are, then, many things you can do to speed up muscle recovery. Whether adding nutrients through your diet, using supplements or maintaining a healthy rest routine, muscle recovery will be crucial in helping you achieve and maximise the impact of your exercise.
Photoshop: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
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