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The Quintessential Workout Recovery Guide
You may think you’ve got your exercise regimen on lock, but if you don’t have your workout recovery routine down, you’re doing it wrong.
While we all occasionally struggle to sit down or hit the stairs after a hardcore leg day, feeling burnt out or noticing your progress start to slip are fitness slumps that can be prevented fairly easily. It all comes down to perfecting what you do after you hit the gym. Pushing yourself for those gains is certainly important, but many of us tend to slack when it comes to cool down.
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6 Tips For Effective Workout Recovery
In this QMan Workout Recovery Guide, we’ll take you through six tips you can use to ward off sore muscles and make sure you’re getting the most out of every workout. All it takes is a little patience and some extra TLC. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and no one’s biceps were either, so show yourself some love and work on your recovery game.
Think of Food as Fuel
We’ve all heard it time and time again, the classic phrase “muscles are made in the kitchen, not the gym”. While this doesn’t mean you get to slack off come grind time, it does mean it’s important to consider what you’re feeding yourself. However, this doesn’t mean extreme diets or cutting out food groups altogether. In fact, ensuring that you’re eating enough to sustain your output is essential.
Replenishing your energy stores with quality carbs and helping your muscles grow and heal themselves with a boost of protein are two ways you can start using food to optimize your fitness goals and aid in your workout recovery. Oddly enough, strength training actually tears up your muscle fibers, and ingesting some post-workout protein up to an hour after physical exertion is a great way to help them heal. Whether it’s a big, well-balanced meal or a nutritious shake, putting a little thought into what you eat after an intense sweat session can’t hurt.
Never Neglect Hydration
It’s hard to miss a “stay hydrated” reminder if you’re a person on the internet, but it’s not for nothing! Drinking water might seem like a no-brainer, especially during and after a gruelling workout, but hydration is something that needs to be maintained at all hours of the day—even when resting. Refilling your favorite water bottle is a sure way to expedite workout recovery and prevent sore muscles. Dehydration can actually affect the muscle repairing process, and nobody wants that.
It’s important to remember that dehydration might not always look or feel like dehydration. Just because you’re not dying of thirst doesn’t mean you’re giving your body the fluids it needs to thrive. The whole 8 cups a day rule is great, but if you’re moving and breaking a sweat regularly, that number needs to be bumped up significantly. This 64-ounce BUZIO water bottle is not for the faint of heart, but it will definitely keep you on top of your daily intake. It even comes with a variety of different lids to choose from, a carrying pouch, and reusable straws!
Ready to up your water intake but not sure which water is best? Check out our spotlight on the Best Water to Drink here.
Enrich Your Diet With Supplements
Chances are you’ve been told to take Vitamin D in the winter months, and maybe you’ve finally landed on the perfect protein powder to support your training, but the supplements shouldn’t stop there! From powders to pills, today’s supplement market is undoubtedly booming, and a lot of it gets swept away as BS (as it probably should). However, some of them are actually worth their (epsom) salt.
For one, magnesium is an essential mineral to top up on if you’re someone who works out regularly. Not only is it important to the muscle recovery process, but it can also fight inflammation and swelling, and help you sleep better. You can easily take it orally, or treat yourself to a magnesium-enriched epsom salt bath to relax your aches and pains and really soak in the good stuff.
Other electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and calcium are also important for your muscles and nervous system post-workout. While you can often get these essential minerals through your diet, you can boost your electrolytes through a variety of powders and beverages, such as Nuun, Ultima and Essentia.
Looking into taking something like creatine—a recovery supplement used by many weightlifters—could also be beneficial to you, but if that sounds too extreme for your taste, there’s no shame in starting with the baby steps above.
The research behind it isn’t completely solid yet, but, anecdotally, CBD is definitely promising. A staple to some and a passing indulgence to others, CBD can be used in many forms. If you’re not one to smoke, CBD can be applied topically to your extra sore spots the form of lotion or bath soak, absorbed sublingually through oils and drops, or even ingested in the form of a delicious snack. It’s not yet scientifically proven to work, but if you’re trying to put yourself (and your pain) to bed, it could be worth a try. If nothing else, at the end of the day you’ll still have given yourself a nice massage or eaten a yummy gummy. Could be worse!
Catch Those Z's
It’s odd that “sleep is for the weak” has been a mantra for many of us in the busiest and most productive times in our lives when it’s actually the opposite that’s true. A good night’s sleep really can make you stronger! Not only will getting an adequate amount of sleep reduce physical and mental stress, but it gives your body the time it needs to rest and rebuild. What’s the point in shredding it at the gym or picking out the right produce if you’re throwing all of your progress away with a less-than-stellar sleep schedule? Create a wind-down routine, go to bed earlier, take naps… do whatever it takes to maintain good sleep hygiene. Your muscles will thank you in the morning!
If you need a more in-depth look at how to sleep better, check out our 6 Sleep Tips From a Former Insomniac.
Utilize the Latest Tech
You’re eating right, drinking lots of water, taking your supplements, sleeping through the night… but you’re still looking for that special something, and Icy Hot ain’t covering it. Sometimes we can do everything right and still need some specialty tools to help us get the most out of our workout recovery. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of recovery products out there.
Foam rolling is one of the easiest and most accessible ways to get into the deep tissue of those hard-to-reach places. Rolling out sore muscles will keep them long, lean, and flexible for your next workout, and help you manage any pain in between. Admittedly, the actual rolling isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but it’s always worth the results it in the end. No need to attack your muscles, though. In fact, rolling slowly and gently is likely all you need to make a noticeable difference.
If you can afford to upgrade from a foam roller, it’s all about the massage gun. The Theragun is arguably the most popular massage gun on the market. It basically works by vibrating into your tissue at an intense strength and speed (or as experts call it, “percussive therapy”) to help break up the lactic acid that builds up in your muscles during a workout. Say goodbye to stiff, sore muscles and say hello to the self-massage that hurts so good.
If the Theragun proves to be a little too pricey for your liking, a good compression garment might suffice. You’ve probably seen your favorite athletes sporting them at one point, and that’s because they really do work. While researchers aren’t certain about just how effective they are at speeding up the recovery process, they definitely help reduce swelling and improve circulation. Better circulation means getting nutrients to muscles in need!