Going into the new year, many of us have set goals to work out more often, get fit, and solidify healthy habits. Whether you’ve been in the gym for years, or you’re looking to pick up a new hobby, you’ll want to make sure your muscles are recovering optimally. Here are 6 of our favorite tips to ensure you recover quickly, gain strength, and build muscle.
Before your workout . . .
Muscle recovery for your workout begins before you even set foot in the gym! Here are two tips before you start exercising to set you up for success. When you work out, the energy used by skeletal muscle increases up to 100x its resting amount, which increases the amount of oxidative stress in the body. (1)
1. Build up your antioxidant reserves. Exercise involves breaking down muscles, causing oxidative damage whether you intend to or not. One way to alleviate this oxidative damage and make sure you recover faster and more efficiently is to regularly take high levels of antioxidants such as vitamin C, quercetin, and vitamin E. Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to help alleviate the oxidative stress that exercise induces, as measured by decreased lipid peroxidation (1).
2. Make sure your pH is in balance. This is done by eating a primarily alkaline diet. Making sure you eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds will help recovery by enhancing your mineral status! The buffering precursors that you get by eating an alkaline diet will help to buffer the acids produced from exercise, such as lactic acid.
A nice colorful diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as supplementing with vitamin C, vitamin E, or quercetin goes a long way toward muscle recovery. (2)
After your workout . . .
3. Protein — post-workout AND throughout the day. If you are strength training, or exercising intensely, you want to make sure that you are getting your daily protein of 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight for optimal recovery. Research also suggests that taking in 20 to 25 g of protein right after a workout will help repair damage done during the workout, and encourage muscle hypertrophy.
4. Collagen as a source of protein. Studies have shown that supplementing with 15 g of collagen post-workout resulted in significantly higher levels of fat-free mass (muscle), bone mass, and strength, while also decreasing fat mass (3). Consider adding collagen within 30 minutes after your workout routine!
5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Water is a necessary element of proper recovery. Aim for about 8 glasses a day, or drink one mL for every calorie you consume. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this would mean you’d need 2 liters of water per day. Hydration is necessary to ensure efficient blood flow to muscles, making sure sufficient nutrients for recovery are delivered at the rate you need them.
6. Relax with a steam bath, Epsom salts, or in the sauna! Using a steam bath, bathing in Epsom salts, or soaking up some heat in the sauna can all increase blood flow to the newly damaged muscles and therefore enhance recovery. (4, 5) Mix Epsom salts with warm water, and sit back and relax. If you don’t notice a difference in muscle soreness, you will likely reap the benefits of decreased stress, and decreased cortisol levels, which will aid in your overall well-being.
We all want to get fit in the new year, so get moving, and give these 6 tips a try!
- Popovic, L. M., et al. 2015. Influence of vitamin C supplementation on oxidative stress and neutrophil inflammatory response in acute and regular exercise. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity 2015:295497. Doi:10.1155/2015/295497.
- Chou, C. C., et al. 2018. Short-term high-dose vitamin C and E supplementation attenuates muscle damage and inflammatory responses to repeated taekwondo competitions: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. International Journal of Medical Sciences 15(11):1217–1226. Doi:10.7150/ijms.26340.
- Zdzieblik, D., et al. 2015. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: A randomised controlled trial. The British Journal of Nutrition 114(8):1237–1245. Doi:10.1017/S0007114515002810.
- Mero, A., J. et al. 2015. Effects of far-infrared sauna bathing on recovery from strength and endurance training sessions in men. SpringerPlus 4:321. Doi:10.1186/s40064-015-1093-5.
- Khamwong, P., et al. 2015. Prophylactic effects of sauna on delayed-onset muscle soreness of the wrist extensors. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine 6(2):e25549. Doi:10.5812/asjsm.6(2)2015.25549.