Workout Recovery is a cutting edge niche in the world of fitness right now. Learning how to recover faster from your workouts can be a huge game-changer for your progress in the gym.
Learning how to speed up workout recovery time can mean bigger gains and increased fitness levels over time.
Here is a list of 10 ways you can boost your workout recovery abilities and take your training to the next level.
Note: This article contains affiliate links to products I believe in and use. They come at no additional cost to you.
#1 Plan Workout Recovery Sessions into Your Weekly Split
In my article on Recovery Training, I explained how to implement this method for faster workout recovery. Check it out if you want a more detailed look.
Basically, recovery training entails utilizing low intensity cardiovascular exercise and low volume strength movements, along with foam rolling and stretching.
These sessions should take place the day after a high intensity training day. The lower intensity session pushes blood flow into damaged muscles and other tissues. As a result, the tissues recover faster.
The goal of a recovery workout is to stimulate recovery without incurring any additional stress on the body to have to recover from. Keep the lifting to a few sets of 5-8 reps at around 80% of your max.
End the session with 5 minutes of very light cardio and a good 10 minutes of relaxing stretching and foam rolling. Go home feeling good!
The High-Low Method
The High-Low Method is an excellent way to set up your training, regardless of what your goals might be. It's pretty simple.. You do a high intensity training day at the gym and follow it up the next day with a low intensity workout. This can speed up your workout recovery and help you improve faster.
#2 Pre Workout Nutrition Can Help You Recover Faster
While most people focus on post-workout nutrition, little thought is often given to what we put into our bodies before we work out.
However, the absence of amino acids and carbohydrate in the body during intense exercise can put the body into a deeper state of stress. This will cause you to accumulate more recovery debt and will take longer to enter a parasympathetic recovery state.
According to one study, consuming protein and carbohydrate before your workout can be more effective at building muscle than eating it afterwards.
Having a high protein meal within 1-2 hours of your workout can help the body maintain muscle tissue during intense training. The amino acid levels in your blood will peak around 90 minutes after you eat, so eating 1-2 hours before you work out will leave you in a great physiological state for building muscle and speeding up recovery.
#3 Wear Compression Clothing
Studies have shown that wearing Compression clothing can enhance workout recovery to damaged muscle tissue and reduce muscle soreness after working out.
One study in the Journal of Sports Medicine found that compression garments are effective at enhancing workout recovery from muscle damage.
Compression garments promote blood flow and oxygenation of muscle tissue during and after exercise. They can also improve kinesthetic sense: basically our sense of body awareness and movement through space.
For true compression, a higher grade fabric is necessary. 2XU Compression Pants are definitely the best brand if you want real compression and are willing to pay about $100 (well worth it in my opinion). I own 3 pair and do notice a big difference in both performance and recovery.
#4 Massage Enhances Workout Recovery
Everyone knows massages are relaxing.. but do they really help us recover faster?
According to a 2018 study in Frontiers of Physiology, massage was found to be the most powerful method for recovering from Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and fatigue.
Massage Therapy can push us into a deep state of relaxation, inducing a parasympathetic recovery state in the body. Deep tissue massage also helps promote blood flow into deep muscle tissue, helping the body clear out metabolites left over from previous workouts. The result is faster workout recovery.
Massage can get expensive, but there are other options, like a deep tissue massage gun, that may offer the same benefit anytime you want.
#5 Cold Treatment and Cryotherapy
The ancient Egyptians used ice to treat injuries over 4,000 years ago. We still do it today, but we've developed some pretty interesting new methods. Enter cryotherapy.
Cryotherapy has become mainstream in recent years, with clinics popping up in every major city.
It's well established that using cold therapy can reduce inflammation, and current research says that cryotherapy can do the same thing.. in the whole body.
It's hard to train with a sore body, and so reducing some of that inflammation can lead to improved workout recovery and your ability to train harder. The only way to know if it works for you is to try it for yourself.
#6 Get More Sleep
We all know that sleep is important for workout recovery.. but are you aware of just how important it really is? Getting more sleep (at least 8 hours) can:
- Increase Growth Hormone production
- Increase Testosterone levels
- Decrease injury risk
- Decrease perceived exertion/fatigue during your workouts
Numerous studies show that getting better sleep can improve recovery from exercise. If you're researching how to recover faster from your workouts, getting enough sleep should be #1 on your to-do list.
According to Sleep.org, sleep is vital for helping the body retain improvements in body movements, muscle repair and muscle growth. All of which lead to improved performance.
Tips on Getting Better Sleep
These are some things that have worked for me and I highly recommend.
- Stop using your phone an hour before bedtime. Stop watching the TV. Do something else, read, listen to music or take a shower and relax.
- Make sure your room is as dark as possible. Blackout shades work wonders.
- Studies have shown that a temperature between 66-68 degrees are optimal for falling asleep faster and sleeping deeper.
- White noise, such as from a fan, can help the brain fall into a deeper sleep, faster.
- Get new pillows, or even a new bed if you don't feel comfortable. You spend a third of your life there.. why not invest in your sleep?
- Use Melatonin, a natural non-addictive sleep aid.
#7 Tracking Heart Rate Variability
I cover this topic thoroughly in my article "Tracking Your Heart Rate Variability can Change Your Life."
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) refers to the small time intervals between heart beats, measured in milliseconds. With a simple heart rate monitor like the Polar H10, and a free app on your phone, you can take an HRV measurement when you wake up in the morning in about 3 minutes.
HRV gives you a snapshot into your body's current state. It can tell you how you're responding to stress, and is essentially a measure of how stressed your body is. High HRV means you are resilient, and properly recovering from stress.
With HRV, you can track how well you're recovering from your workouts and from all the stress you encounter in your daily life. Free apps like Elite HRV will give you a "readiness score," which can help you know if you're recovering or not, and can help you know how hard to train and when to back off.
HRV is being used by elite athletes, and is a simple and affordable way for you to gain vast insight into your health and fitness.
#8 HIIT Can Hurt Your Workout Recovery.
HIIT, or high intensity interval training, has become one of the most popular workout methods available. The problem is that too often, we rely on higher intensity training, which can have a lot of negative consequences.
More is NOT always better.. and it's not correct that training harder is always going to make you better...
I have an entire article on this: How HIIT could be sabotaging your fitness.
Working out at high intensities: Max effort and any conditioning where you're training at a heart rate of greater than 90% of your max HR, are very stressful on the body. This stress causes a flood of catabolic hormones to be released, and puts a strain on your body's recovery ability.
Repeating these workouts frequently causes a recovery debt to accumulate. Eventually it will reach a point where something will give.
Systems like the immune system will suffer, and injury risk becomes greater. The most likely scenario is that you'll burn yourself out and progress will go backwards.
Studies have shown that 2 days per week of high intensity training is optimal for all but the most elite athletes. Plan your training carefully and be sure to manage high intensity training with a healthy respect for it's power.
You can only benefit from what you can recover from. Recovery = Adaptation. And adaptation is the real purpose for working out in the first place.
#9 Use Supplements That Help Your Body Recover
Using the right supplements can definitely help you recover faster from your workouts. They can help reduce soreness and allow you to train more frequently, leading to bigger gains over time.
An article by Precision Nutrition looked at 2 studies examining the effects of Vitamins C and E on workout recovery. The studies found that after three days without supplementation, free radicals had more than doubled.
Free radicals are chemicals that damage our cells and cause inflammation in the body. After 3 days of working out AND supplementing with Vitamins C and E, free radicals didn't increase at all!
Which Supplements Help us Recover Faster?
Using the right supplements can definitely help you recover faster and be less sore from your workouts. The following list is a good place to start for supplements that actually have plenty of research showing they work:
- Creatine: increase lean mass, speed up glycogen resynthesis and speed up protein synthesis. Creatine has also been shown to improve cognitive function, as it is stored both in muscle tissue and in the brain.
- Tart Cherry Juice/Turmeric: Both potent antioxidants, they can reduce inflammation.. causing less soreness from training and faster recovery of muscle damaged muscle tissues. Use only after higher intensity days so you don't hurt your body's own natural abilities.
- BCAA's: Help your body spare muscle tissue while you work out. Can make fatigue take longer to set in, and can help the body recover faster after your workout.
- Protein Supplementation: Additional protein can help keep the body in an anabolic state, repairing and building muscle throughout the day and while you sleep.
I prefer to get my supplements from Bulk Supplements. It's cheaper, you get more, and the supplements are pure, with no added fillers or harmful chemicals.
#10 Use a Cool-Down After Every Workout to Recover Faster
Especially after higher intensity sessions, your body is ramped up and in a sympathetic, stress-driven state. While this may feel good, it is not conducive to recovery. Take a few minutes after every workout to perform a proper cool-down to help push your body into a faster recovery state.
- Perform 5 minutes of low intensity cardiovascular exercise
- Perform light, relaxing stretching. Use foam rolling if you have the time and the means.
- Assume a relaxing pose, such as the child's pose in Yoga
- Breathe and relax. Try to force your heart rate down as low as possible
A cool down can help you get into a recovery mode faster, leading to faster recovery before your next workout. These small differences each time you work out can have big effects over time. Don't walk out of the gym amped up. The workout is over, and now it's time to refuel and recover.
The art of workout recovery should be important to anyone seeking to improve their physical abilities. The faster you can recover from your workouts, the sooner you can get back in the gym and actually reap the benefits of your efforts.
Implement these 10 strategies and you will have given yourself a huge boost, and will no doubt reap many benefits for a long time to come. Recover faster from your workouts and get to the next level of you!