How to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate.

How to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate.

Want to lower you resting heart rate? Let’s break it all down. (5 minute read)

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Your resting heart rate (RHR) is one of the best indicators of your level of fitness, resilience and cardiovascular health.

A lower resting heart rate indicates that your heart is able to pump more blood per beat (Stroke Volume), and thus does not have to beat as frequently to keep up.

In short, the heart is less stressed 24/7.

The Law of Specificity

The common advice to lower your resting heart rate is to just “exercise.”

I see a lot of people advocating this and other copy-and-paste sounding tips.

But there’s nothing specific about that at all. Not all exercise is going to lower your resting heart rate.

Before we get to how you can lower your resting heart rate, there are a few topics that need to be understood:

(or just skip to the methods)

How to Properly Measure Your Resting Heart Rate

First things first.

To lower your resting heart rate, you need to be able to accurately measure and track it over time.

Your heart rate is affected by many things throughout the day.

Any form of stress, physical or mental, can increase sympathetic nervous system activity and increase your heart rate.

For this reason, to get an accurate resting heart rate, you should measure it first thing in the morning, before you drink your coffee or start scrolling social media.

Ideally, you should measure it in bed or seated in a chair within 5 minutes or so of waking up.

Use a Heart Rate Monitor to measure your resting heart rate

heart rate monitor wrist

The most accurate way to measure your resting heart rate is with a heart rate monitor.

A chest strap, like the Polar H10, is going to be the most accurate.

If you’re serious about lowering your resting heart rate, get a decent monitor, it is worth it.

You can also use wrist sensors, like a fitbit or smartwatch, which are slightly less accurate but still better than trying to measure your pulse with your fingers.

This can become part of a daily routine where you wake up and immediately check your resting heart rate.

Free apps like Elite HRV can keep track of your HR data over time for free (or keep a log yourself)

Keep Track of Your Resting Heart Rate Over Time

If you want to lower your resting heart rate, you need to keep track of it on a regular basis.

This way you can see if your resting heart rate is trending in the right direction.

Using free apps on your phone, you can easily measure and save your daily HR data to analyze.

This takes approximately 3 minutes of your time each morning or less.

Stroke Volume and Cardiac Output

cardiac output and stroke volume

There are 2 important concepts to understand in regards to lowering your resting heart rate:

Stroke Volume

Stroke volume can be defined as the amount of blood your heart pumps with each beat.

If your heart can pump more blood per beat, it will need to beat less frequenty.

Cardiac Output

Cardiac output can be defined as the total amount of blood pumped by the heart over one minute.

So, stroke volume x heart rate = cardiac output.

If you increase stroke volume, your heart rate can decrease while still pumping the same amount of blood.

This means your heart will have gotten stronger and more efficient, resulting in a lower resting heart rate.

Which Athletes have the Lowest Resting Heart Rates?

lower resting heart rate athletes

If you want to know how to lower your RHR, you should take a look at which athletes tend to have the lowest.

Endurance athletes can have RHR in the low 40’s, which is a direct result of the cumulative adaptations to their training.

Athletes in endurance sports demonstrate the lowest resting heart rates, so logically you would want to take a look at how they train to see how they got there.

Endurance athletes typically train with 80% low/moderate intensity, and 20% high intensity aerobic exercise.

The low resting heart rates associated with endurance athletes are a direct result of improved cardiac output. This is gained through frequently repeated, longer duration, low to moderate intensity cardiovascular training.

How to Work Out to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate

how to work out

I think most people know that regular exercise can lower your RHR.

Few, however, understand the correct methods and how they actually work.

1. Cardiac Output Method

The cardiac output method uses moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise performed for 30-90 minutes, 3-6 times per week.

The most important thing to understand is that you must keep your heart rate within a specific range to reap the cardiac output benefits from the training.

Keeping the heart rate between about 130-150 bpm allows the heart to completely fill with blood for each beat.

Raising your heart rate beyond this range will have your heart pumping too fast to fill up, causing a different set of adaptations, and not improved cardiac output.

Improving your cardiac output abilities will result in a lower resting heart rate.

In order to reap those benefits, you must train specifically for them.

Here’s a snapshot of how to improve resting heart rate through cardiac output workout sessions.

  • 30-90 minutes of continuous exercise
  • Heart rate 130-150 beats per minute for the duration
  • 3-5 sessions per week, depending on your fitness level.
  • Can use any cardiovascular activity: running, elliptical, circuit training, etc…

Benefits of Cardiac Output Training

heart rate best approach

This form of training has many benefits, both for performance and for overall health.

A lower RHR has been shown by multiple studies (1) (2) to decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

A stronger heart is simply under far less stress than a weaker heart struggling to supply the body with oxygen and nutrients.

Some of the benefits of improved cardiac output:

  • Lower resting heart rate
  • Increased size of the left ventricle of the heart
  • Improved recovery abilities
  • Improved endurance
  • More energy
  • Lower risk of heart/cardiovascular disease

A 2018 study demonstrated that improved aerobic fitness results in a lower risk of dying from all causes.

This study showed that there was no upper limit to this benefit. Basically, the better your aerobic fitness, the less chance you have of dying, period.

2. Yoga, HRV and the Nervous System

yoga lowers heart rate

Studies have shown that regularly practicing Yoga can result in a decrease in RHR similar to that seen in endurance training.

Yoga is, at it’s core, an active form of meditation. While it may not improve cardiac output or aerobic fitness directly, it has other benefits that are just as powerful.

You can get high quality Yoga Instruction from your own home. Yoga Download is an exceptional service (see below)

Yoga lowers your RHR over time by improving the function of the nervous system.

Specifically, regular Yoga practice has been shown to improve Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

HRV is a measure of how your body is dealing with stress and has a strong correlation to cardiovascular health.

Can HIIT Lower Resting Heart Rate?

HIIT

High intensity interval training on it’s own will not lower your RHR as effectively as the cardiac output method.

It can definitely serve a complimentary role, however.

HIIT workouts force the heart to work much harder, improving your body’s ability to use oxygen and strengthening the power of the heart muscle.

Read: How HIIT could be sabotaging your fitness

The problem with HIIT is that it is extremely taxing on the body. It takes longer to recover from, and should not be performed more than 2 times per week for most people. You cannot perform HIIT with enough frequency to lower your resting heart rate over time.

To lower your RHR, you need a high frequency of training, usually at least 4-5 days per week.

HIIT is a great training method, but should be used in a complimentary fashion with your higher frequency cardiovascular training.

1-2 HIIT sessions per week is plenty, according to most research and my experience.

The Best Overall Approach to a Lower Your Resting Heart Rate

how to lower your resting heart rate pin

The best overall approach to lower your RHR is:

  1. Focus on cardiac output training, using moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise, 3-5 days per week, for 30-90 minutes per session. Keep the heart rate around 130-150bpm.
  2. 1-2 HIIT sessions/week can be added in to build aerobic power, strengthen the heart and possibly build muscle as well.
  3. Yoga and other forms of active stretching and relaxation can also be used, as they improve our body’s ability to deal with stress, and promote an environment conducive to improved overall fitness and a lower resting heart rate.

Conclusion

Lowering your RHR has enormous upside: Improved fitness, more energy, lower risk of mortality and improved performance.

Using methods shown by research to lower your heart rate at rest will bring you results within a couple of months.

Cardiac output and Yoga are the two methods that, when brought together, can dramatically improve the function of your heart.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and as always… I hope it helped you get a little closer to that best version of you!

Please leave a comment and follow my blog for more great articles.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at Contact@supastrong.net

*This article contains affiliate links. If you buy a product, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Mike Richardson
Mike Richardson

ISSA Tactical Conditioning Specialist. Bioforce Certified Conditioning coach. Creator of Swole Town, Forged Female and Supastrong.net. Coach, husband, father, brother, son and friend.

Fasted Cardio:  Does it Work?  And Should You Do it?

Fasted Cardio: Does it Work? And Should You Do it?

Many people swear by fasted cardio. In theory, working out in a fasted state should burn more fat. With no fuel for the body to burn, it would have to turn to fat for energy. This would enhance fat loss and body composition. It makes logical sense and sounds pretty good, but does fasted cardio really work?

What is Fasted Cardio?

Fasted cardio is cardiovascular training in a fasted state; meaning the body has digested all food and either used or stored away all macronutrients from your last meal. A fasted state results in low insulin levels, and is generally around 4-8 hours after your last meal for most people, depending on your metabolism. For this reason, most people choose to perform fasted cardio after sleeping through the night, usually early in the morning.

How Fasted Cardio is Supposed to Work

fasted cardio training

In his 1999 book “Body For Life,” bodybuilder Bill Phillips discussed the idea of fasted cardio as the ultimate method for enhanced fat loss and body composition. He is generally credited with introducing the idea of fasted cardio.

With the body in a fasted state, all food has been digested and either used or stored away. The best example of this is when you wake up in the morning. Insulin levels are low, and the body is using fat as it’s primary energy source.

According to proponents of fasted cardio, exercising in a fasted state will force the body to use fat as an energy source, as no carbohydrate will be available in the bloodstream.

Benefits of Fasted Cardio

According to research, there are certain benefits to training in a fasted state. Whether it’s a good idea for you or not really depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

Improved Endurance Exercise Performance

One Study found that 6 weeks of regular cardiovascular training in a fasted state improved Metabolic Flexibility in subjects. This means that performing fasted cardio resulted in the body improving it’s ability to use fat as fuel during exercise.

The study also showed that training in a fasted state prevented a drop off in blood glucose levels during exercise. These adaptations would likely result in improved performance in endurance exercise.

Does Fasted Cardio Boost Fat Loss?

burn fat

While the above study was encouraging, it’s not so clear cut.

A huge part of the fat being used as energy is coming from intramuscular fat deposits. This fat, stored within our muscle tissue, has little effect on how we look. It’s not the type of body fat most of us are trying to get rid of.

Another study from 2014 showed no difference in body composition or fat loss between a fasted cardio group and a group eating a meal before exercise.

So, do you burn more fat with fasted cardio? Maybe, but a huge percentage of it isn’t the fat you’re interested in getting rid of.

Problems With Fasted Cardio

There are several reasons why fasted cardio doesn’t work the way we’d like it to. While it seems like a logically sound method for burning extra fat, the human body is very complex. It doesn’t always work the way we’d like it to.

All 24 Hours Count, Not Just Your Workout

Even if a fasted cardio workout did burn more fat, it only represents a small portion of your day. All 24 hours count, not just the hour or two you spend in the gym.

Thermic Effect of Food and Exercise (“Afterburn”)

Taking in food before a workout has been shown to increase the Thermic effect of exercise after the workout. This means that fueling before you exercise increases the amount of calories (including fat) you’ll burn throughout the day. (Also known as the “afterburn” effect of exercise.)

Muscle Loss With Fasted Cardio

Training for one hour in a fasted state has been shown to more than double muscle loss compared to training while fueled. Approximately 10% of calorie expenditure can come from breaking down muscle protein (muscle gluconeogenesis, if you like fancy terms).

If you care at all about gaining or maintaining muscle mass, fasted cardio is a poor method, as you are literally forcing your body to burn away muscle tissue.

Exercise Intensity Suffers

fasted cardio and exhaustion

Performing high intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to help you speed up fat loss when compared to steady state cardio. Studies have shown that HIIT can improve fat loss by 28% compared to steady state training.

Unfortunately, performing high intensity training in a fasted state is never going to be optimal.

With the body in a hypoglycemic state (low blood sugar), and low on fuel, exercise intensity will suffer. Part of the benefit of high intensity training is the post-exercise increase in metabolic rate, where you’ll be burning more calories all day long. You sacrifice part of this benefit when you train on empty.

Trading solid HIIT sessions for the sake of using fasted cardio just isn’t optimal. Attempting to perform high intensity workouts without fuel is a poor choice, as you’ll be stressing your body out and can impair your recovery abilities as well.

Read: 15 Biggest Weight Loss Mistakes to Avoid

What Works Better Than Fasted Cardio?

lift weights for fat loss

When it comes to burning fat, people have cardio tunnel vision. Cardio has become synonymous with fat burning, and many people mistakenly believe that cardio alone will get them leaner and meaner.

But if you focus only on cardio, you’re missing out on a huge piece of the puzzle.

Lift Weights to Burn More Fat!

Your muscles are the metabolic engine of your body. Metabolism takes place inside your muscle tissue. They are essentially fat burning machines.

More muscle requires more energy. Resistance training can boost your resting metabolic rate, leaving you burning more calories all day, every day.

Variety and Balance are the Best Option

Using some variety is the most effective way to burn fat and get leaner without losing muscle mass in the long run. The following would be a pretty good approach to losing fat and maintaining or gaining muscle.

  • 1-2 HIIT workouts per week
  • 2-4 steady state cardio sessions per week
  • 2-3 Resistance Training sessions per week
  • High protein diet, cut out the sugar and limit your carbs, focus on whole foods.

Conclusion: Should You Use Fasted Cardio?

As we said earlier, it really depends on you and what your goals are.

If your goal is improved metabolic flexibility and improved endurance exercise performance, then there’s some research to back up using fasted cardio.

If you just want to lose fat or get shredded, research has pretty definitively shown that training in a fasted state does not provide any measurable benefit vs. training in a fueled state.

At the end of the day, if you feel like something is working for you, and you’re seeing results and like the way you feel, then go for it!

*Note: This article contains affiliate links. Anything purchased comes at no additional cost to you.

Mike (Supastrong)
Mike (Supastrong)

Bioforce Certified Conditioning Coach and personal trainer. I’ve run boot camps and served as the wellness coordinator for a fortune 500 company. Currently a Federal Agent in San Diego, CA, and an Infantryman in the Army Reserve.

Cardio for Optimal Fat Burning, Weight Loss and Health

Cardio for Optimal Fat Burning, Weight Loss and Health

How can you properly do cardio for optimal weight loss, fat burning, fitness and health? My goal is to give you all the information you need, plus a cardio workout program at the end.

It is possibly the most overused word in the gym… “Cardio.”

  • The buff guy walking on the treadmill says he’s doing an hour of cardio.
  • The lady maxing out the speed on the elliptical says she’s doing cardio, right before she passes out from exhaustion.
  • The strange guy with the short shorts doing some form of a crossfit workout says it’s his cardio day.

Which one of them is actually doing cardio?

What is Cardio?

To answer the above question, we will need a definition of what cardio means. We’ll need to understand this so we can actually make sure we’re getting the benefits we think we are from the activity we’re doing.

Cardio is short for “cardiovascular.” I know you already knew that, but I’m going somewhere with this…

Training the cardiovascular system implies that we’re performing Aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is any activity from low to high intensity that relies primarily on the aerobic energy system; this means that the body is able to use oxygen to meet all of the demands of the activity.

Exercise Intensity Determines whether it’s aerobic or not.

As exercise intensity increases, the aerobic system can no longer supply all of the energy needed to continue. As a result, the anaerobic energy system will begin to dominate. Instead of oxygen, stored energy in the muscles will be used for energy, and will run out fairly quickly.

So, the buff guy on the treadmill gets a pass. The lady sprinting on the elliptical was probably outside of the aerobic zone. The short shorts guy doing Crossfit; well it really depends on the intensity and duration of his workout.

Definition

Let’s go ahead and get a definition so we can move on:

Cardio – Any activity, from low to high intensity, involving constant movement lasting at least 20 minutes, where the aerobic energy system is supplying the majority of the energy.

Cardio Can Serve Different Purposes

If I were your trainer, I would never tell you to go do “cardio.” I would tell you specifically:

  • What to do
  • How long to do it for
  • What heart rate range I want you in for the duration of the session
  • How it should feel to you (perceived exertion), on a scale from 1-10

This is because there is no best form of cardiovascular exercise. The best method of training depends entirely on your goals and your current abilities. The form of cardio you’re doing should match up with this.

Fat Burning and Weight Loss

fat burning cardio

Understanding how the body works can really open your eyes to what you’re doing in the gym.

Your body stores fat as a means to store energy for future use. Fat cells are basically balls of energy. It’s a survival mechanism. If food became scarce, that stored fat could keep you alive. Of course, food isn’t exactly scarce these days. We’re cursed with our own biological adaptations.

Our bodies burn fat most efficiently at rest and during low intensity activity. This is because the process of breaking down fat cells into energy is very efficient, but slow. Fat cannot be used to fuel more intense anaerobic activity. Thus, fat is burned most efficiently during lighter activity.

The traditional “fat burning” zone would look like this:

  • 50-70% of your max heart rate. (Max HR = 220 – Age)
  • A pace where you could carry a conversation, a level 3-5 on the perceived exertion scale.)
  • Use any cardio machine, fast walking/jogging, or a combination.
  • 30-60 minutes of low intensity exercise

For Optimal Fat Burning, You Need Higher Intensity Training

high intensity cardio

The “Fat Burning Zone” is great and all, but it’s only a piece to the puzzle. It is not the ultimate method for losing fat. Again, understanding our bodies can really give us insight into what we’re doing when we work out.

During higher intensity workouts, it’s true that we burn a smaller percentage of fat for energy. However, at higher intensities you’re also burning far more total calories. Less efficient doesn’t necessarily mean less total fat burned. Here’s an important fact to keep in mind:

The only place in the body where fat gets burned is in Muscle tissue

Training only at low intensities will never encourage your body to build or maintain muscle. More powerful muscles are fat burning machines. They take more energy to maintain. As a result, resistance training and higher intensity cardio can increase your resting metabolic rate.

Resting Metabolic Rate

Your resting metabolic rate is the amount of calories your body burns at rest. If you can burn more calories while you’re binge watching Netflix or shopping on amazon, you will inevitably lose more fat and become leaner.

Recovering from higher intensity workouts takes energy, too

Higher intensity workouts create an “after-burn” effect. Since the body requires more energy to recover from these sessions, additional calories will be used. Since you’re at rest while you recover, fat will be used to fuel this recovery. It’s a simple concept that adds value to incorporating some resistance training and higher intensity training to your workouts.

The 3 Cardio Zones

I don’t really like the traditional cardio “zones.” I like things to be simple, and there’s no need to complicate things unless you’re an elite athlete looking for very specific adaptations. I like breaking it down into 3 groups:

Low IntensityModerate IntensityHigh Intensity
Recovery
Basic endurance
Good for beginners
Cardiac Output
Improve aerobic abilities
Build Endurance
Major Health Benefits
Training Zone
Aerobic Power
Intervals/HIIT
50-70% of Max HR70-80% Max HR80-90% Max HR
30-90 Minutes20-60 Minutes10-25 Minutes

How To Train in Each Zone

Here are some examples of how to train in each of the 3 zones. As you’ll see towards the end of this article, using a combination of these methods is what will get you optimal results for burning fat and losing weight.

Low Intensity

  • Use any cardio machine, brisk walking/jogging, or any light activity.
  • You should keep constant movement and be able to hold a conversation
  • You should feel like your level of exertion is a 3-5 out of 10.
  • Heart rate 50-70% of your max HR.
  • 30-60 minutes

Benefits:

  • Stimulates recovery in the body
  • Burns fat
  • Increases blood flow into joints and muscles

Moderate Intensity

  • Use any cardio machine, jogging or other activity
  • You should be able to talk, but not full conversation
  • Should feel hard but maintainable
  • Heart rate 70-80% of max HR
  • 20-60 minutes

Benefits:

  • Improved Cardiac Output: Heart pumps more blood per beat
  • Improved endurance
  • Increased size of left ventricle of the heart – (stronger heart)
  • Improved cardiovascular system
  • Studies show can reduce risk of dying from all causes

High Intensity

  • Running/Sprinting in intervals: (ex, 1 minute run, 1 minute walk).
  • Can use circuits with full body exercises done in intervals
  • Should feel difficult. Exertion 8-9 out of 10
  • HR 80-90% of max HR or greater.

Benefits:

  • Improved Aerobic power: Your body’s ability to use oxygen
  • Metabolic rate is higher for several hours after the workout
  • Can gain muscle
  • Can get a lot done in a short time

So What’s the Best Way to do Cardio?

As stated earlier, there is no “best method.” Each method has it’s own place in your plan of attack, and all three are necessary if you want optimal results in losing fat and improving your health and fitness.

For Best Results, Use Various Approaches.

The best results will come by reaping the benefits of all three forms of cardio:

Use High intensity training to stimulate aerobic power, build muscle and boost metabolic rate.

Use low intensity to promote recovery from harder workouts and to continue burning fat when you would otherwise be doing nothing.

Use Moderate intensity training most frequently to reap the massive benefits of improved aerobic fitness.

The Massive Benefits of Focusing on Moderate Intensity Training

Studies have shown that the higher a person’s level of aerobic fitness, the less chance that person has of dying from all causes. Read the quote below from the largest study on this topic every compiled:

“cardiorespiratory fitness was inversely associated with all-cause mortality without an observed upper limit of benefit.”

aerobic fitness and mortality

I’ve mentioned this before in previous articles because it is so important. Aerobic fitness and mortality are intimately related. Improving your aerobic fitness can help you not only feel better and live a better life, but also to live longer. Read the article for yourself here:

Association of Cardiorespiratory Fitness With Long-term Mortality Among Adults Undergoing Exercise Treadmill Testing

By performing different types of cardiovascular exercise, you can build your aerobic fitness from the ground up, while burning fat, losing weight and getting a more toned body in the process.

An example of how to split up your cardio workouts:

cardio for weight loss toned body

This is just an example. Depending on your current abilities, you can always do more or less. The important points to always keep in mind are:

  • Treat high intensity training with respect. More is not better. Studies show that 2 days per week, or 40 minutes per week, is optimal.
  • Use low intensity training to stimulate recovery and keep your body moving and burning calories and fat.
  • Focus on moderate intensity training to get the biggest overall benefits
fat burning workout cardio
Example of how to split up your workouts for optimal results.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you think it’s important, feel free to share it. Cardio is often misunderstood, but is a critically important part of any workout program. Understanding how your body works and what you’re trying to accomplish can take you to new levels of fitness and health. As always, I hope this helps get you a little closer to that best version of you.

Mike (Supastrong)
Mike (Supastrong)

Bioforce Certified Conditioning Coach and personal trainer. I’ve run boot camps and served as the wellness coordinator for a fortune 500 company. Currently a Federal Agent in San Diego, CA, and an Infantryman in the Army Reserve.

Related Articles:

References

How Does Your Body Burn Fat?

How to Speed Up Workout Recovery: 10 Methods that Work

How to Speed Up Workout Recovery: 10 Methods that Work

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

Faster workout recovery pre workout nutrition

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

compression clothing workout recovery

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.

Read: Do Compression Pants Really Work? Which are the Best?

#4 Massage Enhances Workout Recovery

deep tissue massage

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

workout recovery ice

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

sleep for workout recovery

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.

how to recover faster.  recovery debt with hiit training

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?

supplements to 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.

Conclusion

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!

Mike (Supastrong)
Mike (Supastrong)

Bioforce Certified Conditioning Coach and personal trainer. I’ve run boot camps and served as the wellness coordinator for a fortune 500 company. Currently a Federal Agent in San Diego, CA, and an Infantryman in the Army Reserve.

Is HIIT Harmful?  Can Too Much Hurt Your Health and Fitness?

Is HIIT Harmful? Can Too Much Hurt Your Health and Fitness?

Is HIIT harmful? Can it damage your health and fitness? It all depends how you use it…

Snapshot:

  • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has become a popular training method for squeezing in a workout in a small amount of time.
  • Failure to balance high and low intensity training methods can hurt your fitness and your health. HIIT is a powerful tool to be respected.
  • HIIT, performed properly, can improve several markers of fitness, both aerobic and anaerobic, heart rate recovery and peak power output. (1)

High Intensity Training has infiltrated almost every corner of the fitness landscape. But is HIIT actually improving, or sabotaging your health and fitness level?

What is HIIT?

High Intensity Interval Training refers to any workout in which you are:

  • Working out at greater than 90% of your max heart rate
  • Using maximum-intensity periods of work followed by rest periods
  • Examples:  Interval Sprints, High Intensity Circuits done for 3 minutes with a short rest period between sets. 

The Allure of HIIT

HIIT is the preferred method of many with limited time to work out. The rationale is, you can squeeze a quick HIIT workout in 20 minutes and get the same benefit as an hour of a normal workout. For the majority of us with crazy busy lives, HIIT offers a convenient solution.

Many also believe that performing such high intensity training simply must be more beneficial. After all, it’s harder and requires you to really push yourself when compared to an hour of lower intensity training. It’s the widely accepted misconception that more is better.

The Problem

HIIT recovery debt
Too much HIIT causes a massive recovery debt and chronic stress-state

I hate to be the one to kill a good vibe.. but I feel like it’s my duty to expose this problem so you can hopefully have a better understanding of what you’re actually doing in the gym and to your body and mind. 

First off, I have to be clear that I’m not saying that HIIT training is “Bad.”  There are actually plenty of studies that show some really amazing results, and I’ll cover that later.  But….

To understand the problem with too much HIIT training, you have to understand a few things about your body and how it responds to stress:

  • Stress, from anything.. be it work stress, being stuck in traffic, relationship stress, or really intense physical demands.. is registered by the body in a similar way.
  • The sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is activated in response to stress, dumping stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, into the body.
  • Keeping your body in a state of constant, chronic stress is the opposite of promoting health and fitness.  The body cannot recover, build muscle or improve any markers of fitness when it is in a chronic state of stress.

The main take-away here is that HIIT training is INTENSE… and it takes your body a lot longer than you think to actually fully recover from it.  A really high intensity trainings session can take several days to recover from.  

What You’re doing to Your Body

can HIIT be dangerous?  Yes, too much HIIT can be dangerous
use both forms of training for optimal fitness gains

Overdosing yourself with too much high intensity training is causing you to accumulate an ever increasing recovery debt.  Your body is never fully recovered, and is being forced back into a sympathetic, stress dominant state over and over.  Sooner or later, something will give.  

The massive amounts of energy being demanded by constant stress will be recruited from other areas.. your immune system, your cognitive function.. and a host of other functions you probably don’t want to mess with.  The end result is a reduction in actual fitness and health. 

New Research into HIIT and Overtraining

A new study by Les Mills Lab found that 40 minutes a week of HIIT training was optimal for most people. Beyond this amount of high intensity training, most people will not reap additional benefits and will in fact become more fatigued. Read about the study by Les Mills here.

How Much HIIT is Optimal?

The answer to this question depends on your current level of fitness and the nature of the training.  Remember that HIIT refers to training at maximum intensity (at least 90% of max heart rate). 

For 90% of people out there, there is absolutely no need for more than 2 true high intensity training days per week. Elite athletes rarely ever go beyond 3 days per week, and even then it is only for a short time.

So how much is optimal? Well, if you’re in pretty good shape, 2 days per week would be optimal. If you’re out of shape, 1-2 days per week is where I’d recommend starting. If you feel like you’re in great shape, you can utilize HIIT up to 3 times per week, but definitely keep an eye on your fatigue, and if you’re that serious about your fitness, you can use things like heart rate variability to check in on your body and see if it’s being overstressed.

Check out my article on Heart Rate Variability: https://supastrong.net/2020/01/22/tracking-your-heart-rate-variability-can-change-your-life/

What are The Benefits of Using HIIT?

Now that I’ve sufficiently killed the HIIT vibe, let me backpedal a bit.. To be clear, HIIT is not a bad thing. It is actually a well researched, highly productive form of training.. Studies have shown that you can improve aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, get leaner and stronger utilizing high intensity interval training.

A 2017 study by Frontiers in Physiology found that high intensity interval training was superior to lower intensity training, showing improved:

  • Anaerobic power
  • Heart rate recovery
  • Neuromuscular status (peak power)

Conclusion

So what are we to make of all this? HIIT can cause big improvements in fitness, but can also damage fitness.. what do we do?

HIIT and recovery must be balanced
Balance is always the key to growth

Knowledge really is power. HIIT is a powerful tool in your arsenal, with the capacity to dramatically improve your conditioning and fitness. But it is to be respected…

Your training week should include a lower intensity training day for each high intensity day. This way you can reap the benefits of both types of training, without putting your body in a constant state of stress. Lower intensity training promotes recovery and parasympathetic function.

Check out my article on recovery training:

How to Recover Faster From Your Workouts

Play the long game. There is no magic pill. Balance high and low intensity training and you’ll make much bigger gains in the long run.

Thanks for being here! Leave a comment or shoot me a message at: contact@supastrong.net

Citations:

(1) Jabbal, Arjun & Baxter-Jones, Adam. (2017). Does High Intensity Interval Training Improve Aerobic Power Development More Than Endurance Training?. USURJ: University of Saskatchewan Undergraduate Research Journal. 3. 10.32396/usurj.v3i1.211. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328590929_Does_High_Intensity_Interval_Training_Improve_Aerobic_Power_Development_More_Than_Endurance_Training

(2) Frontiers in Physiology 02 Aug 2017. “Hiit leads to greater improvements in acute heart rate recovery and anaerobic power as high volume low intensity training.” https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2017.00562/full