So maybe you hit the gym a little too hard or you started that intense new barre class after being inactive for awhile. Now you can't walk, sit, or bend without your muscles screaming.
"How am I going to get through this?" you might ask.
Do you go back to the gym and push through it? What's the best way to recover from exercise?
We feel your pain. Luckily, there are ways to ease this normal muscle pain. Let's get you help now.
First, why exercise?
We already know that exercise is good for us, but why?Basically, exercise causes little bits of damage to our bodies that cause discomfort. That discomfort is a call on your body to adapt to the situation at hand. As a result, we become bigger, faster, and stronger. That end result is why we exercise, is it not?
This process is completely natural and good for us. However, it is possible to exercise too much. Now you've landed yourself in a situation known as delayed onset muscle soreness or muscle fever. At this point, recovery is needed.
Recovery is essential before progress can be made. During recovery periods is when all of the good things happen from exercise.
Without recovery, you become just a shell of the person you used to be making you fatigued, irritable, and unable to sleep.
Hitting it hard too soon can set you up for possible injury. Nobody wants that.
Recovery is important for any exercise regimen. Here's how to do it and get back on track ASAP.
Good nutrition is key to helping our muscles recover. Muscle soreness is often a sign that our bodies need something whether it is more fluid, electrolytes, protein, or vitamins.
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids influence the exercise and nutritional response of our muscles and reduce inflammation. Include foods like salmon, avocados, and almonds when recovering from exercise. This will help speed up recovery.
You also want to make sure you are getting your macronutrients during muscle recovery.
Protein is a major building block for nearly everything that our bodies use like cells, tissues, enzymes, and hormones. Too little protein can lead to loss of muscle mass.
On the other hand, glucose—usually from carbohydrates—are the muscles' main source of energy and fuel. Therefore, it is important to have some good, complex carbohydrates soon after a workout to build those energy stores back up.
A great post-workout snack contains a healthy protein source and complex carbohydrate. Here are some examples:
- banana with almond butter
- chocolate milk
- apple and string cheese and sliced turkey
- canned tuna or salmon with wheat crackers
- peanut butter and a banana smoothie or protein shake
- hummus with pita
This is kind of a no-brainer but we often forget how much water we really need.
Our bodies are mostly water. We end up losing a significant amount of water through sweat when we exercise. Dehydration can lower your performance and delay recovery.
For women, aim to get at least 2 liters per day of water. For men, it's probably closer to 3 liters. Add extra if you have been sweating during exercise or have been out in the sun.
To replace what you lose during exercise, you can also try coconut water which is super hydrating and contains electrolytes. It's just as good as those sports drinks.
Work out the knots
Here's a great excuse to go get a massage.
Massage, whether self-massage or performed by a massage therapist, is very good for you when recovering from exercise.
Massage relieves tension in the muscles, gets rid of muscle knots, flush toxins out of the body, and puts you in an overall relaxed state of mind.
Now, getting a massage doesn't have to be a treat. It should be a normal part of your recovery from exercise.
If you can't get to the masseuse, then self-massage AKA self-myofascial release with a foam roller or a tennis ball will do the trick. It might be painful when your muscles are still sore but massage breaks up scar tissue and adhesions, thus equating to better recovery.
Get some sleep
Never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep.
Adequate time and quality of sleep are so important for our bodies.
Racking up a sleep debt brings about fatigue, difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, hormone imbalances, and more.
The whole purpose of sleep is to give our bodies a chance to recover. During sleep, the body releases growth hormones that help repair damage done to our muscles. This is an important step in recovery from exercise.
If you're not getting your 8 hours per night, try to take short naps during the day (20-30 minutes) which will help rejuvenate you.
For the best sleep, consider removing distractions that emit light like your phone and television. Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Also, try to go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day to develop a solid routine. We have a whole article on how to use sleep for better recovery.
Nothing like a little bit of heat to soothe sore muscles.
In general, no one likes to feel overly hot but a good sauna session before exercise might benefit your recovery.
In this study, the group who received the sauna had significantly lower impairment of range of motion and strength when compared to subjects who did not have a sauna session.
Not only does the sauna help with muscle recovery, it is also associated with a number of other surprising health benefits like lower blood cholesterol levels, weight loss, and reducing the intensity of headache pain.
So the next time you hit the gym, consider incorporating regular sauna sessions for 10 minutes at a time to start reaping the benefits.
Transdermal delivery of medications or supplements is an effective method because it works on a selective problem area while reducing systemic exposure to other organs and tissues.
This means fewer side effects as it is not passing through your gastrointestinal system.
No pills to take or injections to mess with.
Transdermal supplements are great to soothe post-exercise muscle pain as they start to work right at the source once applied.
Good supplements for muscle pain include:
Even better news? These natural ingredients plus a couple dozen more are all included in our natural pain relief cream. It works quite well for muscle soreness.
Don't forget about prevention
If you became really sore after a workout, you might be afraid to attempt it again. Not so fast.
Some muscle soreness is good, it means that you worked those muscles. However, just because you do not get sore after a workout doesn't mean it was a waste.
"No pain, no gain" is not a hard and fast rule when it comes to having a good workout.
In the future, make sure that you always give yourself good warm-up (at least 5 minutes) and cooldown sessions. This is helpful to prevent injury to your muscles.
Grab a snack or small meal shortly after exercising that contains good proteins and complex carbohydrates. And always, always hydrate. Follow these tips and you will be unstoppable.
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