Everyone knows that in order to become faster and stronger, you have to push yourself harder. However, did you know that without proper post-workout muscle recovery, there is a greater chance of plateau?
All workouts put stress on your body and create micro-tears in your muscles. This is when your hormone and enzyme levels fluctuate and the inflammation in your muscles increases. The good news is, that all these changes can do a lot of good for your body. For instance, they can lead to fat loss, muscle growth, better insulin sensitivity and improved cardiovascular health. They can even reduce inflammation in the long run.
However, you need to let your body rest and let it repair the microscopic damage that you do to your muscles when working out. In fact, without proper post-workout recovery, the workout will be for nothing.
Recovery lets your muscles repair the damaged cells
Exercising triggers your body’s immune system to immediately start repairing the damage in the muscle cells, according to Adam Rivadeneyra, MD, a sports medicine physician with the Hoag Orthopedic Institute and the Orthopaedic Specialty Institute (Everydayhealth, 5/13/2019).
As the tissues in your body recover, the become slightly fitter than what they were prior to the tissue damage (or in other words, working out). So, next time, as you perform the same exercise or workout, you will not experience as much damage, ultimately making you stronger.
However, in order for this improvement to happen, you have to cause some damage to your body.
Proper recovery keeps you injury-free, too
Letting your muscles rest and recover properly also helps re-energize your body, so you will have the required stamina for your next workout.
“Overtraining can lead to overuse, which can lead to burnout and injury,” Dr. Leber explains.
Without a proper recovery in between workouts, you might experience injuries that are directly (or sometimes, indirectly) derived from lack of recovery. For instance, common overuse injuries include stress fractures, iliotibial band syndrome, patellofemoral syndrome, and muscle strains.
In addition, a study in Sports Health has shown that improper recovery can contribute its part to poor immune function. It can contribute also to neurological changes, hormonal disturbances, and even depression.
How can you let your muscles recover?
Recovering and resting does not mean that you should lay back on the couch and kick up your feet. Not necessarily, anyway. There are a few different ways you can recover from your workouts, and they include, for instance, the following:
- Passive recovery
- Active recovery
- Myofascial release
- Nutritional recovery
When talking about passive recovery, it is ultimately synonymous with complete rest. So, for this one — you can lie on the couch and kick up your feet. Active recovery, on the other hand, means performing low-intensity workouts that have a low impact, and yet promote blood flow (which ultimately promotes tissue repair). For instance, a light walk, yoga, or swimming may be excellent choices for recovery activities.
Cross-training gives you the best way to keep on exercising every day (or almost every day) should you so choose. The idea is to let certain muscle groups recover while others work. For instance, a personal trainer might recommend working different muscle groups on different days of the week.
Myofascial release, or soft tissue therapy, includes foam rolling and massage. If performed immediately before and after your workout, it might help decrease the chance of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), while improving and speeding muscle repair and recovery.
The foods you eat provide your body with all the essential building blocks it needs to recover and repair your muscles. This is why nutritional recovery should be an essential part of your workout routine. For instance, consuming a healthy amount of lean protein within 45 minutes of your workout can help you to recover faster.
At the end of the day, it does not matter how hard you exercise if your body does not have enough time to rest in between workouts. Evidently, too much exercise without proper recovery can lead to injuries and plateau. Ensuring that you have a proper recovery plan is equally essential to a proper workout program.