6 proven ways to speed up exercise recovery

6 Proven ways to speed up exercise recovery
Photo: Voctor Freitas, Pexels

Everybody wants to see progress from working out as quickly as possible. However, going hard and fast in the gym every single day will actually hinder your post-exercise recovery and can affect performance, as well as putting you at risk of serious injury.

During hard exercise, the muscles are actually damaged with micro-tears. This is what causes post-workout soreness and stiffness. To get the most out of your workout program, consider exercise recovery as part of your routine. This will help your muscles to heal faster so they can work at full power and allow you to achieve greater gains.

1. Stretching

Stretching helps to warm up the muscles and make them pliable so the risk of injury is reduced. Stretching can also help release tightness in your joints. This tightness may prevent you from getting the maximum benefits out of your workouts.

Allow 5-10 minutes before your workout to warm up your muscles before your stretching routine. After exercise, you should also include stretches as part of your cool-down routine to release muscle tightness and soreness and help your muscles return to their resting state.

2. Foam rolling

Using a foam roller is an effective way to give yourself a sports massage without the hefty price tag. Rolling your muscles will help to work out knots, which can relieve muscle soreness and speed up recovery time. You can see a selection of foam rollers for different exercises and pressure intensities here.

Foam rolling before a workout also helps to warm up the muscles and reduce the risk of injury. Concentrate on the muscles that will be working hardest during your exercise routine and continue the pressure for 10-20 seconds on each muscle group.

3. Pre and post workout nutrition

During a workout, your body needs carbohydrates for energy, and post-workout it needs protein to rebuild muscle fibres. For the best of both worlds, aim to eat a meal that contains high-quality lean protein and complex carbohydrates about two hours prior to exercise.

Foods rich in potassium can also help to reduce muscle soreness as potassium stores are sapped during intense exercise. Try adding a banana to your protein shake to consume post workout and aid in muscle recovery.

4. Rest and recovery days

If you work out hard every day, your body will have no time to rest and repair your muscles. This puts you at increased risk of injury and reduces your athletic performance.

You need at least 24-72 hours rest between workouts. Schedule in recovery days to give your body time to recover. If you don’t like taking days off from the gym, rotate through muscle groups so that your legs get a break while you’re working on your arms. If you’re following an intense exercise plan, include a recovery week every month or so with lower intensity workouts, lighter lifting, and fewer repetitions.

5. Stay hydrated

Water makes up the majority of the human body and the importance of drinking enough shouldn’t be overlooked, especially when you’re working out and losing fluids in the form of sweat.

Dehydration can hinder the body’s natural ability to repair itself, so it’s vital to stay hydrated both during and after a workout.

Aim to drink one litre of water 90 minutes before your workout and at least half a litre after your workout. Over the day you should aim for at least three litres, or more on hot days.

6. Get more sleep

If the only time you can find to workout is late at night, or you’re getting up very early in the morning to head to the gym, you may be compromising your sleep.

While it can be difficult fitting exercise into a busy lifestyle, you shouldn’t sacrifice your sleep in order to do so. Your body repairs itself while you’re asleep, so if you’re not getting enough it can result in reduced performance and an increased risk of injury.

Aim for at least seven hours of sleep a night, although some people may need closer to nine for peak performance.