Muscles experience wear and tear during a workout, making you feel sore afterward. While they might sound negative, these micro-tears play a crucial role in driving the process of muscle-building.
When micro-tears occur, our body’s natural healing system repairs them. It rebuilds fibers by filling the gaps between micro-tears with new muscle tissues. As a result, new muscles are built, and so your muscle mass increases.
To ensure our body’s natural healing system is optimal, here are five must-dos you must remember.
Protein doesn’t only effectively rebuild muscle fibers but also helps repair tissues damaged by any exercise. It provides enough amino acids, the building blocks in our body, to your muscles, so they can be repaired and rebuilt after a workout.
Not having enough protein means sore muscles might ache more than usual and feel “punch drunk,” or the state when you can’t think, speak or move normally. Overall, your body may feel weaker after working out.
Missing a post-workout protein is acceptable, given that you eat a protein-rich diet throughout the day. Otherwise, delayed protein intake after exercise by one hour or more reduces and prevents muscle growth and recovery.
In addition to what protein does for the muscles, carbohydrates are needed to resynthesize glycogen, our body’s main energy source, at a higher rate. Replenishing muscle glycogen stores is crucial to initiate muscle tissue repair and rapid recovery from prolonged exercise.
If you’re looking for some sample post-workout grubs with sufficient carbs and proteins, here are some excellent choices:
- milk (for low-fat options, opt for 2% or skim milk) and a protein shake
- low-fat chocolate milk and pretzels
- fruits and yogurt
- whole-grain bread with turkey and vegetables
- peanut butter sandwich
Immediately replacing the lost water during exercise is important to stave off dehydration. Otherwise, your body won’t be able to regulate heat, causing your body temperature and heart rate to rise. When this happens, you’ll likely feel more worn out during and after exercise.
Apart from fatigue, dehydration can impair your muscles’ ability to repair and rebuild themselves. It also reduces your mental alertness, endurance, and strength since every part of your body requires water.
So, to effectively rehydrate and recover after your workout, choose the ideal fluids for you and your hydrating needs. You can choose from the following rehydration options:
This is the most affordable option. It’s recommended to have eight ounces of water after exercise.
Many whole foods have a high water content. One example is watermelons. They contain 92% water, which can already replace most of the water lost during and after exercise and, at the same time, satisfy hunger.
This is a more palatable option to bring your body’s needed fluids and high-value minerals after an exercise. Some brands contain electrolytes, carbohydrates, and protein.
This is another option for replenishing your lost electrolytes and carbohydrates. Unlike sports drinks, it doesn’t have added sugars. It’s a better choice for those who want to avoid sugary drinks.
This is an alternative to sports drinks, especially when they cause gastrointestinal issues. They come as a pill or powder, which you may turn into a drink. You can control how much water you use, so they’re less heavy than some sports drinks.
Your body adjusts typically to different drinks, so experimenting can be helpful. More importantly, note that your fluid needs depend on age, sex, activity level, and medical history. Consider these factors when deciding how to rehydrate.
One of the most natural ways to beat delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is by stretching. While it could be the last thing you’d expect to do since you may probably not be able to move an inch after an exercise, doing so is totally a game-changer. In fact, it also creates a longer-lasting pump in your muscles, enhancing the long-term growth of muscles.
Stretching your sore and aching muscles help break down the build-up of lactic acid. It’s normally caused by intense exercise and causes acid to build up in your bloodstream, resulting in muscle fatigue and soreness.
The key is to stretch gently to avoid inflicting more damage and pain while reducing lactic acid build-up. Each should be held for 12 seconds. If any stretch causes acute pain, adjust the pressure to something relieving, or better yet, stop and rest.
Stretching also helps loosen up your muscles, which usually end up tight after a workout. This can help reduce pain and the risk of injury. Apart from physical benefits, stretching is great for your mind. Doing so after a workout gives you a chance to gradually wind-down.
Research has shown that getting a massage can reduce DOMs by 30%. Like stretching, it alleviates muscle soreness by removing lactic acid and other muscle tension. It also increases blood circulation and breaks down scar tissue, speeding up cell recovery.
Massage treatments can be easily from a massage gun, a massage chair, a spa, or at the gym you’re currently a member of, usually at an affordable price. If you want to get treated at specialized clinics, it pays to ensure your health plan has massage therapy coverage. If you have Medicare, it doesn’t usually cover massage therapy unless you extend its benefits and avail of Medicare Advantage plans.
Many are in go-go-go mode and rarely allow their body to recuperate from physical and mental stress. Recovery isn’t a one-step process. Keep in mind that apart from what has been mentioned above, active rest after your workout is needed for optimal muscle recovery.