Whether you’re an aspiring bodybuilder, are new to lifting, or fall somewhere in between, you need to make sure you’re taking the right approach to muscle recovery. Sure, you want to lift hard and frequently. And, you want to make sure you’re putting in as much effort as possible when you’re working out to build strength.
However, as a bodybuilder, if you’re not cautious about pain relief, detailing with muscle soreness, and proper recovery, you’re going to limit your growth. So, let’s focus on a few tips which will help you with muscle recovery and pain relief, after a heavy lifting session.
Protein… Eat Rather than Drink When Possible
It’s important that you consume protein as soon after your workout as possible. But, it’s far better to eat it rather than drink it. On the same vein, if you can eat “a real meal,” rather than protein bars or supplements, that’s the best approach. The 30-minute anabolic window myth is one that’s been disproved.
So, you don’t have to consume protein immediately after a workout. But, the sooner you can, the more it’s going to fuel your muscles and help you replenish after a grueling workout. Try to go with
- Lean proteins (meat, poultry, fish, etc)
- Go for at least 30 grams of protein per meal
- Cycle and use supplements to give you an edge when you can’t eat protein
- Eat protein with every meal
Protein’s a staple in your diet as a bodybuilder. You should strive for 1 gram per pound (on average). Incorporating a high protein diet with your workout regimen is going to help with muscle soreness and help increase your rate of recovery.
Replenish Glycogen Levels
You lose glycogen when you workout. Therefore, you want to replenish these losses shortly after your workout. How do you do this? Carbs! Most of the energy you exert when bodybuilding comes from the breakdown of glucose. Glucose molecules are simple sugars; what do carbs turn into after eaten? Sugar!
If you want more energy for your next heavy lifting session, you’ll need to replenish the lost glycogen. Therefore, choosing carbs like rice (brown or white), potatoes, and other healthy alternatives, proves to be beneficial in the recovery process.
It’s also worth noting that the low-carb diet results in a decrease of testosterone levels. So, don’t avoid carbs and don’t go low carb. The amount of calories you’re burning while lifting heavy, will help keep your body weight at bay, so don’t fret over packing on the carbs after a strenuous session.
Foam rolling tight muscles is like giving tight muscles a mini massage. It helps with pain relief after a tough workout. It also helps muscles recover faster and helps prevent soreness. Foam rolling can effectively reduced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It can also help to improve performance during your next workout session.
Foam rolling can help improve your range of motion as well. If you have tightness in your quads or legs, you’re going to struggle with your leg days. When you incorporate foam rolling into the mix, it’ll help increase your range, decrease tightness, and help with pain relief that you often feel after working out those muscles that you have a hard time training.
Cycle to Prevent Over training
No, you don’t have to go biking (although you can use this as a cool down), but you’ll want to consider cycling in less strenuous workouts after heavy lifting days. To guard against over training, you should cycle in lower intensity workout days in between your heavy lifting days.
This allows you to remain active and still move, so you’re getting in a workout. It’s also beneficial for your mental health. You need a rest day here and there. So, take your off-days or low-cycle days and go for a walk or an easy hike. If you go 110% with every workout, you’re going to burnout and won’t allow for sufficient muscle recovery. In turn, your performance will falter.
We often overlook the importance of getting enough sleep. It’s not only pivotal in muscle recovery and increasing strength, it’s important to our overall ability to function. The amount of time you sleep is one of the biggest factors which will impact your testosterone levels. And yes, this also affects women.
Lack of sleep not only reduces testosterone levels, but also limits production of IGF1 (insulin growth factor). Both play a role in muscle synthesis; therefore, if your hormones are adversely affected/modified, you’re going to realize losses in the gym.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and develop a healthy sleeping pattern, to avoid these hormonal imbalances and improve your muscle recovery and development.
Warm up and Cool Down
Many people don’t warm up or cool down properly. Don’t skip either. Pre-workout, make sure you’re getting in a 10 to 15 minute warm up, and make sure you’re getting 15 to 20 minutes of cool down post-workout.
When you continue sweating and engage in aerobic activity post-workout, you’re eliminating harmful byproducts (lactic acid buildup primarily). This is what causes soreness. If you want to improve muscle recovery times, you’re going to want to cool down after a strenuous lifting session.
Furthermore, warming up helps prevent overexertion, and can help in the prevention of injuries as well. So, don’t take either lightly, and don’t skip either of the two.
In addition to these tips, try to keep your stress levels at bay. Stress can reduce testosterone levels, which is obviously going to detract from your goal of building muscle. Try to limit strenuous outdoor activity as well when you’re lifting heavy. If possible, stay out of the gym (or at least away from the weight section), and focus on lighter workouts in between the heaviest lifting days.
The more strenuous a lifting routine is, the more effort you’ll want to put into your post workout recovery. Your body needs it. Don’t overlook the importance of rest, a healthy diet, and allowing your body to fully heal, before going in for another hardcore, two-hour leg day at the gym. Incorporate a few of these tips into your recovery process, in order to prevent injury, prevent muscle soreness, and help improve your results when you’re lifting heavy weights.