Proven Muscle Recovery Tips

Muscle Recovery

Resistance training, particularly at the beginning can cause some pretty severe Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) leaving you in a lot of pain and discomfort.

This is perfectly normal, and the pain and discomfort of DOMS will go away with time.

After training consistently for a few weeks you probably won’t even suffer from DOMS any more, unless you do a particularly intense session.

Now it should be made clear that there is nothing that you can do to completely eradicate DOMS, and nor should you want to (it is an important part of increasing size and strength in your muscles).

However the following tips have been scientifically proven to reduce the effects of DOMS and to help your muscles recover.

Tip #1. Sleep More

Sounds pretty easy huh? Just make sure that you are getting adequate sleep. It is whilst sleeping that the majority of your recovery from exercise occurs.

This is due to a process known as Muscle Protein Synthesis which we will go into more detail on further on.

Studies have shown that ingesting whey or casein protein before going to bed will improve post exercise recovery [1].

So if you have exercised during the day, a night time protein shake will help you recover during your sleep. Other studies have shown that increasing the duration of your sleep can have a huge impact on performance [2], mood [3], and the release of Testosterone and growth Hormones [4].

All of these benefits will help with recovery and will leave you in better shape the next day, just bear in mind that a lot of these studies found between 8-10 hours sleep to be sufficient. So having 6 hours or 16 hours might not be as helpful!

Tip #2. Consume a High Protein Diet

Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) is the use of dietary protein to fuel muscle repair and growth. When you exercise every contraction you perform breaks down muscle fibres, immediately afterwards your body begins to repair them through MPS.

To get the most out of MPS you should be consuming the right amount of protein, athletes (or people who exercise regularly) need to consume a lot more protein than sedentary people [5]. So adding high protein foods and protein shakes [6] to your diet can help you increase MPS which will in turn lead to better recovery.

Tip #3. Increase Testosterone

Raising your testosterone levels can improve MPS and lead to greater muscle recovery [7][8].

Obviously there is one easy way to increase testosterone that is very popular amongst bodybuilders and that is injecting yourself with Testosterone. As this is illegal however we will look at natural ways to do so.

Firstly there is increasing sleep [4] which was mentioned before.

Some studies indicate that supplementing with Vitamin D boosts testosterone [9] (though many others did not indicate this), and other studies have shown that a diet high in fat can also increase T [10].

Also, free weight exercises such as barbell squats [11], and kettlebell swings [12] have been shown to have a huge effect on Testosterone and Growth Hormone levels (particularly when compared to resistance machine alternatives).

So correct exercise selection can lead to improved recovery from exercise, get your head around that if you can!

Tip #4. Foam Rolling

This is an interesting subject, many people will swear blind that foam rollers can completely cure DOMS.

This however has been proven to be incorrect [13], foam rolling does not speed up recovery nor does it improve sporting performance. However many studies have demonstrated that it lowers fatigue [14].

So you should either use the foam roller as part of your cool down (post-exercise) or as part of your warm up the day after. There won’t be any serious improvements on your performance but there may be less discomfort and less fatigue which should help you train better.

Tip #5. Ice Bath

The topic of ice baths has been subject to much debate, there are many who believe that there isn’t anywhere near enough evidence of it improving recovery to justify utilizing it.

Yet some studies have found improved recovery after using ice baths, and almost every Olympic athlete, and sports person uses it as part of their recovery process.

A study by Vaile, Gill, & Blazevich (2007) found that using an ice bath led to reduced DOMS in recreational athletes [15].

Now filling a bath tub with ice may be the sort of thing that athletes can do but it’s not the most practical of practices.

An easy alternative would be to use ice cubes wrapped in a cloth or towel applied to the affected muscle group. As this technique is controversial you might want to avoid unless you’re particularly concerned with DOMS, and even then results are not guaranteed.

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[1] Res, P., Groen, B., Pennings, B., Beelen, M., Wallis, G., Gijsen, A., Senden, J., Van loon, L. 2012. Protein ingestion before sleep improves post-exercise overnight recovery. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 44(8): 1560-9
[2] Mah, C., Mah, K., Kezirian, E., Dement, W. 2011. The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players. Sleep 34(7): 943-950
[3] Mah, C., Mah, K., Dement, W. 2007. The Effects of Extra Sleep on Mood and Athletic Performance amongst Collegiate Athletes. Sleep 30[suppl]
[4] Born, J., Fehm, H. 2000. The neuroendocrine recovery function of sleep. Noise Health 2(7): 25-37
[5] Tarnopolsky, M., Atkinson, S., MacDougall, J., Chesley, A., Phillips, S., Schwarcz, H. 1992. Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes. Journal of Applied Physiology 73(5): 1986-95
[6] Hulmi, J., Laakso, M., Mero, A., Hakkinen, K., Ahtiainen, J., Peltonen, H. 2015. The effects of whey protein with or without carbohydrates on resistance training adaptations. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 16(12): 48
[7] Yu, J., Bonnerud, P., Eriksson, A. Stal, P., Tegner, Y., Malm, C. 2014. Effects of Long Term Supplementation of Anabolic Androgen Steroids on Human Skeletal Muscle. PLoS One 10;9(9): e105330
[8] Griggs, R., Kingston, W., Jozefowicz, R., Herr, B., Forbes, G., Halliday, D. 1989. Effect of Testosterone on muscle mass and muscle protein synthesis. Journal of Applied Physiology 66(1): 498-503
[9] Wehr, E., Pilz, S., Boehm, B., Marz, W., Obermayer-Pietsch, B. 2010. Association of Vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men. Clinical Endocrinology 73(2):243-8
[10] Reed, M., Cheng, R., Simmonds, M., Richmond, W., James, V. 1986. Dietary Lipids: An Additional Regulator of Plasma levels of Sex Hormone binding Globulin. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 64(5): 1083-1085
[11] Shaner, A., Vingren, J., Hatfield, D., Budnar, R., Duplanty, A., Hill, D. 2014. The Acute Hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28(4): 1032-40
[12] Budnar, R., Duplanty, A., Hill, D., McFarlin, B., Vingren, J. 2014. The Acute Hormonal Response to the Kettlebell Swing Exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28(10): 2793-800
[13] Healey, K., Hatfield, D., Blanpied, P., Dorfman, L., Riebe, D. 2014. The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28(1): 61-8
[14] Healey, K., Dorfman, L., Riebe, D., Blanpied, P., Hatfield, D. 2011. The Effects of Foam Rolling on Myofascial Release and Performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 25: S1-S122,S1-95
[15] Vaile, J., Gill, N., Blazevich, A. 2007. The effect of contrast water therapy on symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 21(3): 697-702

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