You know that feeling you get the day after a great workout? Where your body aches, you have trouble walking, and you’re cursing your spin class instructor? That’s your body telling you it has been broken down and needs time to recover. The muscle recovery phase after a workout is when your body rebuilds and re-energizes your muscles. But sometimes your body doesn’t heal quite as fast as you’d like it to.
Here are 12 proven ways to speed up muscle recovery after a tough exercise session.
1. Get 8 Hours of Shut-Eye.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep. If you’re one of those people who think you “only need 5 hours,” you’re not giving your body enough time to recover and could be making yourself more prone to injuries in the future. Getting ample sleep is one of the best ways to speed up muscle recovery. So aim for 7-8 hours per night.
Drinking water after a tough workout can help rid your body of toxins and prevent dehydration. This is important because dehydrated muscles can quickly become painful muscles. Drink a couple liters of water or more on days when you exercise.
3. Drink a Protein Shake.
Research shows that drinking a protein shake before or after a workout may help reduce the severity of muscle soreness and speed up muscle recovery. A 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein is ideal.
4. Apply Muscle Creams.
Having trouble sitting because of yesterday’s workout? Topical creams like IcyHot are effective for soothing muscle pain and helping you recover from a tough exercise session.
5. Grab Some Aspirin.
Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen can help relieve the discomfort from sore muscles, which can speed up your recovery time. Don’t use NSAIDS on a consistent basis without getting the okay from your doctor. Rather, use them sparingly when bouts of soreness kick in.
6. Ice, Ice Baby.
Here’s one of the easiest ways to recover from a tough workout: apply an icepack to sore muscles for 20 minutes to help them recover faster.
7. Stretch Every Day.
Stretching is one of the best things you can do to aid muscle recovery and help you prevent future injuries. Stretching is particularly useful on your off days. If you’re strapped for time, aim for full body stretches and light exercises like squats, lunges, and planks.
8. Roll Out Sore Muscles.
Foam rollers are cheap and effective tools for breaking up knots and sore spots in your muscles. Research shows that foam rolling breaks up scar tissue and knotting in your fascia, which is important because these knots are often the root cause of sore muscles and joints. So spend a few minutes in the morning and evening rolling out sore spots.
9. Get a Massage.
Getting a massage helps break up scar tissue and ease muscle pain. If you don’t want to dish out the money for a regular massage, trade massages with your spouse or significant other. You can thank us later.
10. Eat a High-Protein Meal.
Research shows that eating protein before bed helps with post-exercise muscle recovery. And chugging a protein shake or eating a high-protein breakfast when you wake up can help reduce food cravings throughout the day. Stick with healthy foods like lean meats, eggs, yogurt, and oatmeal.
11. Drink Chocolate Milk.
Here’s a reason to get excited: drinking chocolate milk after a workout is one of the best ways to speed up muscle recovery. A research study proved that chocolate milk is “an effective recovery aid between two exhausting exercise bouts.” Make your own healthy version of chocolate milk by combining milk, raw cocoa powder and a bit of honey or stevia.
12. Drink Cherry Juice.
Drinking cherry juice and cherry supplements post-workout may help reduce the swelling and help your body recover from a tough workout faster.