Soreness and fatigue are often expected, or anticipated, after a hard workout. However, if you’re constantly feeling extreme soreness and fatigue day after day with each workout, something isn’t right. You might be pushing yourself too hard, or it may be as simple as needing better nutrition. Here are some ways to maximize your recovery and make the most out of your workouts.
1. Proper nutrition. This goes for pre and post workout. They are equally important.
Figure skater and personal trainer, Shannon Clark, states, “Digestion is a lengthy process; proteins and carbs that you ingest prior to the workout will still be circulating in the body afterward. For this reason, choose your foods wisely. Make sure you get high-quality, lean protein along with some complex carbohydrates, especially if you plan on an intense workout.” The timing of your pre-workout meals and what macronutrients are needed will vary based on what time of day you work out and what type of intensity/workout you’ll be doing. I strongly would suggest consultinga fitness professionalif you need further guidance with this. You may also want to think about consuming branch chain amino-acids (BCAAs) before and during your workout. BCAAs promote protein synthesis and reduce muscle breakdown.
What should you be consuming right after a workout?A mix of carbohydrates and protein. During a workout “your muscles use up their glycogen stores for fuel. This results in your muscles being partially depleted of glycogen. Some of the proteins in your muscles also get broken down and damaged. After your workout, your body tries to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair and regrow those muscle proteins,” according to registered dietician Arlene Semeco. This is why it’s important not only to consume quality nutrition to help rebuild the repairs to your muscle tissue, but to consume it ideally within 30 minutes post-workout. Semeco says, “It's recommended that you consume 0.14–0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight (0.3–0.5 grams/kg) very soon after a workout…[and] 0.5–0.7 grams of carbs per pound (1.1–1.5 grams/kg) of body weight within 30 minutes after training results in proper glycogen resynthesis.” If someone is participating in longer endurance sports like running or cycling, that individual may need more carbs. It’s said that fat can inhibit the absorption of your carbs and protein post workout, however this is not 100% proven. I would still suggest limiting the fats both before and after a workout.
2. Never skip the stretching. This is one thing that is easily neglected. Stretching helps alleviate some soreness related to tight muscles after a workout. Tight muscles will limit your range of motion. If you’re limited on your range of motion with squats, deadlifts, etc., you won’t be going near as heavy as you potentially could. Therefore, you are hindering your ability to make larger gains in the gym by not stretching. Foam rolling, or self-myofascial release is a great addition to stretching and will reap great benefits as well.
3. Quality Sleep. This is pretty simple. Lack of sleep equals lack of energy, which equates to lack of a quality workout. Try to focus on getting sleep. Studies show the ideal sleep schedule for recovery is 10pm-6am. I know this isn’t feasible for everyone but work toward getting 6-8 hours of quality sleep. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine will help. Make this a routine if possible and eventually it will just become habit.
4. Active Recovery. Use your days off strength training, or “rest days,” for active recovery. Go for a leisure walk, bike ride, kayak, hike, etc. Keeping those muscles from stiffening up will help alleviate soreness and also help flush out any lactic acid build up to prevent further soreness. Being sore makes it hard to want to move, however, active recovery at that point is the best thing you can do for yourself! Add in some foam rolling on these days too.