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There is a common misunderstanding between exercise and muscle growth. A lot of people think that they are going to get results more quickly if they train more often.
Some time ago I have hit a plateau phase. I was like “I don’t know what is going on with my body, but I just can’t grow my muscles, even though I’m training 5 times per week. Maybe I should consider training 7 times per week.”
At some point, I was going to the gym every day. My body was constantly sore and still, I wasn’t seeing A N Y results. That’s when I learned about the biggest secret of my Fitness journey so far.
Are you ready to hear about the secret?
It isn’t about changing your trainings-plan or training-volume, the exercises or whatever. It is about improving your recovery.
Ladies, muscles aren’t built in the gym, they are built in the kitchen and bedroom!
Why is recovery so important?
Our bodies are constantly adapting to different types of exertion, which we are creating through strength training, cardio sessions or whatever sports you do.
If you have had a really exhausting weight-lifting session, for example, your muscles will be completely destroyed afterward. That’s what we define as muscle-soreness. But not only your muscles are getting exhausted. Your central nervous system, your nerves, heart and so on are affected as well. The whole machine hasn’t got as much power as before the training’s session, right?
After the training, your body thinks “I better repair myself and build even more muscle fibers so that I am prepared for the next loading a.k.a training session.”
That’s what we call Superkompensation. Click here to read a full article about it.
After the first training session, the performance of your body will be really low.
If you let your body recover for 2-3 days (this is the minimum), feed it with nutritious food and let it sleep, it will repair itself and come back stronger for the next training session.
And that’s why recovery plays such a vital roll in growing muscle mass and overall living a fitness lifestyle. Understanding this principle is crucial if you want to see results.
Steps to improve your recovery
Over the last few years, as I was going through ups and downs in my own Fitness journey, I have learned a few important lessons when it comes to my recovery. I would like to share with you my best tips to recover faster and better from your training sessions.
1. Eat enough and the right foods
Everybody should eat as wholesome as possible, but especially athletes.
Because they are burning tons of calories, sweating and putting their bodies under soo much stress. That’s why they have to have :
- A wholesome diet based on their performance
Even if you are not a pro athlete, but you are working out a few times per week, you should eat around 200-500 kcal more on training days. Depending on how hard the training-session was and what exactly your goal is.
Another important thing is to reach your protein target daily. (around 1,6g – 2,2g per kg/bodyweight) and have a balanced macro-ratio. (1)
Last but definitely not least is to eat enough micronutrients (veggies, vitamins, minerals). Among others, they play an important role in digesting protein, fats, and carbs.
“Sleep is extremely important to me – I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body.” – Usain Bolt
Sleeping is the time when the body rests and recovers. During sleep the muscles are relaxed, the blood supply to muscles increases, tissue growth and repair occurs and energy is restored. Above all, the body releases growth hormones, which are essential for muscle growth. (2)
A study also investigated the effects of sleep extension over multiple weeks on the performance of athletes. Over a couple of weeks, they measured improvements in specific measures, among others reaction time, mood and daytime sleepiness. (3)
That’s why you need to get your beauty sleep, girl!
If you have been wondering why you are experiencing an increased soreness and bad recovery, it might be, because you are sleeping too few hours or your sleep quality isn’t the best.
My tips to improve your sleep:
- Go to sleep earlier
- Don’t have any physical exhaustion 2-3 hours before bedtime
- Don’t have anything to eat at least 2 hours before bedtime
- Have some quiet time 1 hour before bedtime
3. Cool-down matters
Another improvement in my recovery I noticed when I started to incorporate cool-downs and drinking my post-workout protein shake.
Cool-down is the start of the regeneration. It isn’t an extra 20-minute cardio session. For me, it looks something like walking home. Or doing some active stretching at the end of my session.
Even though there is no evidence in significantly higher performance through cool-downs, I still believe it helps my body to recover better. (4)
Beside this, I will typically have a post-workout protein shake to get the regeneration started the right way.
4. Have active rest days
The next tip is to be active on your rest days, instead of only laying in bed and sitting all day.
You don’t have to work out. That’s not an active rest day.
But, you can simply go for a walk, do some yoga, go for a ride, or whatever you fancy. It is about moving your body just a little bit so that blood can flow into the sore muscles.
Here are some of my yoga practices:
5. Tools and supplements
Sometimes your body just needs a little extra help, right?
That’s why I love using tools and supplements to make sure my body is getting the best support ever.
On my active rest days, I will typically foam-roll and massage my entire body. Foam-rolling is hurting soo bad, in the beginning, but you get used to it. And it’s worth it because it’s really healthy for the body. It releases any tenseness in your muscles and provides a relaxed body.
Moreover, I drink BCAA’s during my workout sessions and protein shake afterward. It just helps me get to my daily protein target and support muscle growth and recovery.
Let’s summarize how you can improve your recovery:
- Eat enough and the right foods
- Have active rest days
- Tools and supplements I use
Finally, I wanted to point out that the biggest lesson I have learned was to listen to my body.
You can have as many tools and supplements, sleep 12h a day, but if you don’t listen to your body and respect it’s boundaries, you will never have a healthy relationship with it.
If I’m feeling sick, I won’t go to the gym, period. If I am tired and exhausted, it’s probably a sign that I have been pushing myself too hard. I will probably rest for a few days. And that’s okay.
Listen to yourself first, and then take action.
Have a nice day,
Photo from Unsplash by Stephanie Moors