Optimizing your Recovery from Exercise
“Delayed onset muscle soreness” (DOMs) is the official name for muscle soreness that occurs 24 to 48 hours after exercise and typically subsides after a couple of days. While minor degrees of muscle soreness can be motivating for some people, there is a point where that soreness stops being motivating, and can actually lead to a reduction in exercise frequency and intensity. Worst case scenario severe muscle soreness can make an individual scared of exercise, or fear that they will injure themselves, and stop exercising all together!
Fortunately, with an individualized exercise routine and recovery strategies, no one needs to suffer from extreme muscle soreness after their workouts.
Below are 5 strategies to help improve your recovery after exercise, avoid excessive muscle soreness, improve energy levels after workouts, and allow you to exercise more intensely and frequently!
1) Get enough sleep
According to a 2011 study by the CDC, around 25% of Americans do not get enough sleep, and 1 in 10 suffers from chronic insomnia. Sleep is vital for proper recovery. Growth hormone, which plays a major role in tissue repair in the body, is secreted almost entirely during sleep. If sleep is disturbed, your ability to recover from exercise is significantly hampered. Additionally, the brain recovers from the stresses placed on it during the day primarily during deep sleep. The brain and nervous system are stressed during exercise just as your body is, and proper sleep is essential to quick and full recovery of your brain and nervous system, a good mood, and high energy levels. PS- Yes, I sleep in my uniform 😉
2) Eat a nutrient and protein rich diet
In our collective experiences evaluating thousands of food logs at AFS, inadequate protein intake is one of the most common nutritional mistakes people make. The commonly cited protein recommendation of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (or about 0.4 grams per lb) is a bare minimum amount to avoid malnutrition in a non-exercising population. For those who are regular exercisers, particularly if you have body composition based goals, a protein intake closer to 90% of your body weight in grams of protein per day, would be a better goal. For example, this would be about 135g for a 150 lb individual. Check out our blog posts on protein intake for more information.
Additionally, eating a lot of fruits and vegetables will ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals which are also important for promoting general health, improving energy, and helping you recover to your fullest after your workout. (I guess mom was right!)
3) Recover Actively
Active recovery is the practice of using low-intensity exercise like walking, or other recovery strategies such as stretching, or foam rolling to help recover faster, and more fully from higher intensity training sessions. Incorporating some extra stretching or a light walk the night after a hard workout, &/or the following morning, can go a long way towards speeding up your recovery! Although moving around is normally the last thing you want to do when you’re sore, it’s one of the best things for you!
Exercising can be addictive. Trust me, I know. But rest is just as important to achieving your fitness goals as the actual exercise session is! If you do not give your body enough time to rest in-between exercise sessions you’re opening yourself up to an increased risk of overuse injury. Nothing will stop you from reaching your goals faster than an injury. Additionally, too little rest and too much exercise can actually make it HARDER to lose fat mass, gain lean mass, or improve exercise performance. Consult a fitness professional such as your Fitness Practitioner if you are worried about over-exercising.
5) Stay consistent!
One of the most common triggers for severe muscle soreness is exercise that is different from what you are accustomed to! Regardless of the amount weight lifted, repetitions performed, types of exercises used and so on, if the exercise stress is relatively new to you, you will likely be quite sore. The best way to combat this is by staying consistent to your workout routine. Even the most intense of exercise sessions can be adapted to and recovered from using the strategies above, as long as you STAY CONSISTENT. Without consistency, you can do everything else right and still be extremely sore the days following a workout.
Take Home Message
All recreational exercisers and athletes have experienced the effects of severe muscle soreness at some point in their fitness journey. Some people are motivated by it, while others get extremely turned off and scared. Luckily, DOMs is nothing to be afraid of. Some muscle soreness is to be expected after a relatively intense exercise session, however no one has to experience chronic or severe soreness if the proper precautions are taken. Think about which of the above areas you can improve on most, and try to incorporate them into your weekly routine.