Spending time going hard at the gym is great, but what you do between the workouts is just as important as the workout itself. Taking time in between exercise to allow your muscles to recover and build up is actually the time when you’re getting stronger, not while you’re working them out.
When the body is exposed to stress, it will begin a process known as the stress, recovery, adaptation cycle. When you workout your muscles, the stress produced causes them to tear and break down. When this stress is of sufficient intensity, it kick starts the cycle, and after the workout when the stress is absent, the body begins repairing muscles so that they are stronger than they were before and more capable of handling a similar round of stress.
This means giving your body significant time to recover; supplement intense exercise everyday for 3-4 days a week or one day on, one day off. The number of rest days depends on the amount of exercise you’re doing, of course, but the idea is to be giving yourself at least some rest days. Rest days don’t mean being completely sedentary, it means not pushing yourself so hard that you disrupt your body’s crucial muscle-building recovery process.
The two most important things for recovery are food and sleep. Your body needs plenty of fuel to build itself back up again. Depending on whether your training aims to lose fat or to build muscle (your body cannot do both at once), your caloric needs will vary. One central component is that you get enough protein during this time, as it’s the central macronutrient for muscle anabolism. Sleep is important too – when you sleep your pituitary gland releases human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone, both of which aid muscle growth and repair. Missing out on sleep means missing out on this recovery time, so a minimum of 8 hours is good.
Using a foam roller is another treat way to reduce muscle tension post workout. Massaging your muscles with the foam toller breaks up scar tissue knotting in your connective tissue. If left unattended, this can lead to nagging aches and pains in your muscles and joints. Spending only a few minutes rolling the muscle groups you worked out can really help speed up their recovery.
Your body will surely thank you if you incorporate these tips into your exercise routine!