Workout Recovery

Recovery is essential to any workout plan and can help prevent injuries. Learn more about how to optimize recovery through rest, nutrition, and hydration.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you speed up muscle strain recovery?

    You may have heard of the RICE method. No, we’re not talking grains here, but rather Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Following these steps can help mitigate aggravation when suffering from muscle strain. A health care provider may also advise taking anti-inflammatory medication or acetaminophen to reduce swelling. Stretching and light movement, depending on mobility, can increase blood flow to the area and aid recovery, but some research suggests protection and immobility of a ruptured muscle is best.

  • What is active recovery?

    Active recovery involves performing a lower-intensity physical activity following more strenuous exercise. This can be performed either immediately after (for example, spending 10-15 minutes on a recumbent bicycle upon completion of a heavy squat session), or the next day (going for a swim or doing some gentle yoga the day after CrossFit). 

    Active recovery can encourage muscle rebuilding by increasing blood flow to heavily-taxed muscle groups, as opposed to passive recovery, which involves no movement at all. While arguably passive for the athlete, research suggests massage is an effective strategy for recovery and may result in decreased muscle soreness and inflammation.

  • Do muscle recovery supplements work?

    Supplements, including those purported to promote muscle recovery, are not regulated by the FDA or approved for safety and efficacy before they are marketed to the public. For this reason, it is important to work with a knowledgeable health care provider prior to including a supplement in your routine.

    That said, some evidence supports the use of products marketed to support muscle recovery, such as BCAAs.

    While whole foods are preferable when possible, protein powder may be useful to hit protein requirements for athletes. For example, whey protein offers a complete amino acid profile to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Additionally, evidence shows that consumption of casein protein before bedtime can stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

  • What foods help with muscle recovery?

    While protein-rich foods (think lean meat, cottage cheese, eggs, and fish) promote muscle protein synthesis, restoring muscle glycogen with carbohydrates is key. The International Society of Sports recommends a post-workout feeding with a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. Antioxidant-rich foods may also be beneficial. Tart cherry juice, which is rich in a group of antioxidants called polyphenols, can aid in muscle recovery and decrease inflammation.

  • How much sleep is needed for muscle recovery?

    Research suggests that higher sleep quality is associated with greater muscle strength, and other data suggests that sleep hygiene is just as crucial to performance as physical training. Sleep deprivation can also result in a reduction of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor), which helps regulate muscle protein synthesis. While 7-9 hours of sleep is generally sufficient, experts warn that a one-size-fits-all is ill-advised, as sleep recommendations for optimal muscle recovery may be sports-specific.

Key Terms

Page Sources
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