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There are many methods and modes for recovering from a hard workout or a particularly brutal sports match or athletic event. Everyone has a different opinion on what works and what treatments to combine for the most efficient recovery. How can you know which is really best?
Well, science has a few things to say about workout recovery. Beyond just popping a few pain killers or drinking a nutrient-loaded, protein-packed green smoothie, there’s a lot you can do that’s scientifically proven to speed up your recovery, so you can get back in the gym at peak performance, faster. Here are six of our favorite efficient ways to recover from a hard workout.
1. Get some real sleep
While you’re snoozing away, your body is making major progress, restoring and renewing and getting your muscles ready for the next day. So why don’t more athletes — and more people in general — place an emphasis on getting a good night’s sleep? While the average person is expected to get seven hours of sleep per night to really benefit, hard-working athletes are advised to get up to nine.
2. Protein, protein, protein
Yes, you know that you need protein after your workout, but what about the rest of the time? Giving your body some protein before bedtime is a great way to give it some fuel as it works on all those muscle repairs you need after lights out. Additionally, grab some protein as soon as you wake up, too, to keep your fuel levels high. If you skip breakfast or don’t eat the right things for the first meal of the day, then you risk a slump in the afternoon or early evening, which could lead to overindulging.
3. Ease up on hidden stress
If your body is trying to recoup from a workout, you don’t want to force it into working harder by putting undue stress on your systems. But while you might think of stress as just the byproduct of a bad day at work, or some annoyances at home, think again. You could be putting some hidden stress on your body when you try to alleviate your not-so-hidden stress with a pint or two. That’s right — a few drinks at the pub can cause stress on your body, too, leading to dehydration and an inability for your body to properly use protein for muscle repair. So, if you’re feeling stressed, skip the glass of wine or the beer and try some yoga.
4. Listen to your body
Make sure that you listen to your body and what it’s telling you, even if it means easing up on your training schedule for a few days. Most experts recommend only scheduling two or three hard workouts per week, and then using the rest of your workout days for simpler exercise that contributes to your overall athletic goals, but that doesn’t tire your body out too much. A lower-intensity workout can be just what you need to recover properly.
5. Watch the anti-inflammatories
While it might be your first instinct when you feel some muscle soreness to down a few pain killers, watch it. Taking high doses of over-the-counter pain killers like ibuprofen and aspirin can actually inhibit your music strength. So, if you can, ride out the muscle soreness. If you absolutely need something to help the pain, then opt for an all-natural supplement, like turmeric.
6. Stay hydrated
If you’re not hydrating properly during and after your workouts, you could find that just upping your water intake could be all you need to improve your recovery time. Plain water does the job just fine, so no need to invest in expensive hydration solutions. Make sure you’re drinking at least 8 ounces of water right after you’re done with your workout and then hop on the scale to see how much fluid you lost during your exercise. For every pound lost, drink at the very least another 16 ounces of water.
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