Muscle recovery, soreness, and the tools to kick ass on a regular basis.
I have to tell you something.
Sore muscles don’t necessarily mean you had a super productive, big time results changing workout.
Not-sore muscles don’t necessarily mean you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough.
Now that that’s out of the way:
It’s not big secret that I am a high intensity exercise kind of lady. I have done all sixty days of the Insanity Workout twice. I work out at a Crossfit gym (the best crossfit gym EVER, by the way.) Power lifting and olympic lifting are both my JAM. I love a heavy kettlebell. I will try to PR every time I go for a heavy lift (not that I’ll always make it!). I am in the last two weeks of The Blissful Chef’s Personalized 16 week program, which has challenged me with workouts that use supersets, that are longer than I am used to, and that have introduced me to a bevy of exercises that I had never even come close to trying before. I am committed. I like to work hard. And really, I hardly ever get sore.
When I first started high intensity training, crossfitting, and working on other kinds of lifting, I got sore all the time. I got sore because I was using muscles I had never before used and because I was asking my body to do something that it wasn’t used to doing. That is completely typical, makes perfect sense, and gradually, it stopped happening.
The moment my workouts stopped destroying me, I got scared. Was I no longer working hard? Was I phoning it in? Should I go heavier? Should I go faster? Was I just plain lazy?
No. No, no, no, and no.
Although I continue to participate in a variety of exercises (lifting barbells and dumbbells in a variety of ways, bodyweight exercise, swimming, running, hiking, biking, and yoga) my body is quite accustomed to the movements I tend to do. When I increase my weights, or reps, or my speed, I tend to be sore right after a workout, but rarely into the next day. That is both because my body has adapted well, and because I keep my pre-and post workout nutrition in check.
Every single person’s body is different, but there are some things about muscle recovery that science just supports.
1) Minerals are crucial for a host of bodily functions, including metabolism, tissue structuring, and hormonal support. (So, eating a plant-rich diet that is extremely full of vitamins and minerals gives me a huge leg up on recovery)
2) Eating (or drinking) both essential amino acids and quick burning carbohydrate within an hour after physical activity and immediately before exercise has been shown to significantly stimulate muscle synthesis. (I eat both before and after exercise, making sure to have a balance of quick burning carbs- in my case 9 times out of 10 this is banana- and solid protein- usually Vega Sport)
3) No matter what your exercise plan is, regular ingestion of snacks and meals providing both carbs and protein helps to promote recovery and replenishment of muscle glycogen. (I do not fuck around with my eating, and slay wholesome food very, very regularly. Like every 2-3 hours regularly)
4) BCAAs – which are found in the protein powder I mentioned above- are amino acids which cannot be made by your body and must be eaten. BCAAs help to transition your body from a catabolic (breaking down muscle) to anabolic (building muscle) stage after exercise.
Proper fuel makes an extreme difference in muscle recovery. Eating is an intrinsic part of muscle recovery. These are facts!
In short, your tool kit for regular ass-kicking in the gym and out is as follows:
1) consistency about activity, putting the time in to build muscles up. Commitment to working past the time of all-the-time-soreness, and into a time where your muscles come to expect to be shredded.
2) hydration, because muscles need water (just like the rest of your body).
3) adequate rest and recovery time (for me, once every 2-3 days I take a rest day, I sleep a MINIMUM of eight hours a night)
4) Pre-workout quick burning carbs (banana, dates, 100% juice, natural pre-workout products)
5) For longer workouts, sustained carb intake- more about that here
6) Post workout nutrition that proves you take your body seriously. My smoothie today was a great example of this: 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 cup berries, 1 banana, and 1 scoop of Vega Sport recovery.
To avoid sore muscles: Don’t put off eating post exercise, don’t exercise infrequently, don’t skip rest days, don’t shirk sleep, don’t forget your vegetables. Eat your (vegan) proteins!
Now get out there and crush it!
2) Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Köhnke R. (2006). Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. Journal of Nutrition.136(1 Suppl):269S-73S. – See more at: http://vegasport.com/product/performance-protein/#sthash.z0MbywR2.dpuf