Muscle soreness is almost always a sign of progress, so even though it’s painful, it should also be encouraging. Still, lingering soreness a few days after starting a new fitness gym routine can also hinder you from progressing as quickly as you like or completing routine tasks (feeling daunted by those stairs after leg day?). While the best ingredient for muscle recovery is time, here are 6 tricks and tips you can learn from the experts who’ve been there.
1. Get enough sleep or a post-workout power nap.
Sleep is one of the prime times our bodies repair themselves from the wear and tear of daily life, and that includes a tough workout. If you’re struggling with severe muscle soreness or just always feel fatigued, make sure you’re getting enough sleep, to start.
2. Take your rest days.
The general recommendation is to allow 2 days of recovery before working the same muscle group again. Alternating your weight training between upper and lower body is a good way to balance and manage muscle soreness and speed recovery. Everyone’s body is different, so if you need a few more rest days now and then, be sure to take them. You’ll recover faster and have higher-quality workouts.
3. Protein, protein, protein!
The importance of protein to muscle recovery can’t be stressed enough. After a good night’s rest, eat a high-protein breakfast to start your day. After your workout at the fitness gym, be sure to grab a high-protein snack, as well; and, on days you’re especially sore, eating a light protein-rich snack right before bed can boost the overnight repair process.
4. Drink more water and consume more anti-inflammatory foods.
Like much of our body, muscles are made mostly of water, so it’s also important to get enough fluids for them to repair and rebuild. The amount of water your body needs depends on the whether you’re male or female, how much you weight, what climate you live in, how much you sweat, and other factors. In general, the Institute of Medicine recommends for 9 to 13 total cups of fluids a day.
Anti-inflammatory fluids and foods like tart cherry juice (or cherries themselves), turmeric and ginger can also speed the recovery process because they reduce swelling. What’s more, these foods don’t come with the harmful side effects of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain-relievers.
5. Take an ice or Epsom salt bath.
Athletes that sit in ice buckets after a tough competition aren’t just gluttons for punishment – ice and ice-cold baths provide immediate relief to sore muscles. Sure, they aren’t for the faint of heart, but the benefits of bouncing back faster might be worth the temporary discomfort.
6. Foam roll and massage.
Foam rollers are designed to work out the knots a tough workout can create in our muscles and fascia (connective tissue). Although they include the word “foam,” they aren’t soft. Their compact foam gently but firmly massages muscles to their lengthened form. Be careful while using a foam roller, but be aware that you’ll feel good after you’re done using it, not during.
Massages are perhaps the most enjoyable and relaxing way to recover from muscle soreness – depending on your massage therapist and how knotted up you are. On occasional therapeutic massage can help repair scar tissue, relieve tension, and get your muscles ready to hit the fitness center for more.