Recover Harder to Gain More Muscle Mass!
So you’ve perfected your training program, you have your nutrition and supplementation down pat, and you’re more motivated than ever. So how can you gain even more muscle? It’s time to take a harder look at your recovery. And no, recovery is not just about how much sleep you get! It’s about what kind of sleep you’re getting, and what other forms of recovery are you doing. To take your body to the next level, you are going to have to do next level recovery.
The nice thing about recovery is that while it isn’t necessarily hard, say like working out, it does require time. Recovery comes in many different types. Whether it is icing your legs, compressing your calves, or massaging your shoulders, there is always an opportunity to recover. Even going on a simple short walk after a hard training session can be considered active recovery.
So what is recovery?
Recovery is “a return to the normal state of health, mind, or strength”. Recovery runs on the assumption that something is not normal. For example, after running a marathon your body will be dehydrated and your legs will be very sore. To recover we immediately start hydrating and put ice on our sore legs. These are both recovery actions.
Types of Recovery
The most obvious form of recovery is your sleep. During sleep, your body repairs itself by fixing micro tears caused by strenuous tasks throughout the day. Your body fixes these muscle by adding new muscle fibers overtop existing ones. This is how you quite literally grow!
Sleep does much more to your body than just repair your muscles though. In addition, your hormones for metabolism and appetite (ghrelin and leptin) are balanced. Do you ever wonder why you feel more hungry when sleep deprived?? This is why!
Massage has many benefits in recovery. By increasing blood circulation, more oxygen is forced into your muscles which aids in the breakdown of lactic acid buildup. Massage also can also increase your range of motion and help to break up nasty scar tissue.
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Icing your muscles, or cryotherapy, does the opposite of massage. It decreases blood flow to the muscles which decreases inflammation and lowers the risk of swelling. When using ice on your muscles you should be careful about a few things:
- Never put frozen ice directly in contact with your skin
- Never keep ice on muscles for longer than 15-20 minutes
- Never apply ice to skin that is already numb
Pro Tip: Try freezing a bag of peas or small vegetables to use to ice your muscles.
In addition to decreasing inflammation, icing your muscles will also help by numbing the pain completely.
The opposite of cryotherapy, heat therapy will help to relax muscles and promote blood flow. This will aid in removing lactic acid build up that occurs after a hard training session. Heat therapy is best used for chronic conditions or for injuries where inflammation is lacking. Even better, try mixing cryotherapy and heat therapy to maximize results.
Similar to heat therapy and massage, compression increases blood flow to your muscles once again removing lactic acid build up. It is also known to help keep your muscles in place, reducing your risk for injury including muscle strains.
Active recovery is the process of doing low stress, low-intensity exercise after a high-intensity session. Have you ever seen a Tour de France rider get on the bike AFTER completing a big stage? This is exactly why! Giving your muscles that extra oxygen to remove the lactic acid will help enormously with DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Try completing a 5-10 minute walk after your next run and see how it helps.