Post Workout Recovery: The Big 4
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
One of the most common questions we get is “How do I recover better from my workouts?” This is often followed by asking what is the best foam roller, massage gun, ice pack, or any of the other latest and greatest recovery tools. The truth is, all of these workout recovery tools are a drop in the bucket compared to the Big 4 of recovery. Sleep, nutrition, hydration, and proper rest are the keys to recovery. If you aren’t taking care of those 4 things, but you’re researching the best massage gun, you’re stepping over a one hundred dollar bill to pick up a quarter. Massage guns and foam rollers can make a small impact in your recovery, but focusing on the 4 major categories of recovery will give you a much larger effect. Our recommendation is always to improve one of these categories before focusing on a tool that won’t make that much of a difference.
1. Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep is when your body recovers and repairs itself from your workouts. You probably already know that sleep is important to your mental and overall well being. But did you know that sleep also impacts athletic and muscular performance as well?
Sleep is when your body recovers and repairs itself from the previous day’s workout. Without enough sleep, your body never fully recovers from your hard workout and you’re already starting off the next day at a disadvantage. Getting enough sleep is a great way to get more out of the workouts you’re already doing.
The average person needs about 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If your workouts are intense, you might need even more. If you’re on the lower end of average or, even worse, below the average, you’re probably not getting the sleep you need to recover from your workouts.
2. Are You Eating Enough?
There’s a good chance you are aware how important diet and nutrition is to a healthy lifestyle. But, did you know that the details of your diet are important to how well you’re recovering from a workout?
Protein, especially, is extremely important for muscle recovery. Getting enough protein in your diet is one of the best things you can do to feel better after your workouts. The general recommendation is about .4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. But, if your workouts are intense or muscle growth is the goal, you may need upwards of .8 grams of protein per pound.
The type of protein is important as well. Meat and milk proteins are more complete proteins which have been shown to have a bigger impact on muscle recovery.
3. Drink Enough Water
You probably have heard that you need to drink 8 glasses of water per day. While that may be the right number for some people, it's not the right number for everyone. Some people can be well hydrated with less than that, and some (especially those that exercise more) will need more.
Staying hydrated is one of the keys to making sure your muscles recover properly. It can help with muscle repair, fatigue and digestion. All of which play a big role in how you are feeling physically.
A good way to know if you’re hydrated is the color of your urine. If it is pale yellow, you are likely well hydrated.
4. Rest Days
Did you know that you don’t become stronger during your workouts? You actually become stronger when you rest and recover from that hard workout. During a workout you are challenging your body and likely even causing “microtears” of the muscles you’re working. Your body then adapts to this and you become stronger (or have better endurance) when you recover and repair. If you don’t give yourself time to properly recover, your body never is able to repair and adapt and you slow your progress down. Stop thinking of your rest days as “off days” and think of them as part of the process of getting better.
How much rest is enough? That depends on your workouts. If you are doing intense, full body workouts, you may need as many as 2-3 rest days during the week. If you are alternating between upper body, lower body, cardio, core, etc, it’s possible you will need fewer so you can give each body part enough rest.
Recovery days also don’t have to be doing nothing. You can do a mobility or stretching day, go for a fun bike ride, go for a walk, or any number of activities that are still active. Our biggest recommendation on your recovery days is to pick an activity you enjoy so that you can look forward to it.