Back in the days when my workouts consisted of nothing but going for a three mile jog three times a week or so, I never had much of a problem recovering.
Sure, my legs would be a little tired afterwards, but those jogs were so spread out and so low in intensity that recovering afterwards was never much of a problem.
Yet when my slow jogs eventually turned into HIIT workouts and bodyweight skill practice, I had a harder and harder time recovering after my workouts. I’d either be so tired afterwards that I wouldn’t want to do anything for the rest of the day, or be so sore that I had trouble even walking up the stairs (a serious problem when you commute via New York subway).
When this first started happening, I’ll admit that I thought it was a good thing. I figured if I was that fatigued and sore from my workout, I must have worked really hard, which meant I would get really good results.
But as I got more interested in training like an athlete and realized I wanted to be able to work out more regularly (rather than be so sore I had to wait days in between workouts) both because I enjoyed it and because of the mental and physical benefits I got from working out, my lack of recovery started to become more of an issue.
Luckily, I’ve learned a lot since those days and now recover much faster, which helps me keep working towards my goals and doing fun things like going on hikes, bike rides around the city, or trying new sports or activities outside of my workouts without feeling completely exhausted.
In partnership with SYMYX ELEVATE, a ready-to-drink supplement at Target (more below), here are 5 of the easiest ways to help you boost workout recovery:
Eat Immediately After Your Workout
One of the most important things you can do to ensure fast recovery from a tough workout is to make sure to eat as soon as you can after your workout.
Even if you’re trying to lose body fat, this is one meal you don’t want to skip. Giving your body a mixture of protein and carbs after your workout will help to quickly restore your glycogen stores, which in turn will help your muscles recover faster. The more intense the workout, the more important the post-workout meal is to ensure fast recovery.
Whether you have a protein shake or more of a meal is up to you—the important part is that you try and aim for a ratio of about 3:1 carbs to protein for optimal recovery. A few post-workout meal examples are:
- A smoothie with one serving whey or vegan protein powder with frozen fruit
- One serving protein (such as chicken or a vegan or vegetarian option) with rice or quinoa and veggies
- Greek yogurt with fruit and oatmeal or low sugar granola
Remember, food is fuel!
Sip on BCAAs
More clinically called Branched Chain Amino Acids, BCAAs are a specific group of amino acids that are metabolized in the muscles (rather than the liver like other amino acids). These amino acids including leucine, isoleucine, and valine have been shown in tons of studies to help support muscle growth, adaptation, and recovery between workouts.
So to put that in simpler terms, BCAAs can help to:
- Improve recovery after your workout by increasing muscle protein synthesis. So you can get back to your training sooner!
- Reduce fatigue during workouts. As your BCAA levels drop during your workouts, your body produces more serotonin in your brain which leads to fatigue and tiredness. Supplementing with BCAAs helps to stop this process.
- Increase strength and mental focus. By reducing levels of exercise-induced 5-HT in the brain, BCAAs help reduce mental fatigue, which keeps you sharper mentally and more willing to keep pushing hard.
- Promote muscle growth and retention. BCAAs directly stimulate muscle growth synthesis. They also help promote fat loss.
My new favorite BCAAs are SYMYX ELEVATE, a super easy and convenient option that comes pre-mixed in the nutritional supplement aisle at Target. One of the things I like about them is that they also include electrolytes to keep you hydrated during your workout as well as 100 mg of caffeine to keep you energized and focused—even when you want to quit.
There’s no denying the benefits of foam rolling: not only will foam rolling after your workout or at least a few times a week help to alleviate muscle soreness, it also helps to prevent injuries and increase your flexibility.
Whenever you foam roll, go gently and when you hit a “spot” (you’ll know when you do), try and stay on it for 15-30 seconds or until the pain gets slightly less. For some of my favorite foam rolling exercises and ones you should include on a regular basis to help recovery, check out this article.
Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Unsurprisingly, what you eat has a big impact on your body and how quickly you recover from your workouts. Just like it’s important to make sure you have a post-workout meal, it’s also important to include a variety of anti-inflammatory foods and spices in your regular diet.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Bing cherries
- Red peppers
- Flax seeds and chia seeds
- Berries like blueberries and strawberries
Try to include these and other anti-inflammatory foods in your diet regularly and you’ll start to notice your recovery improve more quickly.
Make Sure to Rest!
No matter how good you eat, how diligent you are about your BCAAs, or how often you foam roll, there’s absolutely nothing that can replace proper rest and sleep to ensure your body recovers from your workouts.
Make sure you’re taking at least one full day off of training every week, and don’t skimp on your sleep—you should be aiming for a minimum of seven or eight hours every single night.
Because while it’s definitely important to work out hard and on a consistent basis, it’s more important that you don’t overdo it and give your body enough time to rest and recover on its own.
It’s all about finding the right balance and what works for you.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Symyx. The opinions and text are all mine.