How to Optimise your Post-Workout Recovery


By Kim Diandra Sippel

The Do’s And Dont’s After Your Burn And Sweat

‘Sore muscles make me feel like I actually worked out!’

It’s a comment we hear often in the studio. Yes, sore muscles remind you of the effort you’ve put in the day before at the studio or gym, however muscle soreness also means that the little muscle fibres and the connective tissue around them has been damaged during exercise. This is totally normal and needed for muscle growth and rebuilding, however there’s ways to speed up and assist the body in this recovery process in order for you to stay flexible, avoid injuries and not lose muscle strength.

There’s lots of good advice on the internet on what to avoid and what to do when it comes to muscle recovery, however the most important advice we can give you is to listen to your body. You’ll feel when your body is overtrained, when it needs to stretch and when a day’s rest just isn’t enough yet.

Now let’s get into the most efficient ways of how to recover from that last HIIT class you only just survived:

  1. Maintain a well-balanced diet

Maintaining an overall well-balanced diet that includes lots of vegetables, protein, a few carbohydrates and that excludes processed foods is key to ensuring muscles get the right amount of nutrients to recover.

A big mistake lots of active people make is to consume their protein more than 60 minutes after their workout, after they’ve showered or have commuted to work. Since our muscles are made up of protein (amino acids to be precise) and those proteins become damaged during a workout, consuming protein before and also right after a workout is essential to prevent muscle loss. Around 0.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight is considered enough. What better reason to add an extra spoon of peanut butter to your smoothie bowl?!

  1. Stay hydrated

Make sure to drink enough water before, during and after exercising, especially if you’re exercising under hot or humid conditions. Around a litre of water per hour of exercising should be your standard – more is rarely wrong. Water is the best way to go here, however enriched water containing hydralites and magnesium are also an effective way to replenish your body’s minerals and salts that you lost while sweating.

  1. Active and Not-so-active Recovery

We get that scheduling a rest day can feel a little bit like cheating, however overtraining the body will result in damaging the muscles (and your energy levels) more than actually helping to build them. You should prioritise getting the right amount of sleep and rest. There’s scientific evidence from The American College of Sports Medicine that sleep deprivation can limit the body’s ability to fight inflammation and even out hormonal imbalances. Athletes need a higher number of hours in bed than people not exercising. Aim at 8 hours of sleep per night.

Active recovery like a light walk, yoga, tai chi or any other form of stretching and gentle movement has great benefits for the body and mind. Depending on your usual form of exercise, even bodyweight pilates exercises can count as active recovery, as long as they are low-impact. Yoga is also a great way to prevent injuries and help muscles recover quickly. A gentle Vinyasa Flow or a long Yin session can work wonders and will increase flexibility, stimulate blood flow to your organs and achieve better body awareness.

  1. Massage

To de-stress your muscles and fascia – the connective tissue that binds them – and increase flexibility after training, either opt for a remedial massage at a spa, get a foam roller, or find a friend with strong thumbs who doesn’t give up after 2 minutes (good luck, we tried haha). 

  1. Hot, Cold and Compress

You might have seen top athletes like John John Florence on Social Media sitting in weird tube-like zip bags. These are so-called ‘compression garments’ – or in this case boots – and they’ve been commonly used amongst professional sports(wo)men since decades. Other common garments include wraps and socks. All of these have shown to increase blood circulation when used in the right way and at the right time. It’s wise to talk to a clinician here before using them.

  1. Consider Supplements

As mentioned above, protein is an important nutrient your muscles should have access to right before and after working out. If you don’t think your meals carry enough protein already, consider having a protein shake after your run or class. Remember, it’s all about getting those amino acids to form protein to form your hard working muscles!

Additionally, magnesium helps your muscles relax, which in turn will help with falling asleep easier, but also staying asleep as it prevents those nasty muscle cramps. Consuming creatine can help reduce muscle inflammation and damage further by replenishing its glycogen stores.

We’d love to hear about any other tips and tricks that work for you!

Written by Kim Diandra Sippel for Lean Bean Fitness