Follow this pre-, during-, and post-exercise plan, and you’ll be back at your peak to kick it in your next session faster
Sore muscles and fatigue that drag on for days after a hard workout means it takes that much longer before you can (happily) do it all over again. But by strategically mixing in these little things before, during, and after exercise, you can accelerate your recovery and get back to your active ways sooner.
Sipping tart cherry juice pre-workout may ease muscle soreness, according to a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. Antioxidant compounds found in the sour fruit called anthocyanins are believed to reduce inflammation, but you need to drink it prior to exercise to reap less pain after.
The more sleep-deprived you are, the more of the stress hormone cortisol your body produces, slowing down your body’s recovery processes, says Michael Shepard, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Orange, CA. Sleep deprivation also decreases the production of glycogen during exercise, reducing the amount of available energy, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Be sure to get seven to nine hours of rest if you plan to work out the next day, as sleep is necessary for the release of growth hormone, which helps repair and rebuild muscle.
When you’re getting dressed, instead of no-show socks, pull on athletic compression knee socks. Australian researchers found that men wearing pants-like compression garments while running had decreased heart rates and lower levels of blood lactate—a measure of lactic acid and exercise intensity—after running. Compression socks work similarly to speed recovery after a run, says Tom Holland, C.S.C.S., a Connecticut exercise physiologist and triathlete who regularly wears compression garments. “They increase blood flow, which speeds the rate at which you can rid your body of waste products.”
“The agitation of a foam roller improves blood flow to your muscles,” says Shepard. “This helps prevent injury during exercise and may decrease soreness afterward and speed recovery.” In addition to targeting sore spots, hit all the major muscle groups.
For workouts of less than an hour, the goal is to stay hydrated, says Amy Goodson, R.D., a dietitian for Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine. “Dehydration can make you feel fatigued, decrease performance, and make it harder to recover after a workout because you are playing catch-up.” Drink 5 to 10 ounces of water or low-calorie sports drink every 20 minutes of consistent exercise, and you’ll be good.
...and keep repeating every 20 minutes that your session lasts. [Tweet this tip!]
“Any time a muscle works, it generates waste products like lactic acid,” Shepard says. Whether you did cardio or strength, five minutes of walking or slow biking is all your body needs to clear out those products from your cells.
While Pharrell Williams can amp you up to eke out that last kettlebell swing, once you put down the weights, change your tunes to something slower. According to a small study, listening to slow music lowers blood pressure and heart rate post-workout in less time than cooling down to fast songs or in silence. [Tweet this tip!]
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a massage therapist, deep-tissue rub-downs following exercise have been shown to increase blood flow to muscles and speed up the removal of chemicals that produce soreness, Shepard says. In an animal study, massage right after exercise was more beneficial at restoring muscle function and modulating inflammation than massage 48 hours later. No personal masseuse? Use a self-massage device such as a foam roller, or try a lacrosse ball or tennis ball in a sock. “This acts as a mini foam roller,” Shepard says.
Your goals for post-workout nutrition are to replenish, rebuild, and rehydrate, Goodson says. One way to combine all three Rs is a shake. Try blending 8 ounces lowfat milk, 1/2 scoop whey protein powder, 1/2 banana, and 1/2 cup strawberries. “The carbohydrates in the fruit and milk help replenish your muscle stores, while the whey and milk provide your body with 20 grams of quality protein, ideal for jumpstarting muscle re-synthesis,” she explains. Eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties such as salmon, kelp, papaya, turmeric, and green tea can help fight off free radicals formed during exercise, Goodson adds, so include them in meals and snacks the rest of the day.