6 Science Backed Methods to Increase Your Recovery

Recovery is a huge buzzword in the fitness industry and with good reason…everybody wants to recover faster. The faster we are able to recover from todays workout, the sooner we are going to be able to crush yet another gym session. The sooner we crush another gym session the more gains we will be able to reap overtime. Deep down all of us are looking for those secret tips and tricks to shore up our aches and pains as fast as possible.

Unfortunately, we tend to go looking for our recovery solutions in all the wrong places. Whether it’s supplements, special oils, or popping a quick pill, we are willing to try whatever it takes to increase our recovery…

…except…the actual actionable steps which will genuinely increase our recovery it would seem. 

Recovery is a habit. All of the fitness industries “quick fixes” for recovery are just a thin veil for us to hide from the fact that we don’t have that habit nailed down all that well. In fact, I bet you probably already have a solid guess at what solutions are on this list without even reading it first. You already know you SHOULD be doing these things. The question is, are you?

Here’s the actual steps you can take to make sure your recovery is the best it can be.

1. GO TO BED

#sleepisfortheweak #riseandgrind #I’llsleepwhenI’mdead

Stop. 

Sleep deprivation has become so normalized in our culture that we have all just accepted walking around like mindless zombies dependent on that first…or second…cup of coffee to make us somewhat functional.

Not only are you limiting your bodies ability to recover, you are leaving yourself susceptible to fatigue, irritability, mood changes, decreased cognitive ability, and decreased reaction time just to name a few side effects. Over long enough periods of time sleep deprivation can lead to anxiety, and depression as well as immune, hormone, and cardiovascular system disfunction.

Is this enough to convince you to get some sleep yet?

Sleep should be at the very top of your priority list as a human being. Even if you could give a damn less about training. General recommendations suggest at least 7 hours of sleep for most people. On top of this you want restful, deep sleep (i.e. you aren’t waking up multiple times in the middle of the night), and ideally your sleep falls around the same schedule (i.e. when you go to bed and wake up each night is approximately the same).

Do everything in your power to make this happen. If you have doomed yourself to just being a “bad sleeper” I would highly suggest a consult with a doctor to see what options you have to fix your issues, and don’t stop until you find a solution that works for you.

Stop settling for functioning at 60% on a daily basis. Prioritize sleep like your life depends on it and I promise you things will change in your life for the better. The added recovery benefits for your gains is just a bonus.

2. DESTRESS

Chronic stress negatively impacts our body on the same level as sleep deprivation and should be taken just as seriously.

Unfortunately, lifters tend to apply their same strong-willed personality traits that work well for lifting to their own personal stress, and…it doesn’t work. 

Stress is not something you “push-through” nor are you looking to be “strong enough” to “just deal with it”, you need to put in the time to find solutions to decrease your stress over the long term.

This looks different for every person as sources of stress as well as it’s overall severity vary from individual to individual. However, the bottom line is chronic stress needs to be addressed.

Everyone has their own routines and practices for destressing in their life and their are many different options for you to choose from. The thing is you NEED to choose something. This is not attempting to live under the delusion that we are never going to experience stress in our lives, but instead trying to learn the techniques and methods we can use to control our stress and keep it at manageable levels.

3. HYDRATE

Aside from the basic…you know…“keeping us alive” function of water, making sure you are consistently hydrated ensures you’re supplying your body what it needs to recover from physical activity.

Proper hydration plays a role in the process of muscle protein synthesis (repairing/rebuilding muscle), aids in the process of digestion, and helps transport nutrients throughout the body. Likewise, not only will dehydration be effecting your baseline ability to recover but also your ability to perform in the first place. Dehydration increase feelings of fatigue, decrease resistance training performance, increase perceived exertion, and can impact heartrate recovery.

It’s near impossible to answer the question “how much water should I drink per day” as the question is so extremely individualized. A good place to start is always carrying water with you on hand, so you can consistently drink throughout the day, but you should consult your doctor if you have specific questions on what may be the correct amount for you.

4. Manage your Training Load 

Recovery first and foremost requires that the demands you are placing on your body are something that can actually be recovered from.

To make this make sense, think of the development of a blister vs. the development of a callus on your body. A blister occurs most usually due to a stimulus of friction and heat which is too much for your body to handle all at once, this is an injury not an adaptation (think developing a blister on your foot after going for a max distance run after a long time off). On the flip side if we were to gradually introduce that running overtime, instead of all at once, our body would instead develop calluses, not blisters. We gave our body just enough of a stimulus that it was able to adapt to it, but didn’t completely overload it so much so that we got hurt.

This is the difference between you getting stronger week to week on a solid program vs. you getting injured because all you ever do when you go to the gym is full send an RPE 11 effort.

Smart training and proper programming set you up to be successful in your recovery endeavors. There’s no amount of recovery tricks you will be able to pull to outrun an program that is just downright beating you into the ground every single training session.

5. Ditch the Alcohol

I wish I had anything good to say about alcohol and training.

No matter how you want to phrase it, there’s no solid training benefit you’re going to receive from alcohol. There are however, many tangible negatives.

Alcohol can impede muscle protein synthesis, impairs our ability to sleep as well as sleep quality, can leave us feeling hungover and fatigued, leaves us open to poor decision making, and on the long term can carry negative side effects to the same degree as sleep deprivation and chronic stress.

This doesn’t automatically mean you need to take yourself straight back to the prohibition era. In fact, it’s entirely possible to drink a small amount everyday and still be healthy (generally recommended at one standard drink per day for women and two standard drinks per day for men). However, if you are serious about recovery, cutting back on alcohol is one way you can make sure your body is running at max capacity.

Lions Den Elite Training H.I.I.T.

6. “Active Recovery” 

So we are going to workout more…to help us recover from working out? How’s this supposed to help?

While it sounds counterintuitive, some gentle and relaxed physical activity can be great for improving your recovery, and is especially useful in instances of pain and injury. The age old adage has always been to rest to recover, and while that is true when it comes to sleep, we don’t just want to be sitting around all day. Some light and easy physical activity will help increase blood flow in the body, which in turn helps transport the nutrients and materials our muscles will need to heal and repair any damage.

What you need to understand is an “active recovery” workout is not on the same level as the workout that made you sore in the first place. Think steady state cardio like a walk through your neighborhood or an easy bike ride. Save the “send it” mentality and RPE 10 efforts for your actual training days.

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.