When people set out to build bigger, faster, stronger bodies they inevitably (and understandably) focus on the exercises and nutritional aspects that help them build and grow bigger muscles.
A major aspect of this training process often goes overlooked, however, and plenty of people and athletes find their performance to be a bit lacking even though they feel like they are doing everything right.
For one reason or another, the recovery process goes overlooked and misunderstood. People just don’t realize how critical the recovery processes to building bigger, faster, stronger bodies and aren’t able to fully appreciate the focus that should go into this piece of the puzzle.
Not only should you understand how do muscles recover after exercise but you should also look into how to maximize your recovery time, how to shortcut the process, and how to feed and fuel your muscles every step of the way.
Muscle Building and Soreness
The reason that your muscles feel sore in the first place isn’t just because they are tired and fatigued but because they are physically damaged and in need of repair.
When you exercise you are actually ripping and tearing (at a microscopic level) the muscle proteins in the muscle group that you are working out. In response, the body floods that area with protein, nitrogen, and lactic acid to help speed up the healing and recovery process.
This is why newbies to the world of working out feel a lot of soreness when they first get started but veterans don’t feel quite as much.
The body is able to naturally adapt to this breakdown in muscular tissue, eliminating a lot of the sensation of soreness. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the recovery process is going any faster.
What are DOMS?
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is very common in athletes that push themselves to far, push themselves too fast, and push themselves to intensely when they are training.
Newbie weightlifters and trainers in particular are going to feel the effects of DOMS pretty much straightaway, but veteran athletes that push themselves too hard can start to feel this as well.
DOMS is quite a bit different than the typical muscle soreness and acute pain that can occur while you are working out. You’re usually going to see a lot of swelling, stiffness, and tenderness as well as a significant reduction in muscular strength across the board.
The microscopic tears in the muscle fiber actually cause the DOMS symptoms to begin with. As we highlighted above, working out doesn’t actually build your muscle mass or your strength. All it does is break your muscle down and necessitate repairs and the creation of new muscle fiber.
During recovery is where your muscle grows, where you become stronger, and how you improve your overall endurance and athletic capabilities. These repairs are conducted by creating new muscle protein that builds mass and strength at the same time.
Sleep and Muscle Recovery
At this point it should be a no-brainer that sleep and muscle recovery go hand-in-hand with one another.
How important is sleep for building muscle, you ask?
Aside from flooding your body with plenty of protein to build new muscle mass (something we highlight in just a second) sleep just might be the next most important thing to recover from DOMS.
Your body naturally heals and repairs itself while you are asleep. This is when it does the overwhelming majority of its rebuilding and restoration. Getting anywhere between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night (high-quality sleep each night) gives your body more than enough time to repair these micro injuries while creating new muscle protein along the way.
Deliberately and gently stretching your major muscle groups after working out is another great way to speed up the recovery process.
Gentle yoga benefits have been recognized for years and years as helping to streamline the recovery process significantly while improving protein synthesis, flushing lactic acid from your muscles after working out, and generally increasing the suppleness and flexibility of your muscle as well.
Diet and Muscle Recovery
There isn’t a person serious about physical fitness on the planet that doesn’t understand the close relationship between protein and muscle creation or muscle recovery.
All our muscles are is protein cells intertwined with one another and obviously more protein is going to be necessary to create muscular tissue when you are in recovery.
How often should I eat protein to flood my muscles with the building blocks they need to recover and repair, you wonder?
Well, as a general rule you should shoot for a bit of protein every single time you sit down to eat a meal. If you’re looking to bulk up in a hurry you’ll want to eat at least 2 g of protein per pound of lean muscle mass already in your body.
Some people can consume a little bit more protein than that and see even better results, but if you start to exceed that threshold the protein won’t be used but will instead be flushed out of your body in your urine or your solid waste.
The Role of Protein for Muscle Development
The role protein plays in muscular development is critical.
This is the most important nutrient you can flood your body with after you exercise, and the more you train (the more intensely you train) the more protein you’re going to need to recover quickly and build lean muscle mass.
It’s always a good idea to consume protein 30 myths before you work out and then 90 minutes afterwards. Protein shakes work wonders for this protein flood timing, though you’ll want to add a bit of glucose to your post workout shake to really get the protein to the muscles that need this fuel most.
All muscular tissue is simply protein at its basic level. The role protein plays in muscular development cannot be overstated.