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How to Speed Up Workout Recovery - Part 1

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Did you know rest and recovery is just as important as exercise! The one hour you spend exercising is important BUT the other 23 hours will determine if you make progress, stay the same, or worse yet, lose progress. This article will cover the 5 fundamental components of workout recovey.

I want to let you know, the topic for this article was actually supposed to be Supplements and Recovery. That turned out to be a bigger request than I realized, so I split it up into 2 parts, this week will be about all the various aspects of workout recovery, and next week I’ll focus specifically on supplements and recovery.

Let’s start out by defining what we mean by Recovery: In fitness when we say the word recovery there are 2 different aspects we could be referring to: 1. Recovery between sets during a workout, the time it takes you to catch your breath and recover from the set you just did. and 2. Recovery between workouts. I’m gonna be focusing on recovery between workouts. So in that sense recovery is defined as your body’s ability to overcome and adapt to stress after exercise. Full recovery is marked by 2 things - 1. Restoring your glycogen levels that you used during your workout, and 2. Repairing the muscle tissue broken down during your workout.

So there are 5 fundamental components that make up the recovery process, the first and most important one is:

  1. Restoring Glycogen. On average it takes about 20-24 hours to fully restore glycogen levels after a workout. Consuming some high GI carbs immediately post workout will kickstart this process, I talked about that a little last week. Of course restoring glycogen is only part of the equation, the other part is how long it takes to repair and rebuild your muscle fibers after working out. If it is a light workout you may be fully recovered in 24 hours. If it is brutal it can take 72 hours or more. There are many other factors such as how old you are, how long you’ve been training, and more; but the general rule for most trainees is to allow 48 hours between exercise sessions. So if you work out on Monday you want to rest Tuesday or maybe do some light cardio, and have your next training session on Wednesday, which is 48 hours later. So time, you want to allow enough time between sessions to fully recover.
  2. Nutrition. Nutrition plays a huge role in your recovery. Your body needs the raw materials to repair muscle tissue - protein, AND carbs and fats and micronutrients all have to be present in the proper amounts to fully recover from training. A deficiency in even one key nutrient can slow down recovery or even halt it altogether. So you want to eat a little protein with every meal and snack throughout the day. Also you want to focus of low GI carbs such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains. If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of my S&M GI Food Guide, the link is in the description. It will help you make sure your nutrition is on point. Proper nutrition cannot be stressed enough when it comes to fitness, especially recovery.
  3. Proper Hydration. Water is literally the single most critical nutrient in your body; the human brain is 95% water, blood is 82%water, and muscle tissue is 79% water. Proper hydration is required for healthy blood flow, proper kidney function, proper electrolyte balance, and proper digestion – ALL of which are required for proper recovery. So how much water do I need each day? The average person requires 8-12 cups of water every day. If you are active then you need even more. If you wait until you’re thirsty your body is most likely already dehydrated; you need to drink water at regular intervals throughout the day. It’s best to always have water handy to sip on all day long. Also it’s very important you drink water before exercise, while you’re exercising, and immediately following exercise. Remember to drink water when you first wake up in the morning. And drink even more water when caffeine is consumed.
  4. Sleep. Sleep is important for recovery in two main ways that we understand: #1. During deep sleep your blood pressure drops and your breathing becomes deeper and slower. Your brain is resting with very little activity, so the blood supply available to your muscles increases, delivering extra oxygen and nutrients which facilitate healing and growth. The other way sleep is important is through maintaining hormone balance. We know that growth hormone is released during sleep, which stimulates tissue growth and muscle repair. Not enough sleep causes a sharp decline in growth hormone secretion AND has been associated with higher cortisol levels and reduced testosterone levels in males and reduced igf1 levels. Cortisol is responsible for muscle breakdown among other things. And Testosterone and igf1 are both anabolic or muscle building hormones. So in short, getting enough sleep helps you recover and not getting enough sleep inhibits recovery. So how much sleep is enough? The current recommendation for the average adult is 8 hours of sleep per night. Of course that is the average, some need less and some need more; athletes and very active people probably need closer to 9-10 hours per day due to greater recovery needs.
  5. Stress Management. Stress can sabotage your workout recovery. Stress impairs motor control and affects concentration, but the main way it interferes with workout recovery is through elevating cortisol levels and causing adrenal fatigue which decreases the body’s ability to repair tissue damage, AND like I’ve talked about before, cortisol is responsible for the breakdown of protein into amino acids and glucose, meaning you start to use muscle as an energy source. So managing stress is a fundamental component of workout recovery. The best 2 sentence advice I can give you for managing stress comes from Philippians 4 in the Bible – verse 6-7 says “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” So you can trade in stress and anxiety for God’s peace.

Now there is a 6th component of workout recovery, I won’t call it a fundamental component but I believe it can help a lot, and that is nutritional supplements. Supplements are not a magic pill. They do not take the place of proper training and nutrition and rest but they can be a very useful tool. Supplements are tricky, it can be challenging to know which supplements are legit and which ones are a waste of money. So next week I’ll be talking about the top 5 supplements that actually help a lot with workout recovery.

The importance of proper nutrition in fitness cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to workout recovery. If you could use a little guidance in this area, pick up the free Spirit and Muscle Glycemic Index Food Guide. It’s a free 3 page pdf download that has over 100 of the most common foods and where they fall on the glycemic index. To pick up a copy, click on the link below.

Thanks for reading, and God bless you!

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