It’s true that lifting weights – especially heavy weights – helps you grow muscles, but there are other things you can do as part of your post-workout recovery to increase your muscle growth.
Growing muscles isn’t just about how hard you work in the gym, but what you do for recovery in the hours, days, and months post-workout. Next time you hit the gym hard, think about how you can get the most out of your workout by taking care of your body afterwards.
0-15 minutes post-workout
Even with a lifting workout, your body needs some time to cool down. One great way to do this is by stretching.
15-30 minutes post-workout
Within the first 30 minutes of a workout is the optimal time to take in some protein and carbohydrates. Research has shown that the first 30 minutes post-workout is important because the body’s cells are most receptive to replenishment within that timeframe after intense training.
1+ hours post-workout
While it’s easy to remember to drink water right after a sweaty workout, it isn’t as easy to remember it an hour or two later. Now is the time to remind yourself to hydrate continually throughout the day and to make sure you’re replenishing the electrolytes you lost through sweat during your workout.
24-48 hours post-workout
While some soreness after a workout is normal, especially if you’re new to lifting or training in a new way, now is not the time to stress those same muscles again. While you do not have to take a complete rest day from workouts overall, it is important to either decrease the intensity of your workouts or train a different muscle group on subsequent days.
In the weeks and months that follow
Take de-load weeks – If you’ve been lifting for a while, you may have noticed that at some point it feels like you’ve hit a stall or plateau. This is because muscle growth and the body’s response to exercise are not linear. In addition to taxing your muscles during a workout, you also tax your nervous system. Consider reducing the weight to 50 percent of your max during your de-load week to allow your body to reset and prepare for more work.
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