A basic pillar in an athlete’s training, whether elite or amateur, is muscle recovery immediately after exercise. This must be accompanied by proper nutrition, hydration and an effective warm-up.
When we talk about recovery it’s important to understand that we’re talking about the time in which our muscles recover from a physical activity. Every workout subjects the body to an energy depletion on its bones, ligaments, muscles and tendons. In this way, muscle tissues will recover through various types of muscle recovery, especially after having been subjected to demanding strength and endurance training.
This article will help you to get to know your body better so that you can take the necessary care of it after training. You’ll also learn why muscle recovery is critical to improved athletic performance. It is a practice that prevents possible injuries and, therefore, allows us to enjoy better physical health.
The importance of muscle recovery
Muscle recovery is the process in which the tissues renew themselves, consuming the necessary energy to restore the body’s activity. A muscle needs approximately one to two days to repair the tissues worn out after an exercise session.
It should be noted that each sport differs, as the wear and tear of muscle tissue depends entirely on the intensity of the exercise and its frequency. Therefore, depending on our physical condition, each muscle will need a specific recovery time.
However, be aware that overtraining carries a high risk of injury. The body needs a rest period which, if not respected, prevents the worn out muscles from growing. For this reason, allowing our muscles adequate time to rest is important for renewing energy and strength. Not only will you improve physically, but you’ll also manage to relieve stress and anxiety.
Types of muscle recovery
The goal that any athlete should set themselves, especially if undertaking a high intensity training, is to achieve quick muscle recovery to continue exercising with higher performance. For this, there are various rituals with physical and mechanical methods for athletes’ recovery, among which we have active regeneration and passive regeneration. Here, we will review the most important methods which have scientific approval.
The star technique used in the field of physical therapy is massage, either in preparation for physical exercise or, on the contrary, to kick start recovery after practicing sports. Therapeutic massage is currently used to alleviate inflammation, neurophysiological and mobility conditions, immune conditions, and DOMS. It can also be used for the physiology of the nervous system and for some psychological problems. It is in the last few that massage has the greatest therapeutic benefits for the patient.
The most recent research has found scientific evidence of the positive effects of massage in recovery periods of less than ten minutes. Therapeutic and sports massage is endorsed as a scientific method of interest for the recovery of our muscles.
Another technique widely used in therapies for muscle tissue recovery is hydrotherapy. This method of recovery consists of immersing the affected parts of the body in water after a sports session.
This is usually at a different temperature for each immersion, for example, cold water immersion (50-59°F) is performed for approximately 15 minutes, or for 5-minute periods in two separate sets. Hydrotherapy is most beneficial in these acute recoveries, mainly when there has been overtraining.
It is common to see how the hot-cold contrast baths are used in the world of soccer. First division soccer players immerse their bodies in baths at different temperatures to achieve a passive recovery after the intensity of a match.
An increasingly common technique, during and after intense exercise, is to use compression devices. However, despite its growing popularity, we have yet to find conclusive studies with its benefits in the field of active recovery of muscle tissues. It does not mean that they are not beneficial, but that science still has a long way to go.
The recovery effects of compression devices are positive in the following cases: to reduce the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness, to accelerate muscle function after rest and to reduce the amount of creatine kinase.
Now it’s time to talk about the traditional and most well-known technique for athletes, both to prepare for and to restore muscles after a session. It is none other than stretching and warm-ups.
They work during warm-up by reducing muscle fatigue, whether it be on the sensitivity side or post-workout strength loss. Stretching should be included in our regular sessions, as it works to increase flexibility and performance capacity.
Soft or regenerative training is also known as the sub-aerobic zone, from which multiple benefits can be gained for an active recovery of muscle mass. The benefits of this training increase if it is accompanied by rest and food for muscle recovery. It is a low-intensity physical activity whose efforts should not exceed 55% of maximum performance. Depending on the level of recovery, the time spent on this regenerative training may vary.
Electro-stimulation and muscle recovery
Athletes who have exerted major physical effort and who need an extra quick recovery, turn to electro-stimulation. It is a method that allows the muscles to recover by increasing blood flow. In this way, the muscle tissues are oxygenated and can regenerate the affected muscle fibers. It eliminates accumulated lactate and transports the necessary nutrients.
In addition, electro-stimulation helps to relax overloaded muscles that feel heavy. Therefore, it is also useful for avoiding cramps caused after overtraining. This muscle pain is relieved due to the release of a large amount of endorphins.
Foods that help muscle recovery
To prevent injuries after training and, above all, to help our muscles recover, it is advisable to eat foods that fill us with energy. Here are three of the most important ones.
The main one is the egg. It is a source of quality protein. It manages to compensate for the amount of protein destroyed during exercise and also promotes the formation of new protein in our body.
Sardines are another very rich and highly valued food for their protein content. It is an oily fish loaded with omega-3, a powerful anti-inflammatory that will help us to recover physically.
The third food that we recommend is very trendy. It is the tropical fruit, avocado. It contains vitamins which are healthy for our body, more potassium than bananas and, above all, stands out for its antioxidant properties.
Benefits of active regeneration with electro-stimulation
Active regeneration is where recovery occurs while you continue to exercise, albeit at low intensity and without causing greater fatigue in your tissues.
One of the most widespread benefits of active regeneration is that, by putting minimal effort into training, the blood supply to the muscles increases. This results in an increase of nutrients in the blood, a vital step in accelerating the regeneration of muscle tissue.
On the other hand, gentle exercise helps to decrease the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles, an acid that causes stomach aches, and achy legs and glutes.
It also allows us to activate our satellite cells, which are the stem cells that work in the recovery of our body’s fibrous tissue. With electro-stimulation training at low intensity, you will also activate the cells in charge of eliminating cellulite and treating varicose veins in those hard to reach areas.
Finally, low-intensity physical activity has been shown to have a positive effect on our mood. After a sport session our body releases various hormones, such as serotonin, which can lead to a better life. At Wiemspro, we have a specific program for electro-stimulation to treat stress and eliminate tension that improves rest and sleep. One of our customers’ favorite programs!
Benefits of passive regeneration
As a general rule, active regeneration is more advisable than passive regeneration. However, depending on the particular characteristics of the individual, such as age, weight, or load intensity, it is also recommended to recover the body passively and for at least 72 hours.
Some of the best known measures are sleep, as it ensures the body rests and relieves stress, the sauna for its cleansing properties, baths, hot and cold hydrotherapy and, the most important of all, healthy eating. Thanks to these passive measures, the muscles recover and will be available for intense exercise.
Now you know what muscle recovery is, its many benefits and how it works depending on whether active or passive regeneration is required. Try to follow the advice properly, our body is a temple and needs a prolonged rest time to function. Read our other entries to find out more!