Living an overall healthy lifestyle is the most important step you can take to maximize your recovery from working out. No recovery method can compensate for poor nutrition and a lack of rest.

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Despite what you may read on some fitness blogs, there’s no better way to help your muscles recover than by eating healthy foods and getting a good night’s sleep.

Many people believe they need expensive supplements to achieve results from their workouts. Although some supplements have benefits, you won’t maximize your performance unless you take care of the basics.

This article gives you 15 proven tips to maximize your muscle recovery and help you build a more consistent fitness program.

How our tips are categorized

We’ve divided our tips into five categories:

  • foods
  • drinks
  • supplements
  • lifestyle habits
  • things to avoid

Keep in mind that the following tips are meant to give you ideas of how you can improve your muscle recovery, but they aren’t meant to be a comprehensive list that you need to follow point for point.

Your body type, fitness goals, and current level of fitness all play a role in determining the best way to recover. Some techniques, like contrast baths, may help you recover, but their effects are small and likely only relevant to you if you’re an athlete.

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The foods people eat can profoundly affect athletic performance and recovery.

1. Protein post-workout

When you exercise, the proteins that make up your muscle fibers become damaged. Consuming protein after your workout can help give your body the raw material it needs to repair this muscle damage.

Research suggests that consuming roughly 1.6 grams (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight per day is enough to maximize muscle growth. The International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests a broader range of f 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg for building and maintaining muscle mass.

Consuming a high-protein meal or supplement pre- or post-workout can support muscle recovery and be a convenient way to achieve overall daily protein goals.

2. Protein pre-workout

Some people may find that consuming protein before a workout helps them reach their daily protein targets and increase muscle recovery.

However, studies show that while pre- and post-workout protein supplementation will support muscle development and recovery, overall dietary protein intake is more important than specific timings.

3. Carbohydrates post-workout

Your muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen for energy. Glycogen is an important fuel source for all forms of aerobic exercise and the primary body’s primary energy source during high intensity anaerobic exercise.

Consuming carbohydrates post-workout with protein can help replenish glycogen stores and improve muscle repair and performance. The amount of carbohydrates a person requires will depend on body composition and exercise intensity.

4. Eat an overall balanced diet

Eating an overall healthy diet can ensure you don’t develop any nutrient deficiencies that may impair your muscles’ ability to recover.

As a general rule, this means:

Hydration is essential to exercise performance and recovery.

5. Stay hydrated

Dehydration can impair your muscles’ ability to repair themselves. You’re especially prone to becoming dehydrated if you exercise in hot or humid weather. To avoid dehydration, it is recommended that people drink 1.5 liters (L) for every kg lost during exercise. This equates to roughly 3 cups of fluid for every lb lost.

6. Cherry juice

Many athletes drink cherry juice as part of a healthy diet to reduce inflammation, muscle damage, and muscle soreness.

A 2022 literature review found consistent evidence that cherry juice taken in the days before exercise can support muscle recovery. However, further research must investigate the most effective forms, doses, and dose timings.

Certain supplements can help support an overall healthy diet. While it is often most beneficial to fulfill nutritional needs through whole food sources, powders, tablets, and other supplementation can help people conveniently reach their goals.

7. Creatine monohydrate

Creatine is one of the most widely studied supplements. Research consistently shows it can help improve muscular strength when combined with resistance training.

Studies also suggests creatine may help athletes recover from intense training by helping reduce muscle damage and inflammation, as well as aiding in replenishing your muscles’ glycogen stores.

8. Protein powder

Protein powder is a convenient way to add more protein to your diet. Many types of protein powders contain a complete spectrum of essential amino acids. Whey, soy, and casein protein powders are popular complete protein choices.

In addition to hydration, and nutrition, a person’s overall lifestyle habits play a key role in exercise recovery.

9. Sleep more

Sleep gives your muscles time to recover from exercise. People who exercise intensely need even more rest than the average person. Some professional athletes allegedly sleep 10 hours or more per night.

Research has found that sleep deprivation may impair muscle recovery by impairing the body’s inflammation reaction and the production of hormones that aid muscle growth.

10. Massage

Many athletes incorporate massage in their training to reduce muscle soreness.

A 2020 review of studies found that massage has a small but significant effect on improving flexibility and decreasing delayed onset muscle soreness after exercise.

11. Compression garments

Wearing compression garments has become common among athletes over the past several decades.

There’s a limited number of studies looking at their effectiveness for speeding up recovery from exercise. But a small 2019 study found that they lowered time for body muscle recovery in German handball players.

In the study, the athletes wore the garments for 24 hours and then alternated between 12-hour breaks and 12-hour periods of wearing them for 96 hours.

12. Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy is the technique of exposing your body to an extremely cold temperature for a few minutes.

Research has found that it may speed up recovery by reducing pain, inflammation, and muscle tiredness after strenuous activity.

While many things can aid recovery, others can hamper it.

13. Alcohol

Consuming alcohol is detrimental to many aspects of your health – it can increase blood pressure, lower sleep quality, and duration, and has no nutritional value.

Consistently consuming alcohol may also slow muscular recovery and increase the risk of muscle loss in the long term.

14. Tobacco

Smoking tobacco negatively impacts your musculoskeletal system.

Although there’s a limited amount of research on the effects of tobacco on muscle recovery, there’s some evidence that smoking is associated with an increased risk of muscular injury.

Smoking tobacco is also associated with an increased risk of developing joint disease and an increased risk of fracturing a bone.

The time it takes for your muscles to recover from exercise depends on your fitness levels and the difficulty of your workout.

The volume, intensity, and duration of your workout all play a role in determining how taxing it is on your body.

After a relatively light workout, your muscles may be able to recover in 24 hours, whereas a more challenging workout might take two to three days. Very intense workouts might take even longer.

Other factors that can affect your recovery time include:

  • how well you sleep
  • how much nutrition you’re getting
  • how much stress you’re dealing with
  • doing exercises that involve many different muscle groups or a near max effort

The basis of any good training program is small incremental increases in intensity or volume over time. If you jump ahead too quickly, you put yourself at risk of injury or overtraining.

Different trainers have different philosophies when it comes to training. Many agree you should leave your workout session feeling challenged but not completely exhausted.

Even world-class athletes are strategic about which times or years they train at peak intensity.

Designing your program so you work alternate muscle groups in different workouts is a good way to increase the recovery period between sessions.

For example, if you are lifting weights three times a week, try a schedule like this to give each muscle group a full week to recover:

  • Monday: Back and biceps
  • Wednesday: Chest and arms
  • Friday: Legs and core

You increase the risk of injury if you don’t let your muscles recover between physical exertions. Inadequate recovery from physical exertion can also decrease performance in subsequent workouts.

Repeated stress from exercise causes small tears called micro tears that make muscles feel sore and inflamed. An accumulation of tears puts you at risk of developing torn muscles, also called muscle strains or pulled muscles.

Below are frequently asked questions relating to muscle recovery.

Can I workout with sore muscles?

It is typically safe to work out with sore muscles as long as there is no pain. It is important to know the difference between soreness and pain from injury. Overworking muscles that are already damaged can lead to severe damage.

What’s best for muscle recovery?

Adequate rest, hydration, and nutrition are key to muscle recovery. Only during the recovery period can your muscles repair the tiny tears that form during exercise. You risk injuring yourself if you don’t give your muscles time to recuperate.

If you don’t let your muscles recover fully after exercise, you’re putting yourself at risk of getting injured. Muscle injuries can range from mild to complete tears.

Whether you’re training to stay in shape or are a competitive athlete, the best way to maximize your muscle recovery is with a healthy diet and a good night’s sleep.