Less is More
So many of us commit to working out hard every day. We’re up by 6:00 am and hit the gym, going through our arms, legs, and abs routine. And when we miss a day, guilt sets in as we believe we’re doing our body an injustice. However, the reality is that after working our muscles hard, they need at least 24 to 48 hours before they even start recovering, and recovery is where all the magic happens.
Muscle strengthening works when you train with enough intensity to overload the muscles, causing tiny tears to occur in the muscle fibers. During recovery, these tears start to repair and then grow back slightly larger than before. Thus, to make gains, you must overload the muscles and then allow adequate time for recovery and growth by resting.
Rest is Best
When you overtrain, you push your body too hard, moving past the point from which your body is able to recover. When this occurs, the severe tears in your muscles require days of rest. The key is to find a balance between training with a high enough intensity to break down the muscle fibers without training so much that your body won’t recover. This is why recent studies have shown that strength training workout that take longer than 45 minutes aren’t as effects as workout that take less than 45, or that working out the same muscles groups two days in a row is not as effective as giving them one or even two days of rest in between.
Helping your muscles recover begins in the kitchen. Thinking you can “treat” yourself to fast foods, heavily processed foods containing hydrogenated oils, or a tasty donut to reward yourself from all the hard work in the gym? Think again. These foods can trigger inflammation and slow down muscle recovery and growth. A cheat day or an occasional break from healthy eating habits is totally acceptable, if you exercise moderation. Be smart when you cheat and limit the binge to something you can manage and that will not hinder your muscle recovery.
Feed Your Recovery
Give your muscles what they need…plenty of omega-3 foods. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids promote an anti-inflammatory response in the body. Grass-fed beef, walnuts, wild caught salmon, and flax seeds are foods rich in omega-3’s. Additionally, add a fish oil supplement to boost muscle recovery and decrease inflammation.
Muscles love the benefits of protein so don’t skimp on the protein. A post workout routine should be part of your overall fitness strategy too, and key to this routine is incorporating a good quality collagen amino acid and whey protein. For a solid post workout routine think hydrate, stretch, protein, and amino acids.
Last, but not least eat plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. Your body will be screaming for nutrient dense foods and what better way to satisfy than with organic goodness. When focusing on muscle growth or muscle tone, we can often make the mistake of a protein bias and forget all about the vitamins and minerals found in fruit and vegetables. Make it a priority to get about five to ten servings a day.
Drop the Junk
There you have it… a simple and effective way to train. Understanding that less is actually more when it comes to workout frequency, duration, and intensity is key in aiding muscle recovery and growth. Equally important are post workout decisions that you make outside of the gym. Stay focused in the kitchen and avoid foods that will actually work against your muscle recovery. Drop the junk and incorporate omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fresh organic fruits and vegetables. Your body will love you for it.