Whether you're hitting the weights or cranking out cardio, working out can take a lot out of you. Thus, post-exercise rest and recovery are essential for optimal exercise results. The use of many strategies can alter the success of your recovery, ranging from nutrition to off-day training. Supplements such as protein powder may also improve your muscle recovery if you use them correctly. Always consult your doctor prior to using supplements or starting a workout program.
Importance of Recovery
While you work hard and sweat in the gym, the real results of your exercise occur when you are resting. This is because exercise is actually a traumatic experience for your muscles, and it causes tiny tears in your muscle tissues. When you stop exercising, your body is able to use nutrients you consume to repair the muscle tissue. This recovery process allows your muscles to adapt to the stress of your workouts, so you'll be stronger in the future.
Supplements with a protein base are among the most popular. Protein is an important nutrient in workout recovery because it contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle tissue. These nutrients assist in repairing the tissue damaged by workouts and can help build stronger muscles. According to a 2010 research review from the journal "Nutrition & Metabolism," whey protein -- a dairy-based protein -- encourages better muscle recovery than other types of proteins. If you have trouble digesting dairy products, you may find soy protein shakes to be a suitable alternative.
Carbohydrate supplements and sports drinks are commonly marketed for recovery, but research suggests they may be better suited to providing pre-workout energy. Carbohydrates are your body's primary source of energy, so fueling up with a carbohydrate-heavy supplement before activity can be helpful. According to a study from the October 2010 edition of the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," consumption of higher-protein, lower-carbohydrate supplements is better for recovery than higher-carbohydrate, lower-protein supplements.
Recovering Without Supplements
As the name suggests, supplements are intended to be additions to your diet, not the entire basis of your diet. The take-home message from supplement studies is that workout recovery is heavily influenced by protein intake, so having fish, chicken, turkey, eggs or a sandwich can be helpful. An April 2012 study from "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" also found that chocolate milk can be an effective recovery tool compared to a carbohydrate-based beverage.
- American Council on Exercise: Fitness Q&A - What Causes Muscle Soreness and How Is It Best Relieved?
- Nutrition & Metabolism: Effect of Protein/Essential Amino Acids and Resistance Training on Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy: A Case for Whey Protein
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: The Effect of a Low Carbohydrate Beverage with Added Protein on Cycling Endurance Performance in Trained Athletes
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Chocolate Milk and Endurance Exercise Recovery: Protein Balance, Glycogen, and Performance
Brian Willett began writing in 2005. He has been published in the "Buffalo News," the "Daytona Times" and "Natural Muscle Magazine." Willett also writes for Bloginity.com and Bodybuilding.com. He is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina.