Ways to Promote Optimal Muscle Recovery
Sleep is more important than you may assume.
A well-rounded and balanced diet is key.
Proper Hydration, pre and post workout is imperative.
Use the tools you have to aid in the process. Sauna use is just one of them, with the increase in blood flow, nutrients will be driven to the recovering muscles.
There are many paths to optimal muscle recovery, but there are key pillars that should certainly be present along the way. Proper diet, hydration and sleep are a necessity when it comes to promoting any sort of recovery, even muscle strain recovery. While these are absolutely essential to muscular recovery there are other, less traditional methods one can use such as regular sauna use.
Proper Diet and Protein Intake
Having a proper diet for your needs and lifestyle may not always be so simple. While an adequate amount of protein is essential for recovery, carbohydrates and fats can be modified to fit your specific wants and needs. In regards to a diet model that includes all of these macronutrients, protein is often the most simple to calculate. Many, such as NASM(1) recommends 1.6-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This will be the primary fuel for your muscle growth and recovery needs.
Optimal Carbohydrate Intake
Carbohydrates on the other hand are considered to be more tailored for one’s performance needs. In the same article, NASM mentions increasing carbohydrates linearly with workout intensity starting from 3-5 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for low intensity, increasing to 8-12 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for extreme workout intensities. While these markers can be used for guidance, it is important to note that digestion and individual requirements will always have variance, so it is important to find the proper amount of macronutrients that drives optimal performance output.
Optimal Fat Intake
Fats are essentially for a healthy body, as well as promoting proper recovery. Choosing the correct healthy fats to include in your diet will help aid a myriad of benefits such as optimal hormone regulation, muscular recovery and overall health. Unsaturated fats that are derived from plants as well as Omega-3s are key building blocks for fats in your diet according to ISSA(2). Fats as a general measure should make up roughly 20-35% of your daily caloric intake, but it is important for this number to not go extremely low as dysfunction may occur such as rashes, hair loss, weakened immune system, vitamin deficiencies, poor brain function, etc(3).
Proper HydrationHydration is extremely important within our health. Hydration and muscle recovery tend to go hand and hand. It allows for us to perform to our full potential, while also helping recover as quickly as possible. When your body performs and sweats you lose water that is important to the entire system that is your body, hydrating appropriately is essential. According to Abbot(4), a good place to start is to drink your bodyweight in kg, in ounces. For example a 100kg person should have a minimum of 100 oz of water per day. As that person becomes progressively more active, it is important to replenish the water lost through breathing and sweat. Another general guideline is to drink 7-10 ounces of water every 10-20 minutes of exercise(4).
Understand The Importance of Sleep
The question, does sleep help muscle recovery should be rather rhetorical. Sleep is vital in muscle recovery and health. In regards to sleep optimization, it can often be a little more complex than many people consider. Andrew Huberman is a large proponent of sleep in its aid to health. He writes an amazing sleep checklist that references all aspects of sleep(5). Important notes to remember from that are, avoid caffeine 8-10 hours before bed, wake up and go to bed around the same time each day, get sunlight roughly within 30-60 minutes of waking, keep daytime naps under 90 minutes and keep a cool dark room.
Incorporate Sauna Use
Sauna use for muscle recovery has been found to have numerous benefits. Regular sauna use has been found to decrease cortisol levels and help release endorphins(6). Cortisol is the body’s stress response hormone, when this is elevated it can wreak havoc among your life, especially your recovery. The increase in endorphin release will allow you to feel your best with more energy throughout your day. Studies have also found that multiple sessions of sauna use per week can amplify growth hormone release(7). This act will help the body regenerate and heal from a hard workout.
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References1 Geoff Lecovin, Nutrition for Muscle Repair and Recovery, NASM.
2 ISSA, Why is Fat in Your Diet Important?, May, 04, 2022.
3 Healthline, 5 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Fat in Your Diet, Dec, 4, 2020.
4 Abbott, How Athletes Can Stay Hydrated and Boost Performance, Oct, 19, 2019.
5 Andrew D. Huberman, Toolkit for Sleep, Huberman Lab, Sept 19, 2021.
6 Robert Podstawski, Krzysztof Boryslawski, Piotr Zurek, Endocrine Effects of Repeated Hot Thermal Stress and Cold Water Immersion in Young Adult Men, Sage Journals, April, 13, 2021.
7 Andrew D. Huberman, Deliberate Heat Exposure Protocols for Health & Performance, Huberman Lab, Sept 19, 2021.