The opportunity for muscle growth begins the moment you stop lifting, and that growth can’t happen without proper recovery protocol. Muscles don’t grow in the gym, they grow after. When you lift heavy, muscles suffer microtears and are actually broken down via a process called catabolism. Immediately after you lift, your body begins repairs, but it needs your help. If you want to get the most from each and every workout, you need to prioritize post-workout recovery.
Stretch, Baby, Stretch.
Stretching probably doesn’t sound sexy (or even necessary) when all you want is size, but it might be the most underrated player in muscle growth. By not having the necessary flexibility and muscle pliability, you might short yourself on muscular gains in many compound lifts. You should allow at least 20 minutes to stretch after every workout. Stretching is a great way to relieve muscular tension and potentially downplay the soreness you experience later.
While we’re on the subject of post-workout nutrition, you should consider including a source of potassium in your post-workout cocktail. Your potassium reserves will inevitably be sapped from an intense workout session. Potas
sium, among other nutrients like sodium and calcium, is a key mineral, which plays a role in muscular energy. Bananas or potatoes are good potassium sources. Bananas go with nearly everything, but mashed potatoes in your first meal following the workout are also winners.
Don’t Forget Your ZZZs
Catching quality sleep seems like a no-brainer, but it’s still all to common to hear how many people get less than six hours of sleep. Sleep is the necessary downtime that your body needs to restore itself. At least seven hours is the ideal target to hit, although many people, including athletes, may need up to nine hours.
Do Some Active Recovery
Rest days give your muscles a hard-earned break from a self-induced beating at the gym. If you feel up to it, some light movement like walking to the store, an easy bike ride or even doing mobility drills could confer recovery-promoting effects, as well. This is known as “active” recovery.