7 ways to help muscle recovery after an intense workout

If you’ve jumpstarted your exercise goals in January (especially after a long break in December), you’re likely in the middle of figuring out your new routine. While you’re working out, the heat produced by your muscles increases your body temperature and circulation, giving you the energy to keep going. However, once you’re done and it’s all cooled down again, waking up to a sore body is a common issue, especially if you’re picking up new skills and activating new muscles. This can lead to injuries if left untreated, but in the short term, it can demotivate you from hitting the gym the next day. “Recovery and rest are vital parts of training and development. In order to see optimal results, rest is essential but is often neglected. I can’t emphasise [it’s importance] enough; I am constantly trying to tell my clients that same thing. It’s when you rest and recover that your body repairs and strengthens, ensuring you come back fitter and stronger,” explains celebrity trainer, Namrata Purohit.

Looking for ways to prevent the the morning-after stiffness and soreness? We got Purohit, nutritionist Eefa Shrof, yoga instructor Tara Menezes and Vedary’s Dr Shailendra Chaubey to share some of their favourite tricks.

Refuel your body

Dehydration makes muscle soreness much more painful, so drinking fluids is key. While electrolytes and supplements can help, most doctors say that water is usually enough for most people. “Drinking sufficient water can help make your muscles stronger,” says Shrof. She recommends paying attention to your regular intake as well. “Eat a high protein meal with lots of veggies and high-quality whole grain,” she advises. Foods like greek yoghurt, lean meat and high protein helps muscles rebuild faster.

Don’t ignore the stretching portion of the workout

“Since intense workouts increase muscular contraction, it is absolutely necessary to do the right amount of stretches in order to avoid stiffness,” advises Dr Chaubey. For best results, stretch and relax the muscle you used the most during the workout. “Instead of focusing on the repetition, try to hold the stretch post workout. The surya namaskar routine is so designed to ensure that each muscle gets stretched in the process,” says Menezes.

Schedule a deep tissue massage

Massages help reduce post exercise muscle soreness, improve blood flow and flexibility, and aid in relaxation as well. Since workouts also mean wear and tear, specific oil massages like Abhyangam, Balinese or Thai massages can boost muscle recovery and restoration. If you’d rather a more high-tech approach, invest in the Theragun, which is a pulsing machine that relieves tight muscles to help prevent injuries and soreness.

Focus on your breathing

During exercise, muscles are working harder and hence need more oxygen. “While breathing quickly during the exercise can give your body (and therefore, muscles) a quick fix, deep breathing once it’s done can offset the carbon dioxide in the body (a by-product of metabolism) by flooding the cells with oxygen in a steady manner,” explains Dr Chaubey.

Turn down the temperature

Purohit also suggests trying cold baths to speed up recovery after a strenuous workout. “Research says it decreases inflammation in the muscles, joints and tendons. This is great for immediate recovery post workout,” she says. Ice baths are popular as well, but may not be necessary unless you’re indulging in very intense activity. Cryotherapy is another popular method, whereby cold (-110° C) nitrogen causes vasoconstriction of capillaries and blood vessels, thus improving blood circulation in the body.

Walk it out

After a good workout, keeping your body moving is important. Walking back home from the gym, or even just taking a few rounds around the house, can help to bring down the heart rate while keeping the blood flowing. This way, the body does not need to have extra energy to recover, and the movement prevents lactic acid build-up, which is the primary cause of stiff muscles.

Break down the lactic acid

Lactic acid build-up occurs when there’s not enough oxygen in the muscles to break down glucose and glycogen, which is called anaerobic metabolism. If you’re trying to ease tense or aching muscles after a tough exercise session, try using rollers with ridges—they’re designed to dig into the knots in the muscles and release them quickly, improving myofascial release.

The article was first published in Vogue


  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

    View all posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *