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6 Muscle Recovery Tips to Help with Fat Loss

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When you’re planning on stripping fat and improving your physique you’ll need to hit the gym hard. But forcing your body to work to its maximum on a regular basis can be both physically and mentally challenging.

You know that intense workouts can soon take their toll, particularly if you’re not maximizing rest and recovery – not fully recovering can lead to burnout and overtraining so it is important to do all you can to rest well in-between sessions.

In this article we’ll tell you what the science says about the best ways to boost recovery. Take these tips and feel safe in the knowledge that you’ll recover quicker and work faster towards your fat loss target.


What is Muscle Soreness?

We’ve all had that feeling. We wake up the day after an intense workout and feel tight, stiff and restricted. You tentatively get out of bed and your legs feel heavy, unsteady and sore – you’re struggling to walk and you can’t perform the most basic of tasks. You’ve got the dreaded DOMS!

Delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) is the feeling of stiffness or pain felt in your muscles after strenuous exercise. It typically starts around six to eight hours after your workout, peaks at 24 to 48 hours, and can last up to 3 or so days dependant on how intense your session was.

It is associated with exercise that is new, different, or that your’e unaccustomed too. It is more likely to occur in beginners who are inexperienced in exercise but ultimately can occur in anyone who provides their body with a challenging stimulus.

You’ll find that weight training causes DOMS the most, purely down to the specific actions that take place within the muscle. Eccentric action – where the muscle lengthens under tension – cause the most soreness, whereas concentric action where the muscle shortens under tension, is associated with considerably less soreness.

But why do you get sore?

The reason why you get sore is less well understood than how it occurs. As far as we know, when we overload our body through exercise we create muscle damage or microtrauma. Our body then works hard to restore and repair this damage which leads to bigger, stronger muscles of course.

During the repair process though, our body signals a build up of inflammatory proteins that allow histamines, creatine kinase (CK), prostoglandins and other acute phase markers to accumulate and cause swelling. This in turn compresses nerves and causes pain. These acute phase compounds are useful in telling you just how much damage has occurred – more damage equals more inflammatory markers. 

We often associate muscle soreness with progress and muscle adaptation, but research does show that this might not necessarily be the case. Just because you don’t feel sore doesn’t mean you haven’t had a good session.

Nevertheless, DOMS is a big inconvenience if you are wanting to hit the gym regularly and lose fat. It can reduce force output as well as range of motion, and ultimately can be the deciding factor on whether we hit the gym or give it a wide berth instead.

In order to reduce muscle soreness and ramp up your productivity we’ve complied our favorite tips for you to follow. Here they are…



#1. Drink Watermelon Juice

High in water, low in calories and bursting with vitamins and minerals, watermelon juice aids in digestion and helps to re-hydrate the body after intense exercise.

It also contains the amino acid citrulline malate which has been shown to help improve sports performance, reduce recovery heart rate and aid in muscle recovery after a 24-hour period [1].

Citrulline is also an essential nutrient in nitric oxide – a chemical compound that dilates blood vessels, decreases blood pressure and increases nutrient transport into muscles to start the recovery process.

But interestingly though, research suggests that drinking watermelon juice provides more recovery benefits than taking a citrulline supplement due to it being easier to digest and having a higher bio-availability.


#2. Chug on Chocolate Milk

At face value you’ll probably think that this is a strange one – it’s a drink that is more commonly consumed by children if anything. But this popular beverage provides you with all three macronutrients – carbs, fats and protein – and not only is it high in energy restoring calories, but it tastes great too.

Research has shown that replacing lost glycogen is important for muscle recovery – and chocolate milk provides a mix of sucrose and galactose that helps to restore carb levels quickly and effortlessly.

A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism [2] found that drinking chocolate milk after exercise helped participants to work harder for longer durations in follow up sessions, and recover much better in-between.


#3. Warm Up with Vibration Training

Whole body vibration training became popular in the early 2000s when people started to use it largely to help with fat loss. Unfortunately it doesn’t. But it is useful for reducing muscle soreness when used as a warm up strategy. 

A study in the Journal of Athletic Training [3] asked a group of volunteers to stand in a half-squat position for 60 seconds whilst an oscillating frequency of 35Hz was passed through the vibration plate they were stood on. Immediately after that, the volunteers were asked to complete 6 sets of 10 second maximum isokinetic, eccentric leg extensions in order to give them DOMS.

2-3 days later the volunteers were asked to return and were then assessed on their maximal strength, muscle soreness and creatine kinase levels – remember that CK is a useful marker of muscle damage.

Researchers found that by adding vibration training into the warm up, CK and overall muscle soreness levels were lower and the loss of strength associate with soreness was also significantly lower too.


#4. Add in Some Cold Water Therapy

It’s not a pleasant one, but subjecting your body to cold temperatures will help reduce inflammation and speed up the recovery process so it’s well worth it.

Cold water immersion – the process of submerging yourself in cold water for extended periods of time – has been found to speed up muscle recovery in a number of studies, mostly because it helps target blood flow to deep muscle structures. One study [4] found that when trained cyclists spent just 15 minutes in cold water at a temperature between 10-20 degrees Celsius, muscle recovery significantly increased.

The athletes were able to perform much better in a follow up high-intensity workout than those who performed an active recovery session, and had much lower thermal strain –  stress and fatigue related to changes in temperature.

The best exact temperature and length of immersion are still being debated by scientists but what has been found is that cold baths, ice packs and even cold showers all show similar results.


#5. Sleep

For all of our effort in training hard and eating well we often neglect the simplest of muscle recovery tools – a good night’s rest. Sleep is an important regulator of a number of biological processes including memory and learning, hormone regulation and maintenance of physical function [5]. It is optimal for overall health and wellness.

Without proper rest you’ll find that your immune system plummets, your athletic performance decreases and your emotional well-being becomes erratic. It also means that you won’t recover from intense exercise as well either.

Sleep deprivation can decrease the body’s ability to boost protein synthesis, which can limit muscle recovery. Every night you sleep less than the recommended 8 hours per night you accumulate sleep ‘debt’. According to studies, it is this debt that inhibits muscle recovery by elevating hormones such as cortisol that have a negative impact on muscle synthesis [5].


#6. Eat a High-Protein Meal Before Bed

We already know that protein is essential for restoring and promoting protein synthesis, increasing satiety and providing a food source with the highest thermic effect of food.

Protein is basically the best macronutrient for boosting metabolism and decreasing appetite – perfect if you’re wanting to lose fat and improve your body composition.

Research shows as well that getting some high quality protein in your body just before bed time and can improve muscle protein synthesis and help you maintain a positive overnight post-exercise muscle recovery balance [6]. In the study, researchers asked 16 volunteers to take part in a weights session at 8pm, a post-workout meal at 9pm and then either a casein protein source 30-minutes before bed, or nothing at all.

Those who had the casein protein before bed showed higher whole body protein synthesis levels as well as net protein balance that helped to restore and replenish muscle damage.

Good sources of casein for you to consider include milk, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt.


Summary – Muscle Recovery Tips that Boost Fat Loss

Muscle recovery allows you to work hard in the gym on a regular basis. High intensity training, particularly unaccustomed or eccentric exercise can cause muscle soreness which in turn can limit follow up exercise by creating discomfort, as well as limiting power output and range of motion.

There are a number of things that you can do though to boost recovery leading to better sessions on a more regular basis. Follow these and you’ll have a new physique in no time.


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References

  1. Tarazona-Díaz, MP et al. Watermelon juice: potential functional drink for sore muscle relief in athletes. J Agric Food Chem. 2013; 61(31): 7522-8
  2. Karp, JR et al. Chocolate Milk as a Post-Exercise Recovery Aid. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2006; 16: 78-91
  3. Aminian-Far, A et al. Whole-Body Vibration and the Prevention and Treatment of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness. J Athl Train. 2011; 46(1): 43–49
  4. Vaile, J et al. Effect of cold water immersion on repeat cycling performance and thermoregulation in the heat. J Sports Sci. 2008; 26(5): 431-40
  5. Dattilo, M et al. Sleep and muscle recovery: Endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses. Medical Hypotheses. 2011; 77: 220–222
  6. Res, PT et al. Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012; 44(8): 1560-9


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