The first step to optimizing your recovery time is to give yourself recovery time – duh.
There is such thing as overtraining – pushing your muscles so hard that you actually do more damage than good. The muscles can’t repair themselves or grow, and it increases the risk of injury. There’s no definite rule about how much recovery time is enough because it will depend on the person and the fitness routine. As a minimum, it’s important to give yourself a rest day every week.
According to Men’s Fitness, even include a recovery week every three to five weeks. This doesn’t mean taking the whole week off; it just means that you’ll take it a little easier by performing half of the reps you would normally do and, if you’re weightlifting, use something lighter than you’d normally lift.
These basic guidelines work for weightlifting and aerobic exercises, but there are strenuous workouts that can require more time out. If you’re a rock climber and you’ve just completed an especially tough climb or a long day of climbing, you’ll want to give yourself anywhere from 24 to 72 hours off so you can really reap the benefits of that workout.
The best way to tell if you need more rest is to listen to your body: if you’re still so sore that you can barely move, you need to take some more time off.
Hydration is key! Our bodies need water to function, and you just lost a lot of fluids from sweating. You should be drinking at least a half an ounce of water for every pound you weigh, up to a full ounce for every pound.
So if you weigh 160 lbs., you should drink at least 80 ounces (10 glasses) of water every day, but closer to 160 ounces (20 glasses) of water if you’re working out a lot or in a hot climate. Another general rule is to drink a liter (about 34 ounces or just over 4 glasses) of water for every 1000 calories burned.
You’re starving after a workout. The right post-workout snack is essential: look for carbs to replace everything you’ve just burned, plus a little protein to help repair the muscles. Eat this snack within an hour of the workout to maximize benefits – your body replaces its glycogen supplies faster during the first hour after a workout, so it’s important to eat carbs at this point. Eat a meal at least two hours after the workout.
Protein is important for building muscles, though many of us get more than enough. The average male needs about 56 grams of protein per day, while the average female needs 46 grams. Endurance athletes need fifty percent more protein than that, while body builders may require up to double those amount.
The average North American diet includes plenty of protein, so do the math to see if you’re already getting enough. So take a break the right way – your body will thank you with bigger results, fewer injuries, and a great feeling.