When it comes to building muscle and gaining strength from an intense workout, the one thing many people might not know is that you don’t actually get stronger while exercising, but instead in the time between your workouts. This period is known as the recovery period, and it is when your body goes through a really complex process in order to rebuild the micro-tears in your muscle tissue, therefore increasing your strength and muscle endurance.
If you want to get good results in the gym, it is imperative that you do everything you can to help this recovery along, instead of slowing it down – which is exactly what a lot of people do. In this post, I want to focus on some of those things that you might be doing wrong and actually sabotaging your recovery, whether you’re aware of it or not.
Protein is the single most important macronutrient when it comes to working out. A protein molecule is actually just a bunch of chained amino-acids, and these amino-acids are basically the building blocks of muscle. The more protein there is in your system, the more “resources” your body has to reconstitute your broken muscle tissue and make it stronger than before. If you don’t get enough protein during the day, the recovery process won’t be as efficient because the body simply won’t have the means of rebuilding your muscles.
Macronutrients like proteins and carbohydrates are very important when exercising, but you also need to pay attention to your micronutrient intake if you want to have great results in the gym. In short, micronutrients are a single name for everything that our body needs in really small amounts; good examples are vitamins, zinc, magnesium, calcium etc. Zinc, for instance, is a nutrient that is essential for the production of testosterone, and testosterone is one of the key hormones for your strength and recovery. If you don’t have a good micronutrient balance when you partake in intense workouts, you might not get the results that you’re going for, and you also risk compromising your immune system.
This one is absolutely essential. A lack of sleep can have absolutely detrimental effects to your recovery. It’s a little-known fact that most of the growth hormone secretion within your body happens at night, while you’re asleep. In other words, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t secreting enough growth hormone and this will definitely have an effect on how fast you can recover before your next exercise session.
But there’s also a less scientific way to prove that not getting enough sleep is bad for your workouts – have you ever tried going to the gym after pulling an all-nighter in college, before studying for a really big exam? I have, and I can tell you that you get tired much faster, you don’t get as efficient of a workout in, and your mental focus is just so off that you just risk injuring yourself. Being well-rested is very important if you want to get an efficient workout in, and you can quote me on this any day of the week.
We all experience stress at some point in your lives, but I bet you didn’t know that stress can significantly impair your workout recovery. Simply put, recovering from an intense exercise session takes a certain amount of energy, and stress is the ultimate energy drainer. Mental fatigue can often translate into physical fatigue, so the more stress you experience at school in your workplace, the more tired you’re going to feel overall. Try to avoid excess stress as much as possible and you’ll probably find that you have a lot more energy for other things during the day, including working out and recovering from that workout.
If you really want to get good results in the gym, it is imperative that you start being consistent with your workouts. It’s much more effective to exercise three times a week for a consecutive month, then to bust your ass for five days straight with the most intense routine you can think of – and then end up being so sore that you don’t do anything else for the next few weeks. Your body needs time to adjust to the new level of stress that you’re putting it through, and the only way to do this is consistency. Don’t worry about intensity at first, plan out your workouts according to your current capabilities and you’ll see that your recovery will benefit greatly from such a regime.
Although consistency is important if you want to get good results from your workout, it’s also important to remember not to overdo it. Going to the gym and exercising intensely every single day can actually be counter-productive because you aren’t giving your body enough time to recover. Generally, it’s a good idea to take at least a 48-hour break between your exercise sessions, as this allows ample time for your body to rebuild broken muscle tissue.
Finally, if you’re trying to pack on muscle and lose weight at the same time, it’s very important that you keep your calories at a level where you’ll still be able to get stronger. Having frequent, nutritious meals is the best way to do this because this helps your body avoid going into “starvation” mode. You see, when we aren’t getting as many calories as we need to maintain our current bodyweight, our organism will not only shed excess fat but muscle as well. To minimize this (it’s impossible to prevent it completely, unfortunately), you need to take good care of your nutrition, and eat healthy meals at least three times a day, if not more.
About the Author:
Vanessa Davis is a 32-year-old fitness enthusiast, mother of two and content writer at www.diet.st. She’s originally from Long Island, New York, and when she isn’t cooking up some new health and fitness article, she enjoys doing yoga and figuring out new, delicious organic-based recipes for herself and her kids.