1. ProteinHave you heard of the post-workout* recovery window? Some say it’s half an hour, others say it’s as short as 15 minutes, but it’s essentially the optimum time to refuel and promote muscle recovery by feeding them the all-important protein necessary for the growth and repair of your muscle fibers that have been pushed to their limits during your workout. In short, the sooner you feed them, the better; whether it’s in the form of a protein shake (homemade or bought), a protein bar or another type of high-protein snack, after a tough workout it’s crucial to replenish your body’s stores. The amount you need is totally dependent on your age, gender, workout duration and intensity, so it might be a good idea to see a nutritionist to understand your personal protein-needs. It is also incredibly important to hydrate and replenish all the body’s depleted stores of energy and electrolytes, so don’t just focus on protein! *by workout, I don’t simply mean in the gym - this applies to all sports, including running, swimming and cycling.
2. StretchingFrom a young age, sports coaches bang on to us about the importance of stretching pre- and post-workout in order to increase flexibility and prevent injury. Ensuring you carry out an adequate warm-up and cool-down is key to efficient recovery, and whilst stretching a few hours after a session is better than nothing, it’s best to do it straight away.
3. Foam rollingA relatively new form of active-recovery, a foam roller is effectively what it says on the tin; a cylindrical object covered in (or made out of) foam that you roll your muscles on. It’s essentially a self-service sports massage that enables you to get right into the deep-tissue and loosens knots, increases blood-flow and in turn increases your muscles’ range of motion to help prevent soreness and allow you to perform at your best the next day.
4. Ice-bathThe most unpleasant (in my opinion anyway) form of recovery is taking an ice bath. I was skeptical before I tried it for myself, after which I noticed the benefits immediately. Not only do your muscles feel incredibly refreshed and energised afterwards by increasing blood flow to the muscles and in turn aiding the flushing out of lactic acid and other toxins. However, the good news is that you don’t necessarily need to plunge into a full-on ice bath - for the average athlete, a cold bath is enough, or simply alternating the shower temperature between hot and cold can promote the same beneficial effects.
5. SleepLastly, I think that although sleep is an obvious one, it is often overlooked and people try to thrive off the minimum amount of sleep in order to fit everything else in their life. However, sleep is crucial to ensuring your muscles recover properly as it is the optimum time for both physical and mental recuperation. For most, 8-10 hours is the right amount, but sleep is personal so find out what works for you (don’t skimp on it!) and stick to it.