When it comes to gaining muscle, people tend to think that more is better. If lifting weights 3 days a week works, why not lift 7 days? In reality, your workouts are where you break down muscle tissue, cause fatigue, and add stress to the body. It is outside of the gym, during recovery, that your muscles rebuild and grow. Proper recovery requires active rest, timing your workouts appropriately, and optimizing daily habits to maximize your strength gains.
Anabolic vs. Catabolic States
Whether you are improving your fitness or continually breaking yourself down depends on the physiological state of your body. Physical and mental stress, hormone levels, nutrition, and more determine whether your body is setup to build or destroy muscle.
When you lift weights, you are deliberately causing physical stress to the muscle. This, combined with the release of hormones such as cortisol, put your body into a Catabolic State. In other words, your body is breaking down muscle tissue to prepare it for more growth.
Muscle growth occurs when the body is in an Anabolic State. Important anabolic hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormone, are released post-exercise and during periods of rest. These hormones signal the body to rebuild the broken down muscle with dietary protein.
Poor sleep, inadequate protein intake, and a lack of recovery between training sessions prevents your body from entering an anabolic state. Follow these tips to kick-start your body’s anabolic processes and reap the results!
For about 45 minutes post-workout, your muscle cells are looking for protein to use as building blocks for growth. This is a crucial window for you to focus on refueling the body with the nutrients it needs to recover. Aim for 10-20g of protein post-workout. This can be a protein shake, turkey sandwich, greek yogurt, or other high-protein food.
Muscles need time to rebuild. For up to 48 hours post-workout, your body can be in the anabolic state. Allow the muscles you worked to recover for up to 2 days before working them out again. Exercising the same muscle groups too frequently will keep them in a catabolic state and prevent improvement.
Needing 2 days of rest between working the same muscle group is not a free-pass to lay on the couch. As your body breaks down muscle, it leaves behind debris and waste products that can stifle recovery. Low-impact, low-intensity movements that increase blood flow can be done on your off-days to flush out the muscle tissue and prepare it for re-growth. Foam rolling, low-intensity cardio, or leisure activities are great ways to promote recovery between workouts.
Sleep is when your body releases growth hormone and devotes more energy towards muscle remodeling. Skipping sleep consistently will be detrimental to your goals. Aim for 6-8 hours of sleep per night, and listen to your body! If you feel fatigued, you may need more rest.
Remember, muscle is broken down in the gym and rebuilt outside the gym. Adopt these recovery principles to sustainably boost results and continue working towards your goals.