There are no quick solutions. Your muscles need to heal. However, there are strategies that can be used to reduce soreness and speed up recovery. Here are some things you need to know.

1. Hydrate Before, During, and After your Workout

Although it may seem obvious, staying hydrated is crucial for muscle recovery. Arent states that water keeps your body’s fluids flowing, which reduces inflammation and flushes out any waste products. It also delivers nutrients to your muscles.

It can be difficult to tell if you are dehydrated. According to Schroeder, you will likely reach dehydration long before you feel thirsty. Your urine color is a good indicator. Medium or dark yellow indicates dehydration. Pale yellow indicates that you are hydrated.

Take vitamin supplements to avoid your urine looking darker than normal. What types of vitamins will affect which people? It’s difficult to know. Schroeder states, “Everybody is different.”

2. Use a Foam Roller (Self Myofascial Release), or a Massage Gun immediately after your workout.

Self-myofascial relief (SMR), is a technique that helps to relieve tension in muscles and connective tissue. Common SMR tools include foam rollers, massage sticks, and lacrosse balls. It also helps to move fluids that build up after exercising.

In November 2015, a review was published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. It found that foam rolling can increase range of motion and decrease DOMS. Arent explains that foam rolling, along with other massage techniques, increases blood flow to deliver more nutrients to the affected area. This helps to reduce swelling and tenderness.

A softer foam roller is better if you are interested in using it. Although you can apply more pressure with a firmer foam roller, they can be quite intense if you aren’t used to it. You can keep lacrosse balls handy as they are great for smoothing out difficult-to-reach areas like the glutes and the lats.

Massage guns are another popular tool for post-workout muscle recovery.

Arent states that percussion-based self-massage devices are similar to massage. These portable machines emit rapid vibrations which, when applied to your muscles, can increase blood flow. Massage guns can be equipped with different attachments to target different muscle groups.

Leada Maleck, DPT. CSCS is a San Francisco-based sports specialist. Although few studies have looked at the effectiveness of massage guns, there are some that have. However, massage guns could combine two elements that have been supported by science: vibration therapy and conventional massage. Past research has shown that both techniques are equally effective in preventing DOMS.

Dr. Malek recommends that you find an area that feels tight after a workout and gently massage the muscles. She says, “Add pressure as tolerated but not too aggressively.” recommends performing three to five sweeps on one area at a stretch. You can cause muscle irritation if you spend too much time in one area.

3. After an intense workout, eat within a half hour

Arent suggests that you can speed up your recovery by feeding your muscles the nutrients it needs to heal and grow stronger.

He recommends that you get 20-40 grams of protein and 20-40 g of carbohydrates into your body within 30 minutes after a hard workout. This is especially important if your workout is more than 60 minutes long. One snack option is a serving of Greek yogurt with some berries, and a tablespoon of honey.

According to a position document on nutrition timing, protein is essential for the amino acid required to rebuild your muscles. Carbohydrates play a key role in replenishing your muscle fuel stores during exercise, according to the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Arent suggests that you don’t just stop at the post workout snack. You won’t be able to help your muscles recover if there’s no food or nutrition throughout the day. You should prioritize meals and ensure that your body receives a steady supply of amino acids throughout your day. While recommendations vary, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends that you consume 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram (kg), of your body weight, every day if it’s active. The doses should be spread evenly over three to four hours. This means that if you are 150 lbs, you will need 95 to 136 grams of protein each day.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are key ingredients for providing your body vitamins and minerals, such as vitaminC and Zinc, which promote healing.

4. Later on: Sleep

Arent states that sleep is crucial for many reasons. However, it is also an important component of exercise recovery. He adds that although it may not appear to have an immediate effect on muscle soreness, it can be very useful.

According to a review in Sport Medicine, NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep increases protein synthesis (the creation and repair of new proteins).

You should not skip sleep in the post-workout period. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that you get at least seven hours sleep.

5. Do light exercise the day after a hard workout

Even though sore muscles need to be rested, it doesn’t mean you should lie down and watch TV all day. You can do gentle movements like yoga, swimming, cycling, and restorative yoga. It is important to not do another intense workout with the same muscle groups consecutively. Schroeder suggests that you aim to work at a level of 3 on a scale from 0-10 (where 10 represents maximum intensity). You want blood to flow to sore muscles in order to supply oxygen and nutrients. This will not cause more damage to the tissues.

6. You may want to avoid NSAIDs

Although you might be tempted to take a painkiller and call it a day, if you are not careful you could end up sacrificing key components of muscle building. Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil or Aleve, may help with muscle soreness. However, they can also slow down the growth of your muscles. In a small study, published in August 2017 in Acta Physiologica, it was found that the maximum amount of over-the counter ibuprofen slowed progress in an eight-week resistance program aimed at building muscle and strength in young adults.

This post was written by Darryl Johnson, Co-Owner of Apex performance. At Apex performance we are a community of highly trained experts looking to provide performance enhancement and a permanent lifestyle change for our clients in a fun and interactive environment. Members can take advantage of Youth Sports Training Tampa, one-on-one training, small group classes and specialized courses for a wide variety of athletics, sports training and body goals!