First, we will tell you why recovery matters so much, especially if you are a natural for maximal muscle growth. Then, we will give you some tips on how to optimize it, and lastly, a few supplements that can help you achieve your goals. Stay tuned!
Why Do You Need Recovery for Maximal Muscle Growth?
The process of muscle building is simple in theory: you lift weights, which causes micro-damage to the muscle fiber. Then, protein synthesis starts happening, and your body heals the damage, at the same time making the muscle bigger and stronger.
Obviously, for this to happen, you need to exercise, you need protein, and you need to rest as the process only gets triggered in the gym, but the muscles grow while you recover.
This process of repairing the damage lasts 24-48 hours post-workout, depending on many factors such as muscle groups affected, training intensity, current fitness level, etc.
The Dangers Of Overtraining
Athletes and gym fanatics often make a mistake by having following the "one more rep!" approach, always trying to force themselves to do more. That kind of mindset looks at recovery as something subhumans do, which can often lead to overtraining.
The obvious risk of overtraining is not letting your body fully recover from the damage, which can have many negative effects all over your body. These range from injuries, suboptimal gains, but can also affect your immune system, neurological issues, mood changes, and endocrinological changes. The overtraining syndrome is a real issue and is something you don't want to mess with.
But, that doesn't mean that you will become overtrained if you chain 3-4 workouts in consecutive days. Overtraining develops over a prolonged period of high volume + high intensity activities.
If you notice that you are becoming lethargic, stressed, anxious, that your immune system is weaker, or that you are losing sex drive, loss of appetite, and are continually feeling sore, it is probably time to slow down.
Body Parts Matter Too
When talking about gym workouts that are aimed towards hypertrophy and strength, it is important to note that the 24-48h rule of rest between workouts is important only when working one body part. However, training the opposite (antagonist) body part won't cause overtraining. This is why you often have Push/Pull workouts, or body part splits such as Chest/triceps-Back/biceps-Legs/shoulders/abs, and similar. By manipulating your training this way, you are still giving each of your body parts an adequate 24-48 hour rest between workouts, which will allow optimal growth.
And remember, compound movements that involve the hip joint (squats and deadlifts, and their variations), as well as pullups and presses tax the body much more than isolations that only target one muscle group. Therefore, never train squats and deadlifts on consecutive days, and if you can, put them at least 3-4 days apart. Monday for deadlifts, Friday for squats.
It Is Important To Have Off Days
Although you can arrange your workouts so that your body parts are activated interchangeably, there's one thing that is always on - your CNS. When working out hard every day, your body gets taxed a lot, as it has to go through the recovery process over and over again. To make sure it does recover fully, it is essential to have at least one day off every week. Only one day is an option if you are following a classic "bro split," where you only focus on one muscle group per day. But, if you are training several groups, two days per week off might be a better idea. If you are training full-body, you should do it three times per week, with four off days.
Of course, nothing is set in stone, these are recommendations for most people. But, it is best to stick to them and see how you feel and then adjust accordingly.
Don't Forget To Recover Between Sets
Recovering between sets will allow your muscles to perform optimally and enable you to reach your goals faster. There are different theories, and rest times between sets differ based on your goals. If your goal is strength, you should aim as long as you need to between sets, as you are going to try singles anyway. Therefore, 3-5 minutes, or even more, between sets is not unusual.
If you are training for size, you are usually somewhere in the 8-12 rep range. That means you are using less weight, but are still going reasonably heavy, and close to failure. In this case, resting 2-3 minutes is optimal.
If you are training for endurance or looking to lose fat via weight training, you are probably doing higher reps with lighter weights. If that is the case, 1-2 minutes between sets is enough. Or, you can choose two opposite exercises and do supersets, one after another.
8 Hours Of Goodness
People, you need to worry about your sleep schedule, just as much as you worry about your workout programs. There's no going around it, if you lack sleep, your gains will suffer.
Sleep is responsible for energy levels, of course, and if you are drowsy, your workout quality will drop. But, sleep also has essential roles in normal hormone production. Fail to sleep enough, and you will start gaining fat, even if you are not in a surplus. Also, HGH is released during sleep, which is another important factor in muscle growth.
Related Article:: The Importance of Sleep for Bodybuilders
How much sleep is enough? You already know that 8 hours is optimal for most people. There are exceptions, of course, but most will need 7-8 hours of quality sleep. If you can't do it all at once during the night, it is OK to have an afternoon nap, as long as you reach your goal. Just remember to have an afternoon and not an evening nap, as it can mess with your night sleep if you do it too late.
Tips To Optimize Sleep:
- Have a sleep schedule, and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time, whenever possible
- Don't drink coffee, pre-workouts, or anything caffeinated 6 hours before bed
- Sleep in a dark and quiet room, use dark curtains, eye covers, and earplugs if you have to
Feed Your Muscles during Recovery
To grow muscle, you need exercise, and you need protein. Muscles are built in the process of protein synthesis, therefore, this macronutrient is essential.
Whey protein is always the best choice if you are aiming to increase your protein intake through supplementation. Whey has the best absorption and will go to the muscles very quickly.
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If you need something that is going to feed your muscles slower, but over a longer period, Casein protein is your best choice. This is a classic "slow" protein that is most often used before sleep, to give the necessary aminos to your muscles while you sleep. Of course, if you are vegan, or you just can't tolerate dairy products, plant proteins are a good option too. They will give you all that you need and are usually organic and free of toxins.
Eat Carbs Too
Many gym bros often treat carbs like enemies, as they think carbs ruin those hard-earned abs instantaneously. Yes, it's true that most junk food like candy and soda is filled with sugar, but that doesn't mean carbs are bad. It only means that junk food is junk.
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But, when you work out super hard, your body's glycogen gets depleted, which is the main fuel used for highly intensive activities. Glycogen is a form of sugar that is available in the muscles themselves and is used first during the intense activities, as it is already there. So, the best way to refill your glycogen reserves is to eat carbs, which will make sure your body is fully ready for your next hardcore session.
Read more about:: How To Bulk Up Without Getting Fat
Up Your Caloric Intake
This one is not for everyone, but, in some cases upping your caloric intake is worth considering. If you are training super hard, going very heavy and doing it frequently, this can cause a caloric deficit on its own. So, if your plan is to lose weight and you are in a deficit anyway, this can be too much. Therefore, if you are feeling lethargic, or especially achy, it is a good idea to up your calories on non-workout days, so that you can recover well. Also, if you want to go extra hard, upping your carbs on workout days will give you the necessary kick.
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Incorporate Light, Non-Lifting Days
We know that you are hardcore, but if you want to avoid overtraining, you should plan some light days into your schedule. These can be anything from taking a walk, a slow-paced bicycle tour, stretching and foam rolling, going for a swim, or signing up for a yoga class. Anything that is low-intensity but promotes circulation is a good option, as the blood flow will help the muscles heal up better. Plus, you are probably very tight anyway, and doing some yoga poses won't kill you.
Use Deload Weeks for Recovery
Deloads are controversial, as many claim that they don't work. But, if something can potentially prevent overtraining, we say it is a good idea to consider it. A deload week is a week where you cut back on total weight use, training volume, or frequency, or all three. So, you can go for 50% of your 1RM, just going through the motions. Or, you can keep the weight, but reduce the number of sets you do. Alternatively, you can replace exercises, doing simpler and easier versions. For example, instead of the bench press, you can do pushups.
The idea is to recover by working, so you don't get lazy, and your muscles still get a fair amount of stimuli and circulation. But, in the deload weeks you don't redline them. Athletes who favor deloads say they help them go through plateaus, prevent injuries, and feel much better overall. Athletes who hate deloads claim that they are a waste of time. Try it, and see what works for you.
If You Are Juicing, You Still Need To Worry About Recovery
It is a common thing to hear how steroid users don't need to worry about recovery, as being enhanced means having much better recovery on its own. That is not exactly so.
While being enhanced does mean that you will recover better, that also means you will train more, and that you will still need recovery. Think about it logically - juicing will let you train harder and more frequently. If you want to do that and maximize your enhanced gains, you will still need to take care of your sleep, nutrition, supplementation, and everything else we described in the article above. If you8 don't want to maximize your gains, then why are you taking steroids at all?
As you can see, recovery is extremely important for Maximal Muscle Growth. Taking care of it is not hard, but it is not very fun, as it requires you to be idle. This is the central reason why many gym fanatics ignore recovery, as it is not something you put on your Instagram story.
But, even though it sounds boring and unimportant, ignoring it is all but smart and can lead to injuries and health issues. Yes, sometimes it is better to take it slow and easy, if you want to maximize gains, even if you are a hardcore gym maniac.