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5 Secrets to Better Recovery (Photo: Getty Images)
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5 Secrets to Better Recovery

Balancing training intensity, rest, and nutrition can help your body bounce back faster, reduce soreness, and improve overall performance

Women in a biking helmet
Getty Images

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or fitness enthusiast, recovery after exercise is just as important as your training. Optimizing recovery helps you minimize injuries and train at your highest level—and enjoy being active even more. Yes, rest and sleep contribute to recovery, but what you consume post-workout also has a huge impact. Set yourself up for your best training season yet with these tips for fast and effective recovery. 

1. What They Say About Protein Is True

Protein gets a lot of attention when it comes to recovery—and for good reason. When we exercise, our muscles experience minor tears and damage, which triggers a process of repair and growth known as muscle protein synthesis. Consuming protein after exercise provides the necessary building blocks (amino acids) to repair and rebuild damaged muscle tissue.

Aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes to an hour after exercise to maximize muscle protein synthesis and prime your muscles for the next training session. For a quick way to guarantee you hit your protein quota, add protein powders like NOW® Sports Whey or Pea Protein to a smoothie or shake. Josh Kerr, Olympic bronze medalist in the 1,500-meter event at the 2020 Tokyo Games, explains, “The protein powder I like most from NOW® Sports is the Organic Unflavored Whey Protein. It’s so clean, it’s Informed Sport certified, and I use it every day. It’s fantastic for post-workout. It gets me that boost of protein I need.”

2. Learn to Love Leucine

Amino acids like leucine are what’s known as “anabolic triggers” that stimulate muscle growth. When the body breaks down leucine, it creates a naturally occurring compound called β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate (HMB). Health and exercise scientists have studied HMB extensively for its potential benefits in optimizing muscle repair and growth after training.* 

(Photo: NOW Sports)

Leucine is one of the essential amino acids, meaning our bodies can’t produce it naturally. Instead, we rely on food to obtain this crucial nutrient. Meat, fish, soy, and dairy products are particularly high in leucine. But depending on your diet, eating enough leucine-rich foods to support HMB production can be difficult. Supplement your diet with NOW® Sports HMB Powder, Veg Capsules, or Tablets after every workout to reap the recovery benefits of HMB.*

3. Carb-Loading Isn’t Just a Pre-Workout Thing

Eating carbohydrates—before and after exercise—is critical for replenishing glycogen stores in the muscles and liver. During exercise, the body uses glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates) as a source of energy. When glycogen levels are depleted, the body will then use protein for fuel, leading to muscle breakdown. Consuming carbohydrates after exercise restores glycogen levels, which in turn increases your body’s ability to use and store glycogen. Over time, more glycogen storage means more endurance for runs, bike rides, lifting sessions, and more. Kerr explains, “Carbs are very important, as is the timing of when you consume the carbs. For me, I do big/long workouts Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday, so Monday, Thursday, and Saturday are my big carbing-up days.”

Additionally, carbohydrates help muscles take up more amino acids to repair the damage from exercise. Choose post-workout snacks with a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to proteins to enhance muscle repair and improve overall performance.

4. Yes, High-Quality Sleep Matters

Great training days aren’t great unless you’re getting high-quality sleep. During sleep, the body releases growth hormone, which helps repair and rebuild muscle tissue damaged during exercise. Additionally, sleep is necessary for the body to produce new muscle cells and maintain a healthy immune system. Inadequate sleep can lead to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can impair healing and hinder athletic performance. Kerr explains the impact of sleep on his training regimen: “I enjoy getting up early, which means I like to get to bed early. I’m the most motivated in the morning, so I like getting my training in early. Sleep is just so crucial for recovery.”

NOW® Sports R&R Rest and Repair promotes restful sleep and may help prevent burnout from high-intensity training.* The supplement is made with clinically tested CherryPURE® Tart Cherry powder, which can reduce muscle soreness associated with intense exercise, 5-HTP, and melatonin.* 

5. Training and Recovery Plans Should Evolve

As athletes push the boundaries of what the body is capable of, health and exercise science professionals continue to refine best practices for training and recovery. The NOW Sports Hub offers a community of top nutrition experts, trainers, and pro athletes, curating all the intel you need—from the proven benefits of science-backed ingredients and the latest supplement regulations to professional workouts and nutrition tips. Kerr explains how nutrition fits into his overall training: “For me, it’s about being able to show up day in and day out and having the right fuel. I am pounding 70 to 75 miles per week, and I must replenish as much as I can. Getting the right clean foods and the right clean supplements makes such a difference in what I’m doing. Without it, I don’t think I could be putting in the days I am right now.”

NOW® Sports Recovery Shake

Incorporate these five tips into the perfect post-workout recovery shake with a recipe by registered sports dietitian Lauren MacLeod.

Add all ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth. Makes a single serving.

At NOW® Sports, we’re all about natural, unadulterated sports nutrition supplements that legitimately enhance performance. NOW® Sports products are certified by Informed Sport, the world’s leading anti-doping organization, so you can trust that our products are pure, safe, and effective for every level of athletics.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Lead Photo: Getty Images