There’s no better feeling than that post-workout endorphin rush after a sweaty workout. But, the effects only last so long. Days (and even hours) later, muscle soreness can start to creep in as the body begins repairing and rebuilding during the muscle recovery process. While post-workout muscle soreness is normal, that “can’t-move feeling” isn’t quite ideal when you’re crushing your goals in the gym and your motivation is peaking.
Luckily, simple post-workout hacks can help you speed muscle recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and help you feel your best in and out of the gym.
So, are you ready to level up your lifestyle? Keep reading to find out our top post-workout recovery hacks.
6 Post-Workout Recovery Tips
1. Refuel with a Protein-Packed Snack
Our number one post-workout recovery tip? Replenish your muscles with a proper post-workout snack! Ever heard the saying muscles are built in the kitchen? Well, there may be some truth to that statement.
Refueling with a combination of high-quality carbs and protein (ahem, like Level protein bars) after a workout has been shown to increase protein synthesis, decrease muscle soreness, and enhance exercise performance(1).
Every decadent bite of Level helps to provide your body with essential nutrients that can aid the recovery process. With ingredients like egg white and collagen protein, clean carbs like oats and banana, and adaptogens like reishi and cordyceps, you’ll be well on your way to looking and feeling your best.
So, go ahead – help speed up the recovery process while eating muscle fuel that tastes like dessert! The best post-workout hack may be as simple as building a Level box!
2. Catch Some More Zzz’s
And high-quality ones, too. The quality and duration of sleep affect more than your post-workout recovery – to put it simply, sleep impacts performance on all fronts! Yet, one and three Americans are sleep deprived. It doesn’t stop there, either – 35% of Americans that actually get the proper amount of shuteye needed report poor sleep quality(2). It looks like we need to start prioritizing sleep care as self-care!
So, what’s the magic number? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (3) suggests a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night, though it may be most beneficial to aim for 8-10 hours. Plus, the harder you’re going in the gym, the more rest you’ll need.
While you're busy getting your beauty sleep, your body is hard at work repairing and rebuilding your muscles. When your muscles have the proper time to repair and recover overnight, you’re more likely to speed the recovery process and achieve the muscle gains you’re working so hard to build!
If you’re drinking a few sips (even a few glasses) of water and calling it a day, it may be time to rethink your hydration strategy – especially during the hours surrounding your workout! Maintaining proper hydration is key when it comes to enhancing exercise performance and post-workout recovery, making it high on our list of post-workout hacks.
Even the slightest loss of fluid can hurt your performance – a fluid loss of 1-2% can increase heart rate, core temperature, and glycogen use while decreasing cardiac output, time to exhaustion, cognitive function, and anaerobic power(4).
Aim to get at least the recommended daily baseline, which is about 15.5 cups per day for men and 11.5 cups for women (5). If you’re sweating it out or are highly active, chances are you’ll need more! The amount of water needed is highly individualized based on your body, diet, and training regime – drink up!
4. Prioritize Nutrient Dense Foods
Along with post-workout snacks like Level bars, incorporating anti-inflammatory and nutrient-dense foods into your diet may be the trick to speeding the post-exercise recovery process and soothing sore muscles. Muscle soreness is a natural response to exercise and physical activity, but certain nutrients may help soothe the pain!
Rejoice in this delicious post-workout hack by incorporating these post-workout foods into your diet:
Tart Cherries: Professional athletes have shown improved recovery time along with decreased muscle pain and soreness when incorporating tart-cherry juice as a post-workout beverage (6,7,8).
Turmeric: Spice up your meals! Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been found to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness and aid recovery (9).
Bananas: Grab a Banana Bread Level bar - the potassium in bananas is an electrolyte that has been shown to soothe muscle soreness after exercise(10).
Egg Whites: The amino acid leucine found in egg whites is linked to enhanced protein synthesis and decreased protein breakdown(11) – luckily, you’ll find egg whites in all of our Level bar flavors!
5. Active Recovery
After you’ve exhausted your fuel tank during a tough workout, it may be tempting to grab your Level bar and head home. But, not so fast! If you’re going to put in the effort during your workout, you may as well finish strong and get the post-workout results you’ve earned. This brings us to our next post-workout recovery tip: active recovery. So, before you enjoy your post-workout refuel with Level, keep in mind – 6-10 minutes of active recovery has been shown to enhance performance outcomes (13).
Try stretching or walking after a workout, taking a yoga class, or using a foam roller or massage gun!
6. Level Up Your Rest Days
Our final post-workout recovery hack is for those looking to take their exercise recovery to the next level. In addition to incorporating active recovery, utilizing recovery modalities outside of the gym and on your rest days has been shown to improve athletic performance, reduce soreness and risk of injury, and speed muscle recovery(14).
Here are some of our favorite recovery hacks and modalities!
Compression garments or compression boots
Hot and cold contrast therapy - this could be as simple as a hot and cold shower. If you want to take it to the next level try cryotherapy, ice baths, and saunas!
Epsom salt bath
Red light therapy
References: Ferguson-Stegall L, McCleave EL, Ding M, Doerner PG, III, Wang B, Liao Y, Liu Y, Hwang J, Dessard BM, Ivy JL: Post-exercise carbohydrate-protein supplementation improves subsequent exercise performance and intracellular signaling for protein synthesis. J Strength Cond Res 2011;25:12-24 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016). 1 in 3 adults don't get enough sleep. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html Watson, N. F. (2015). Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Sleep, 38(1), 5-5. doi:10.5665/sleep.4310 Ayotte, D., Jr, & Corcoran, M. P. (2018). Individualized hydration plans improve performance outcomes for collegiate athletes engaging in in-season training. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1), 27. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0230-2 Dietary reference intakes for electrolytes and water. U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/dietary-reference-intakes-for-electrolytes-and-water. Howatson, G., McHugh, M. P., Hill, J. A., Brouner, J., Jewell, A. P., van Someren, K. A., Shave, R. E., & Howatson, S. A. (2010). Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 20(6), 843–852. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01005.x Kuehl, K.S., Perrier, E.T., Elliot, D.L. et al. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 7, 17 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-7-17 Connolly, D. A., McHugh, M. P., Padilla-Zakour, O. I., Carlson, L., & Sayers, S. P. (2006). Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. British journal of sports medicine, 40(8), 679–683. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2005.025429 Drobnic, F., Riera, J., Appendino, G. et al. Reduction of delayed onset muscle soreness by a novel curcumin delivery system (Meriva®): a randomised, placebo-controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 11, 31 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-11-31 Article Source: Metabolic recovery from heavy exertion following banana compared to sugar beverage or water only ingestion: A randomized, crossover trial Nieman DC, Gillitt ND, Sha W, Esposito D, Ramamoorthy S (2018) Metabolic recovery from heavy exertion following banana compared to sugar beverage or water only ingestion: A randomized, crossover trial. PLOS ONE 13(3): e0194843. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194843 Ra, SG., Miyazaki, T., Ishikura, K. et al. Combined effect of branched-chain amino acids and taurine supplementation on delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle damage in high-intensity eccentric exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 10, 51 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-10-51 Ortiz, R. O., Jr, Sinclair Elder, A. J., Elder, C. L., & Dawes, J. J. (2019). A Systematic Review on the Effectiveness of Active Recovery Interventions on Athletic Performance of Professional-, Collegiate-, and Competitive-Level Adult Athletes. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 33(8), 2275–2287. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000002589 Webb, Nicholas P.1,2; Harris, Nigel K.1; Cronin, John B.1,3; Walker, Craig2 The Relative Efficacy of Three Recovery Modalities After Professional Rugby League Matches, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: September 2013 - Volume 27 - Issue 9 - p 2449-2455 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31827f5253