The Science of Muscle Recovery

The Science of Muscle Recovery

Dr. Niveditha Navin

Muscle recovery is arguably as important as the workout itself. A quick recovery is a critical component for training, especially for professional athletes and fitness junkies as nobody wants to go back and workout especially when you can barely get up the stairs in your apartment.

Muscle recovery is repairing muscle and reducing inflammation. It's replenishing and restoring the cellular activity to restore the energy and nutrients in your muscles and tissues. Inappropriate recovery may thus predispose to overload injuries and reduced performance. Generally a good night’s sleep and a well balanced diet should do good to recover. However, intense workouts can place additional strain on specific muscles. 


The reason behind muscle soreness after exercise


Aching muscles after a workout is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Research suggests the soreness is a cascade of physiological effects in response to microscopic trauma sustained during intense exercise. The cascade includes inflammation in the muscle due to microtearing of muscle fibres. As frustrating and painful as it might be, this soreness is normal and part of the muscle building process. 


Types of recovery 


Passive recovery- Allowing your body to basically take its own time to recover. However, prolonged passive recovery may also lead to setbacks.


Active recovery- Doing some form of physical activity to promote recovery and regeneration. This is generally very important for the athletes to recover, both physically and mentally. It is an integral part of most of the programmes. There are several benefits of active recovery

  • reducing lactic acid build up
  • eliminating toxins
  • Keeps muscles flexible
  • Improved mobility
  • Reduces soreness 
  • Increased blood flow and circulation

Supplements for faster muscle recovery


In order to keep you healthy, sore-free, and on track to meet your training goals, your body requires essential nutrients to adequately rebuild and repair itself. Supplementing the right nutrients into your post-workout recovery routine can help with faster muscle recovery, promote muscle repair, and reduce muscle mass breakdown and soreness so you can optimize your athletic performance.


Here are a few supplements for rapid muscle recovery


    • Creatine monohydrate- research consistently shows it can help improve muscular strength when combined with resistance training. Research has found creatine may help athletes recover from intense training by helping reduce muscle damage and inflammation, as well as aiding in replenishing your muscles’ glycogen stores. 
    • Curcumin - potent anti-inflammatory, curcumin exerts its antioxidant effects by suppressing the molecules and pathways that are responsible for triggering the inflammation cascade. It reduces pain and swelling when used either topically over sore muscles or taken orally and enhances functional capacity.
    • Omega-3 Fish Oil - omega-3s increase the rate of something called muscle protein synthesis which means it helps produce proteins to help your body build and repair muscle. Most known for its anti-inflammatory properties improves bone repair while reducing muscle soreness.
    • Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN)- NMN supplementation boosts levels of NAD+, which facilitates supply of oxygen and nutrients to muscle for its recovery through stimulation of SIRT1 that helps target muscle degeneration and muscle wasting.
    • L-arginine- Arginine is an amino acid that stimulates growth hormone, which aids in muscle growth, increased strength and recovery. It is the precursor to creatine, which naturally enhances performance.
    • Magnesium- Without enough of it your muscles can potentially cramp and spasm. It can also speed muscle recovery by helping to improve muscle function, maintain electrolyte balance and reduce fatigue.
    • Alpha Lipoic Acid & Acetyl-L-Carnitine- Supplementing with the antioxidant alpha lipoic acid and amino acid L-carnitine has also been shown to reduce tissue damage and muscle soreness after intense workouts. Another study carried out on middle-aged men and women showed supplementation with L-Carnitine reduced muscle damage and optimised muscle tissue repair.

About Dr. Niveditha Navin

Dr Navin is a clinical research specialist, who holds a degree in dentistry. After completing her postgraduate diploma in clinical research, she has experience working as a clinical affairs specialist in the pharmaceutical industry. She is passionate about medicine and wishes to carve a distinct niche in the field of research.

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