What matters to improve your recovery after working out? It's not a blackroll rather sleep, nutrition and rest.

What really matters to improve your Recovery! (No Blackroll)

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No one succeeds only by going hard and getting each workout done. There is more to success than this kind of masochistic act. You have to prioritize your recovery, to literally regenerate from these self-inflicted workout wounds, to finally grow.

I often see this as the second self-loving part. Both are equally important and part of the same big puzzle of gains – for whichever goal gains may be desired for you.


This post shall be entirely about it and delve deep into each part of what makes up proper recovery post workout. There is much confusion around on this topic and many spend hours on their blackrolls*, without in the first place getting the most out of sleep. They trade 90% of the whole, for 10%. Painful 10%.

It’s likewise many things in life, the basics make up the biggest part – Pareto’s law in action. These basic shall take up most of this post, but in the end we also get to talk about useful other gimmicks that make up solely the top of the recovery-iceberg.

Alright – now that the direction is clear – let’s get work done!

What is meant when we speak of Recovery?

When we speak of recovery we mean the act of getting back to the state we were before. In the world of sports, recovery is the getting back to the (hopefully) healthy state we were in before the workout.
Beyond that, we hopefully get back stronger, than we were before1. Getting back to normal means many things:

  • Repairing of actual muscle tissue
  • Restocking on fluids
  • Rebalancing chemical byproducts
  • Replenish muscle glycogen




The workout is nothing more than a stressor inflicting a wide range of damages onto your body. That’s nothing bad in itself. Stress is needed to grow2 – not only in sports:

  • Too much stress can crush you, literally. Work out too much, too frequently, too hard and you will get injured.
  • Too little stress and you won’t grow. Always starting anew every 2 months for two weeks will hardly end in success.



And here set in your body’s various and very complex recovery processes. They cope with all these stressors to hopefully get you back on track after any stimuli reality throws into your way. 3
Let’s look when these mechanisms are at work!

When do we Recover?

When do we recover?

First off, nothing in your body happens in isolation – everything is connected, and we often simply think of isolated processes to be able to understand the body’s workings.


Recovery happens all the time. Your body destroys and builds up cells, as you read these lines. If your body is one thing, it’s a workaholic par excellence, each high tier CEO with their 120-hour weeks would be jealous of. If you wanna really dive into the physiology of sports, have a look at W. Kenney’s Physiology of Sport and Exercise*.

Basic repairs and maintenance work is done around the clock. But there are some processes that work better or even solely can work under specific conditions, such as when we sleep.

When we Sleep

Sleep is beside the nervous system one of the most complex topics to talk about within our body. That’s why we skip this here. What we will look at is that recovery is at its peaks, when you are asleep!

While most think of sleep as a kind of inactive state, your body and mind are nearly as active as you are when you are wake – especially your brain. A great book on sleep is Prof. Matthew Walker’s Why we Sleep*.

When in sleep your mind rests – your body gets the chance to maintain consciousness and recovery within the brain happens. Basically your body repairs the damage done by wakeness each night – physically and even more fascinating psychically.

That’s why without proper sleep every system of your body suffers as a consequence in an instantaneous manner:

  • Go to your workout after solely 2 hours of sleep and your performance will suffer.
  • Try to go 48 hours without sleep and your saneness will suffer.
  • Sleep fewer than optimal each night and you will live below your potential.

When we calm down and rest

There’s a reason we humans can’t just run on full throttle. We need activities which calm us down, as well as these that pump us up. Part of this need comes from our two parts of the vegetative nervous system, namely the parasympathetic and sympathetic system. One calms all of your body’s processes down, while the other turns them up – simply said.

When we rest or do a relaxing activity, our mind and body can rest. They work different and can come to different conclusions. A whole physiological shift happens within.4

This infopost explains when recovery happens after a workout within your body.

What aids my Body’s Recovery directly?

Basic 1: Sleep

First to name is – sleep.

As stated a lot on my blog – without it, you will die and go insane very quickly. With distorted or even lightly subpar sleep you will live below your potential.

Sleep is crucial, has unthinkable of many functions, and most importantly – is easy to fix.

Fox asleep and trying to regenerate

There is nothing simpler than to fix your sleep. Prioritize it, make enough time for it, and do so every night.5 The rewards will be astronomical, depending on your lack of it.


That’s why I would say fixing your sleep should be the first, utmost important issue to look at when your goal is to improve your recovery, especially after a workout as an athlete:

  • If you sleep suboptimal, fix it and be viciously responsible for your sleep.
  • If you don’t – Great! You already got a big chunk of potential recovery at your leisure.

Basic 2: Nutrition

Alright, sleep is in check, now comes the second of my four horsemen of recovery. The second one is named – War. Oh, wait wrong script – Nutrition!

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Nutrition can be a stressor too, although it shouldn’t be one all the time:

  • It should be the stuff that your body runs on, combined with oxygen.
  • It should taste well, be fun and bring people together.
  • It should provide all the building blocks your body needs to repair itself and build new structures.


In each of these points lies nutrition’s recovery potential6, but mostly they lie in the third point:

  • If your body has everything it needs to build stuff, it will do its job.
  • On the other hand, if substances are missing, this could mess with optimal recovery depending on where exactly your supply falls short.


That’s why this second basic is your second problem to check. If you are missing out on some substance – some macronutrient, some vitamin, some mineral, or other important bodily substance – fix it. Eat plenty and diet well-planned but only when necessary. You can’t build a huge amount of muscle while trimming down to 4% bodyfat and living a splendid life. Sorry, mate.

Basic 3: Light Movement

Third there is Movement. Light Movement.

Working out, after the workout is done, to boost your recovery won’t help much. I don’t have to explain this point. But what can definitely help is light, low-intensity movement.

This could be a walk, light mobility flows, stretching, cardio training, or many more:

This image shows me in a squat outdoors.
  • The key point is to keep the intensity low.
  • Your goal with all these methods is to increase the blood flow into your body’s tissues. More blood = More building blocks = Better recovery.
  • You don’t want to further damage tissues or exhaust your nervous system.




After sleep and nutrition are in check you got most of your recovery in check. Light movement each day helps with many things and post workout recovery is one of them. Try to think of where you could enjoy some more movement within your daily routine if you find that movement is what you lack.

  • Do you move after waking up to limber up?
  • Could stretching help you relax at night, before sleep?
  • Do you walk enough each day? Try tracing it for a rough estimate.
  • Are you sitting at the desk all day? Throw in some breaks.

Basic 4: Low Stress Environment

The last basic, the last of my horsemen is not named death, but rather stress management.

Yeah, I know that’s a real big downgrade in case of the name, but that’s reality. *** it.

As mentioned above, too much stress isn’t useful, as well as too little. Think of stress as fluid poured into a bucket:

  • All sources of stress accumulate within the bucket.
  • Some of the fluid is taken out of the bucket per day, that’s your body’s stress-coping-mechanisms.
  • But if you fill in too much stress, the bucket will inevitably run over. Then you got the metaphorical mess to clean up.



That’s where such things as stress management come into play – to regulate the total amount of liquid in the bucket. To manage that there is not too much liquid that gets much into and not too little.

I understand that there are stressful times in life and sometimes one feels overwhelmed. Hey, that’s life. Nonetheless, trying not to beat oneself down each day to trash through rigorous training, being stressed out at work and a tyrant at home, is a great thing to practice at each point at life.

Look at your entire life and take stock at how it looks like at the moment:

  • How stressful is your work?
  • How does your training look like? Do you train 3 times a week or each day for multiple hours?
  • Do you sleep well? And make time for relaxation?
  • What’s your free time look like? Does it look more like Woodstock or Stalingrad most of the time?




There are many stressors in life and each go hand in hand with many other factors – your job after taking stock now is to evaluate them and look if there is maybe potential to decrease it:

  • Stop doing some things that stress you extremely – be on time if you always run behind your appointments, or maybe training 7 times a week while being forced to work 10 hours a day could be structured more wisely, too.
  • Start doing more activities that relax you – plan some time for yourself, me-time, or spend time with the ones that replenish you.


Actually, I waited a long time to name this book appropriately somewhere on this blog. It is my absolute favorite – Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.* While it is no book about stress management, his rules can help you take on your burden faithfully. Absolute recommendation, if you want your life to be turned upside down!

This infopost shows the 4 basics of recovery.

What can I do to improve my Recovery after a workout – beyond the basics?

If you tried to fix the basics and stick to them – most of the time – you are off far better than most. Congratulations on that!
Let’s assume that the basics offer you 90% of all possible benefits. The other 10% would then be other recovery methods such as sauna, clever use of physiotherapeutical techniques, icebaths, massage, and such things.

Pareto’s Law in action. I truly believe most will be great off if they solely fix the basics. Just those who have enough time at leisure, are somewhat professional or very ambitious with their workout life should try to incorporate other stuff into their lives for the sake of recovery.

Don’t get me wrong – if you wanna go to the sauna – do so. For pleasure, socializing, fun, or whatever. What I talk about is planned recovery for the sake of recovery:

  • Going to the sauna after each training session
  • Doing an icebath every morning
  • Getting a massage each full-moon cycle
  • Or self-torturing your poor self each night with a lacrosse ball
This infopost shows the best gimmicks when it comes to post workout recovery.





These are the 10%. The top of the iceberg. Don’t trade 90% for 10%. Basic’s over gimmicks.7


With that kinda philosophical phrase, I wanna end today’s post! I hope you could get a lot out of it, alas it is solely the old basics-message I preached right here, as so often elsewhere. But why overcomplicate everything?

Enjoy true simplicity when you encounter it, that’s at least one of my maxims.

Over and out 8-),

THis is my Signature.

Sources and further reading:

  • To get back to these basics insights, I tried out a lot and made many mistakes. You don’t wanna know how much time I’ve been in Saunas and tried not to die on lacrosse balls, solely to boost my post workout recovery. That said – a fair share of this article evolved from personal experience.
  • As a general overview for the non-study-immersed reader, I really liked this brief pdf by the ACE.
  • One study, which compared the additional 10%, the gimmicks, was this one. If you look for this kind of information I found it very helpful. They found out that massage seems to be the best to reduce perceived DOMS.
  • Another very informative source was this very interesting post from sciencedirect. It tried to make a big bow and compare many methods with each other to find out the best ways to recover. This one from the NASM tries to cover the same but is much easier to digest.

Footnotes

  1. This awesome process of our unbelievable body is called supercompensation. If you set an appropriate big input, your body will respond to it.
  2. But for the sake of simplicity we will stay in the sports world.
  3. If that isn’t awe-inspiring, I don’t know what is – it is a fascinating thing we inhabit.
  4. The activating system is often thought of as your fight-or-flight system. Its job is to cope with dangerous stimuli. It is not hard to think that your mind will only come to a very limited pool of solutions when in this mode, while it may come to a variety of carefully thought out solutions, when at rest.
  5. Of course, this is said very simplistic and can be hard if you suffer from full-fledged insomnia or the mother of baby triplets. But for most healthy individuals, just thinking they are fine with 6 hours each night, this will be simple.
  6. First: If your body has no fuel it is in stress, because it desperately craves fuel to not die. Second: Socializing and enjoying life can be its own kind of recovery.
  7. Greatly marketed gimmicks, indeed.
This image shows a few weight plates to use in the gym.

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