It seems like something straight out of the future: cryotherapy. Cryotherapy, or whole body cryotherapy (WBC) has entered the public spotlight recently as a cutting edge method of muscle recovery for serious athletes and trainers. Cryotherapy super speeds recovery by redirecting blood flow in frigid temperatures of nearly -200 degrees fahrenheit. In reaction to the extreme cold, your body’s fight or flight responses kick in, numbing nerves and regulating your core temperature with blood flow. This reduces muscle pain experienced after serious training, such as triathlon or crossfit workouts.
Cryotherapy is safe when administered and supervised correctly. You’ll only spend 3 to 5 minutes under freezing temperatures, and it’s important to wear dry socks and gloves to protect your extremities from frostbite. While more research is needed to support the evidence of cryotherapy, many people swear by its regenerative properties.
2. Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS)
EMS essentially creates muscle contractions using tiny electrical pulses.These pulses are applied through a device straight onto the affected area. But don’t worry—it isn’t painful like you’d expect. While EMS has many uses, it’s most often used for muscle recovery after a challenging training session. EMS can also be used for weight loss, tissue flexibility, reducing joint stiffness, muscle toning and treatment for injuries. Though many people wonder about the effectiveness of stim treatment, it’s actually technology that’s been in use since the 1950s. EMS influences your central nervous system to elicit muscle contractions. These devices are both sold OTC (over the counter) for home use and by prescription for use during physical therapy or under supervision of a doctor.
The best part about muscle stim is that it’s customizable to your regimen and goals. It can simultaneously contribute to muscle tone while relaxing muscles that feel tight. Decreased blood flow is a common contributing factor in muscle soreness, and electric muscle stimulation works to increase blood flow to the area.
3. HRV Apps
Today, you can use apps on your smartphone to determine your heart rate with the goal of improving your health. Many people use wearable devices like Fitbits or Apple watches to monitor their heart rate, but a lot of people don’t realize that you can do this with an app on a smartphone as well.
Paying attention to your heart rate both during your work out and in the post-workout stage is crucial. It’s important to make sure that your heart rate is diminishing at a healthy rate after exercise. It’s often recommended to bring your pulse below 100 beats per minute before you proceed with cool down activities or stretching. Usually, a lower recovery rate is healthier. This ensures that your body is handling the intensity of the workouts that you’re taking on.
During peak exercise, your heart rate (depending on your age, weight and other factors) should raise to around 120 beats per minute. Generally speaking, a healthy resting heart rate should be between 60 and 100 bpm.
While it’s always important to consult a healthcare professional before undergoing a regimen of supplements, over the counter vitamins or dietary supplements can speed recovery and power your workouts. During a workout, your muscles lose nutrients on a cellular level as they are released from workout strain. Muscle soreness after a workout is actually caused by this, as well as the build up of lactic acid and microscopic damage to your muscle fibers.
Supplements are designed to replenish your muscles with the nutrients they lose during a workout. Some commonly used supplements include Creatine, electrolytes from sports drinks, and whey protein. For example, creatine storage directly enables you to train harder next time because it’s a naturally occuring compound in the body that fuels energy for muscle contraction. And, as many people already recognize, protein aids muscle tissue formation. Electrolytes are also lost through sweat as you workout, and are vital to all processes that go on in your body. Sports drinks are formulated to contain sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
5. Don’t Forget the Carbs
It’s easy to get caught up in training or dieting and overemphasize protein while eating a low carb diet to build muscle. But if you’re training hard, “carb loading” can be an effective strategy to maximize the energy gifted from high amounts of carbs. This strategy is typically used before a marathon or endurance kind of event, but could also be utilized for training. The goal with carb loading is to increase the levels of glycogen stored in your muscles. This energy is expended as you work. Usually, a good point of reference is to eat 4 to 5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight.
Serious training can be a real challenge, and it can sometimes take a toll on your body. Using these tips can maximize the effects of your workout while minimizing your discomfort from soreness and stiffness. Consider these options next time you hit the gym to train.