Some people dread going into the gym, while others can't wait to get back in and do it again. If you're in the latter group, you might wonder how much recovery you actually need between workouts.
Let's start with basics of resistance training:
- Strength training causes tiny tears in muscle fibers.
- After your workout, your body repairs the micro-tears by building new muscle protein.
- Every time this process takes place, your muscles adapt, growing larger and stronger.
That's the very abridged version. To continue to build muscle and get stronger, you need to continue to add resistance and switch up your workout so the muscles continue to adapt to new stimuli.
Muscle Protein Synthesis
It's in the period after your workout that your muscles actually grow. This window of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) varies in length and depends on different factors including how hard you worked out and how conditioned you are.
Typically, the more intense the workout, the lengthier the MPS period. However, more seasoned weightlifters usually have a smaller MPS window than newbies because their bodies have become accustomed to the stress.
For most people, MPS lasts for 24 to 48 hours. But it can last longer for those whose bodies are not used to the stress. Additionally, very intense workouts can lengthen MPS. Lastly, an experienced lifter may experience a longer MPS window if she changes up her routine and adds novel stressors.
Other factors can affect MPS, including diet, sleep, stress, gender, and age.
Ideally you want to wait until this MPS period has passed before you work out the same muscle groups again. Working out too soon could cause protein breakdown that exceeds protein synthesis, which is not the goal you're aiming for.
Easy ways to judge whether your muscles have had enough recovery time:
1. Have at least 24 hours passed?
2. Are you still sore, fatigued or otherwise still feeling ill effects from your last workout? Working out with a little soreness is OK, but listen to your body. If it's telling you it's not ready for another workout, listen to it.
3. Was your workout really intense? Give it at least 48 hours, whether or not you are feeling sore or fatigued.
Risks of Training Too Frequently
Besides muscle breakdown, there are real risks involved with working out too much. Working out too much too often can lead to a host of symptoms that affect your overall health and well-being.
According to the American Council on Exercise, some signs of overtraining to watch out for include:
If you experience any of these symptoms for more than a few days, you are not allowing enough rest time between workouts. You need to take some time off, and then resume training at a more reasonable frequency.
Taking care of your health, eating a nutritious diet with plenty of lean protein, staying hydrated, reducing stress and getting adequate sleep can also help how easily and quickly your body recovers after workouts, as well as boost your energy levels to reach new goals in the gym.
This article was written by health and fitness expert and PIXIBU founder Jody Braverman, PN1, NASM-CPT, NASM-FNS, RYT 200.
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